Which Country Is Laksa From? The Takeaway Dish That Stumped The MasterChef Contestants

It was the takeaway food challenge that we've spent months in isolation life preparing for.

In a two-round elimination episode, the contestants first had to identify popular takeaway meals and then write down the dish's country of origin.

So if you've had your local Thai restaurant on speed-dial or haven't closed your Deliveroo app in months -- this was truly a challenge for the takeaway die-hards.

The first cloche revealed a tasty classic that no-one could mistake -- a simple Margherita pizza created in Italy (not that particular one, which was probably whipped up somewhere in Melbourne).

Next up was a gorgeous looking phở (Vietnam) that Khanh noted his mum probably wouldn't talk to him over if he got it wrong, and then some Peking duck pancakes (China) that Ben mistakenly jotted down as rice paper rolls from Vietnam.

But it was the fourth dish that was to produce the most varied responses from the contestants -- a bowl of vibrant orange broth with egg noodles, vermicelli, prawn, tofu, bean sprouts and plenty of fresh herbs.

Brb, ordering laksa! Image: Network 10.

While everyone quickly identified the popular soup as laksa, there were a few confused faces as the contestants tried to nail down the country that claims ownership of the dish.

"This is a hard one because it's got so many different origins," noted Hayden.

Reynold noted later that he's made the dish before but it's a "very controversial one" which was evident in the answers the contestants had written down on their whiteboards.

While Malaysia was a popular option (Jess, Hayden, Khanh, Poh, Brendan, Reece, Sarah Tiong) there were also a few votes for Singapore (Reynold, Laura, Sarah Clare).



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But with two votes for Vietnam (Tessa, Chris) and one for Thailand (Tracy) the entire group began to look extremely worried, second guessing their gut instincts.

"Oh my god," said Khanh, clearly worried this was some kind of trick question.

But in a way, it definitely was a bit of a culinary-curve ball because, laksa does pop up on the menu in all sorts of restaurants.

In this case, Jock announced they would be accepting two answers.

"Malaysia or Singapore because Singapore was classified as part of Malaysia until 1965," he said.

Exam time, MasterChef style. Image: Network 10.

The dish can also be found in Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, which is what could have tripped up Tracy, Tessa and Chris -- however laksa is a dish that originated in the Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine.

Nyona Baba or Peranakan people were Chinese descendants who arrived in the Malay Archipelago in the 15th century settling in areas that are now classified as Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.



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You might have heard MasterChef favourite Poh Ling Yeow talking about Nyonya cuisine before, with the Malaysian-born cook known for her Nyonya fried rice, and Nyonya chicken curry.

And it was no surprise at all that Poh wrote down Malaysia as the birthplace of laksa, which helped her take her place on the gantry and avoid elimination.

There are quite a few types of laksa dishes, with the variations stemming from the different Peranakan or Nyonya regions with the northern parts of Malaysia serving up a more sour, Thai-influenced assam laksa while in southern Malaysia and Singapore you're more likely to encounter the creamier laksa lemak. 

While Hayden and Khanh wrote down Malaysia, Tessa opted for Vietnam. Image: Network 10.

The dish is also popular in southern Thailand, so we can also understand why Tracy popped that down as her answer -- even though it landed her in the next cook along with Ben, Tessa and Chris.

But whichever type of laksa you fancy, there's no doubt you'd probably sell your soul for a bowl of the hot, sour, warming bowl of magic right now.

MasterChef: Back To Win Airs Sunday-Thursday at 7.30 pm. Only On 10, 10 Play and WIN Network.