Some say that the city serves the best laksa this side of Asia; others say that the fresh, top-class ingredients make it the best anywhere in the world. Postings on Tripadvisor range from “awesome” to “unbelievable” to “addictive”. One says simply: “To die for.”
Not surprisingly, she has gained a cult following at Parap market.
Many eateries claim the title of Best Laksa in Town. One restaurateur was known to have been deeply insulted when his laksa was described as the “second best” in Darwin – the interstate diner who posted the comment thought he was being complimentary, not realising he was blundering into a culinary debate where angels fear to tread.
The Chinese brought their noodle soup with them. And the Malay women immediately thought: “I know what this needs – something to spice it up.”
Laksa was born … fusion cooking at its finest.
And it’s even possible to get laksa ice cream.
Passions about types of laksa run hot.
After all, Darwin is the most multicultural city in Australia – nearly 30 percent of the population was born overseas.
Well-travelled people say that it is also one of the happiest and most harmonious multiracial places in the world, a city proud to have a humble but delicious Asian soup as its “national” dish.
In fact, laksa is now so much an integral part of the Darwin diet that a stall selling excellent laksa can literally “make” a market. Some laksa cooks have become minor celebrities – and they guard their recipes like … well, like Coca-Cola and Heinz baked beans.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the “are we the best in the world” argument, there is one indisputable fact: Darwin is the laksa capital of Asia.
Indonesia and Malaysia have traded insults – and once had a minor diplomatic incident – over the origins of laksa. Both claim it as their own.
One fact is known: it is a lovechild.
Or it may come from the Persian “lakhshah”, a kind of vermicelli. Or it may stem from “la sha” – pronounced “latsa in Cantonese” – which means “spicy sand”, a reference to the gravy.
Of course, there is no one laksa – communities have always mixed and matched ingredients according to availability and taste. So, in reality, there are as many laksas as there are cooks.
It is not known when laksa first came to the Top End.
Darwin has long been known as an “Asian city” – Chinese outnumbered Europeans 6-1 in 1900; Darwin kids, regardless of ethnic background, are more likely to be brought up eating rice than potatoes.