Five of a kind: Laksa
Killiney Kopitiam's Singapore laksa is sprinkled with laksa leaf.
THIS laksa from the Lion City favours pungent prawn paste over the sweeter curry notes of Malaysian versions. Coconut milk is added with a careful hand to make a broth that's creamy but not cloying. It's loaded with hard-boiled eggs, tofu, fish cake, fried shallots … and an emerald sprinkle of laksa leaf provides a fragrant lift. While the noodles are a Malay-style hokkien and rice vermicelli-mix rather than authentic thicker rice noodles, it's still a worthy standard bearer for Singapore. Try the Singaporean breakfast of champions, too - soft-boiled eggs and thick, white toast with house-made coconut jam, and one of the different kopi (coffee) permutations.
Killiney Kopitiam, 114 Lygon Street, Carlton, 9650 9880 and 108 Bourke Street, city, 9663 5818; $8.80, killiney-kopitiam.com.au
Chef Lagenda's seafood curry laksa.
Seafood curry laksa
AS THE saying goes, you are the company you keep. With noble neighbour Laksa King next door, Chef Lagenda has a high benchmark to meet but its Malaysian curry laksas really hold their own. The seafood laksa conceals many treats in its creamy orange depths, such as generous chunks of fresh rockling, tender scallops and butterflied prawns with gently ruffled edges. The broth is supremely silky in texture, the rich coconut flavour balanced with just the right amount of spicy tingle. There's the classic tussle of hokkien and rice vermicelli noodles, and make sure you go fishing for the sliver of juicy fried eggplant in each bowl. Good until the last drop.
Chef Lagenda, 16 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington, 9376 2668 and 835A Ballarat Road, Deer Park, 8358 5389; $12.90, cheflagenda.com.au
Kitchen Inn's Sarawak laksa is the colour of a good latte.
SPICY, sweet and almost smoky - imagine a gingerbread cookie and you're halfway there. Kitchen Inn serves an unusual and delicious laksa from Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. The soup is the colour of a good latte, spiked with just enough coconut milk to keep things smooth and rich. The paste, rich in tamarind and dried prawn, imbues the broth with tantalising tang and punch. Traditional toppings include crispy pork belly, coriander, fresh prawns and delicate ribbons of omelet, while underneath is a generous helping of rice vermicelli. Kitchen Inn also specialises in hand-made noodles - try the Kuching classic kolo mee, house-made egg noodles with barbecue pork and a sweet minced pork sauce.
Curry laksa from Monk & Me.
Kitchen Inn, 469 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, 9328 2562; $10.90.
Little Nonya's Assam laksa.
MONK & Me was founded by Simon Goh, father of the much-loved Chinta Ria restaurants, and his legacy guarantees this curry laksa's pedigree. It's a sensible-size bowl of soothing yet zippy soup that caresses a languid tangle of soft hokkien and rice vermicelli noodles. Surfing on top is poached chicken, fish cake and fried tofu, its honeycomb-like chambers soaking up the spicy, coconut-rich broth. Just-cooked green beans add a modern touch and pleasing fresh crunch. Monk & Me's moniker is inspired by a person's spiritual journey. Indeed, with a range of meals for under 12s (think hokkien noodles with dark soy or Malaysian-style chicken noodle soup, plus ice-cream sundae), harried parents will find serenity here.
Monk & Me, 9 Evans Place, Hawthorn East, 9813 3261; $14.50, monkandme.com
LAKSA without coconut milk? Assam laksa has an aromatic broth not dissimilar to Thai tom yum and is a lighter, refreshing alternative to creamy coconut laksas. Little Nyonya lovingly craft their own Assam laksa paste from fresh galangal root, shallots and sour tamarind to create a tangy, tongue-tingling soup. Whole trevally is cooked in the stock and flaked, while fresh pineapple, red onion and cucumber slivers on top add summery freshness and zing. Traditional, pleasantly toothsome thick rice noodles complete the picture. On the side is a tiny dish of devilishly dark, authentically pongy fermented prawn sauce for drizzling on top - one for only the most intrepid eaters.
Little Nyonya, rear 818 Bourke Street, Docklands, 9640 0237; $12.80, littlenyonya.com