After staying inside for the past 2 days due to Hurricane Irene and having gone through my food rations for the weekend, I found myself fighting back a strong craving for…laksa. To the uninitiated, it might be quite a random dish to crave, especially in the middle of a tropical storm. But for those who have tasted this heavenly Southeast Asian concoction of rich coconut curry broth, noodles, and seafood, then you’ll understand my addiction.
I was fortunate to try several varieties of laksa while in Hong Kong. Here are my top 4, an attempt to settle the great laksa debate:
My love affair with laksa began at Malaymama in Sheung Wan. With a cute logo and clean storefront, this tiny Malaysian spot usually has a long line outside at lunch, with diners eager to try the restaurant’s famed laksa and prawn mee (another famous Southeast Asian noodle dish). Malaymama uses a mild, slightly sweet curry coconut milk broth in its laksa (photographed above) that is deceptively flavorful. Served with fried tofu, shrimp, eggplant, and a mix of egg and rice noodles, this is a solid version that will appeal to laksa newbies and pros alike. (Tip: Malaymama offers a teatime/dinner special. $120 HKD for 2 people: each guest has choice of drink, laksa or prawn mee, and kaya toast. Call restaurant for specific times.)
Shop 11A, Mercer Street, Sheung Wan
Located directly across the street from Malaymama, Katong Laksa may seem very similar to its counterpart at first glance. However, there is a world of difference between the two, especially in their laksas. While Malaymama serves the Malaysian nyonya laksa, Katong Laksa specializes in the Singaporean version, which is most famous in the Katong region. Though both versions are coconut milk-based, the noodles in katong laksa are often cut into smaller pieces. I found Katong Laksa‘s version to be satisfactory. I liked the addition of fish balls, which added a nice chewiness. The broth, however, was a bit on the salty side for me. Other standouts at Katong Laksa include prawn mee and mee siam, a sweet and sour noodle soup dish.
G/F, 8 Mercer St., Sheung Wan
My favorite of the four, though I think it may be the least traditional and heaviest on the coconut milk. Yeoh’s Bah Kut Teh is a Chinese-Malaysian restaurant also located in Sheung Wan. Though most famous for its claypot bah kut teh, Yeoh’s also serves a sinfully rich, artery-clogging laksa. The broth was thick, creamy, and full of coconut milk, with both a sweet and savory flavor. And as if the broth were not doing enough damage to your arteries already, the laksa is topped with a whole prawn, hard boiled egg, dried shrimps, and fried tofu puffs.
Shop G61-62, G/F, Midland Centre, 328 Queens Road, Sheung Wan
Tucked into a nondescript alley in Central, King Laksa wins for the best toppings. King Laksa serves an Indonesian version, featuring a savory yellow curry broth that is slightly lighter than the others. I ordered their deluxe or supreme laksa, which came with fish balls, imitation crab, oysters, scallops, shrimp, and a hard boiled egg. The bowl was swimming in seafood! King Laksa’s noodle selection also sets it apart. I ordered mine with the silver needle noodles, which were delightfully chewy and complimented the broth well.
G/F, 20 Gilman’s Bazaar, Central