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Laksa Lovin'

It’s a rite of passage in the Top End to tuck into a steaming bowl of goodness spilling over with noodles, melt-in-your-mouth meats and crunchy veggies, seasoned with spices swimming in coconut milk and sprinkled with crispy fried shallots.

This month, we celebrate the mighty laksa, as the delicious dish takes its rightful place front and centre on the menu. And in more forms than one.

By Tierney Seccull

Throughout November, and for a third consecutive year, you’re invited on a culinary trip around the Territory to dive into Darwin’s "official unofficial" dish for the 2021 Darwin International Laksa Festival.

Mary's Famous LaksaFor decades, locals and visitors have tantalised their tastebuds with the humble laksa, our close proximity to Southeast Asia and our wonderfully multicultural community guaranteeing us the most authentic of recipes.

And for many, no trip to the local market is complete without one. So a festival in its honour is absolutely justified. And very, very welcomed.

Revered by many as the best laksa you’ll find this side of Asia, kitchens across the NT have been busy perfecting their recipes for the festival. Reaching beyond the city this year, the Best Regional Laksa category has been introduced to allow food haunts outside D-town to participate.

The Kamayan Café is a small cafe in Nhulunbuy specialising in Filipino cuisine, and owner Beth Regan says they’re chuffed to be part of the action this year.

“We’re so excited to be included in this kind of event, and I’m so pleased that they discovered my laksa and that they think it has a different taste. I make it special with the ingredients – we combine Filipino with Malay and Thai, and we mix up these flavours and use really fresh herbs from the garden,” she says.

“There have been so many comments about it – it’s the most popular dish in our shop. Sometimes, we can make up to 50 a day!”

The Laksa Food Tour encourages people to eat, vote for, and enjoy a range of laksa and laksa-inspired dishes all month long. Laksa, of course, features heavily on the menu, but there are some out-of-the-box laksa-inspired concoctions on offer.

If you like your laksa chilled – and spiked – enjoy a cheeky tipple with cocktails and gin on the bevvie list. Charlie’s of Darwin owner Bec Bullen says she and her team enjoyed the challenge.

“We love playing around with Territory flavours in the distillery and laksa is one of them. We had in our plan to do five or so different experiments to get the laksa gin right but we got it right the first time – when we tried it, we thought it was lovely! We’re very happy with ourselves,” she laughs.

“Fendi, our chef, is Indonesian and this is his gin recipe because we wanted it to match with the food. There are notes of ginger, lemongrass – which can become more subtle when distilled – ground coriander, and of course juniper, with bay leaves and chunks of coconut.”

If Charlie's Spirit of Laksa Gin wasn't tempting enough, they're dishing up a swag of fare to feast upon.

“We have laksa with crocodile dumplings – they are delish – a chicken laksa wellington with creamy coconut notes, and a coconut laksa sorbet coming through with spices and botanicals that we used in the distilling process, so that we can be as sustainable as possible. It’s also gluten free and vego, and if we remove the white chocolate shavings, it’s also vegan.”

Well, our mouths are watering.

In an effort to support local business in what’s traditionally considered a quiet period, this year’s festival features over 60 businesses and 90 dishes, more than doubling in size since the festival’s inception in 2019.

The month-long feast fest culminates in a daylong celebration in the new location of the Laksa Lawns – aka State Square – with fun and flavour for the whole family.

So download the app and take your chops on a culinary trip around the Territory, and sip or slurp your way through those delicious laksa flavours.


Mary's Legendary Laksa

Mary’s laksa is a hot fave on the list, attracting huge queues of hungry laksa lovers patiently lined-up in the heat at Parap Markets each Saturday. In 2020, she was voted People’s Choice, and for good reason.

In an Off The Leash exclusive, Mary’s shared her recipe with us. Give it a whirl, and if you don’t quite nail it, no worries – just pop in to Parap and pick up a bowl!

Ingredients

  • Homemade laksa paste
    (Okay, Mary kept some secrets...)
  • Chopped onion
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Oil
  • Preferred protein: chicken, seafood, tofu, etc.
  • Fried tofu
  • Whatever veggies you like!
  • Coconut milk
  • Noodle – rice or yellow
  • Fried shallots
  • Fresh coriander
  • Chilli sauce

Step 1
Cook your noodle first, 5 to 10 minutes until tender. Drain them with water. If you want to cook the yellow noodle, maybe only five minutes. Do the same – drain them with water.

Step 2
Stir-fry onion and laska paste in oil for about 1-2 minutes. If you like it strong, put in more laksa paste. Add water and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and then add sugar, salt and coconut milk to taste. If you like it sweet, add more sugar. Or add more salt and more coconut milk, then put in the fried tofu.

To Serve
Put your noodle in the bowl, whatever meat you like and veggies, then put your laska sauce that you cooked. If you like, add chilli. Also, you can add dried onion and fresh coriander or fresh chilli.


Darwin International Laksa Festival Food Tour
WHEN MON 1 – SUN 28 NOV
INFO DOWNLOAD THE APP!

Darwin International Laksa Festival
WHEN SUN 28 NOV | 3-10PM
AT LAKSA LAWNS, STATE SQUARE, DARWIN
COST FREE
INFO laksafestival.nt.gov.au

Header & thumbnail: Cover proudly sponsored by Darwin International Laksa Festival
Top: Mary's Famous Laksa
Bottom: Mary (centre) with her friendly team

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