Rich, lusciously aromatic and decadently creamy, curry laksa is undoubtedly one of the best winter warmers. Glistening bowls of auburn soup are filled with half-sunken, flavoursome ingredients and laden with slurpable, curry-soaked noodles. Kiss the cold goodbye—here are some of the best places in Melbourne to get reacquainted with curry, assam and sarawak laksa.
Ditch your five-course menu and shed your seven-piece cutlery set for a plastic food court tray. Don’t be deceived—this is one of the best places to get a bowl of dragon-red curry laksa. Nestled unassumingly in Queen Victoria Market’s main food court, the spice-shy are not welcome at Canton Malay (previously, and rather appropriately, named Canton Fast Food). Seriously—the seven (SEVEN) curry laksa options include classics with tender chicken, velvety eggplant and chewy tofu dunked in soup that falls somewhere on the spectrum of blazing hot to the spiciest stuff you’ve ever eaten. It’s glorious.
Curry laksa’s geeky, awkward cousin, Sarawak laksa traditionally hails from the island of Borneo. This intensely aromatic, slightly sour soup is also made with a base of coconut milk with the additions of tamarind and lemongrass. Sarawak Kitchen serves their laksa with rice vermicelli, strips of egg, fish cake, chicken, prawns and bean sprouts. Vegetarians are also catered for, with vegetable Sarawak laksa a popular choice on the menu. BYO bib.
Serving traditional Malaysian cuisine in Footscray and Highpoint homes, Roti Road dishes out some of the best hawker-style Malay cuisine in Melbourne. It’s hardly a surprise that the curry laksa packs a heavy-handed, kick-ass punch of ground spices and creamy coconut. Proudly serving dishes refined by generations of families, curry laksa is served with vegetables, chicken or indulgent seafood. Wash it down with a traditional three-colour milk tea, kopi o ice (a sweet Malaysian coffee), or a delectable Oreo bubble tea. Guess which one we want.
Expect street style food in a distinctly un-street style setting at South Melbourne’s Ayam Chef. Locally designed wall murals, timber feature walls and stretching, lively communal tables punctuate this laid-back, sleek space. The dinner menu is divided into share-style and hawker delights. The messy, splattering nature of curry laksa means it is sentenced to the not-share-friendly section of the menu. More spicy soup for us, we say!
A Malaysian food institution, Flemington’s Laksa King has rightfully earned his crown. Featuring a handful of traditional and modern curry laksa options like shredded roasted duck and tender beef (the anarchy!), this insanely affordable hotspot also offers an eight-course, $29.50 per head banquet deal. Before you freak out, it's worth noting that the banquet menu includes Laksa King’s chicken curry laksa of course. This is next level cheap eating.
Flemington, Deer Park
Laksa King might have a kingly following, but its next-door neighbour Chef Legenda is slowly ‘n surely collecting its own Laksa-loving army. The born and bred Malaysian head chef knows what authentic Malaysian cuisine looks like—it’s the steaming hot bowl in front of you. Filled generously with shrimp, fish cake and chicken, Chef Lagenda’s signature curry laksa is the only good thing about Melbourne winter. Fish-based, sour assam laksa is also available from this traditional eatery.
Madam Kwong’s Nyonya
Previously Madam Kwong’s Kitchen, the business may have changed hands but the owners know the age old adage: if the laksa ain’t broke, don't fix it. The interior is almost non-existent, but that hardly matters once a bowl of rich, fragrant curry laksa is plonked in front of you in lightning speed. A range of traditional Malaysian groceries and sweets are also available, if you ever want to attempt (although we’d recommend against) DIY-ing laksa paste.
It’s not the most multi-dimensional curry laksa soup in Melbourne, but picky laksa lovers will adore Glen Waverley’s Grand Tofu. At this no-frills Malay eatery, customers can choose their own yong tau foo (fish paste-stuffed vegetable and tofu) and dumpling pieces to customise their perfect curry laksa. Want wontons or egg noodles in your laksa broth? There’s no (or at least, very well concealed) judgement here. There’s also a slightly-acidic, rich assam laksa on offer.
A restaurant chain?! Yes, because they do a damn good authentic curry laksa. Occasionally a touch on the brittle side, Pappa Rich’s hawker-style curry laksa is generously topped with crispy foo chok (beancurd skin… it’s delicious, don’t rag it till you’ve tried it), and filled with thick hokkien noodles dripping with oozing soup. Laksa virgins will also appreciate the milder heat in Pappa Rich’s laksa, if you need a reason to drag the butts of your unadventurous friends along.
Penang Coffee House
The bright, neon-glowing signs at Penang Coffee House entice cold, laksa-deprived Melbournians inside. This Hawthorn favourite attracts for their unpretentious, flavour-rich dishes including the laksa lemak (it’s curry laksa DON’T PANIC) and laksa assam. There are other Malaysian delights like Siamese Laksa (not the cat), which is a richer, creamier version of assam laksa. Yes, Melbourne has a lot of laksa.
Are you the type of person who lives off soup? You better check out Melbourne's Best Soups!
Image credit: Provided, PappaRich