Yesterday was the day when Summer finally hit Melbourne. We Melburnians had been slogging through mid 20-degree days all throughout December, like it was still Spring. We shunned our singlets and shorts for jeans and cardigans, and shoved a scarf into our handbags “just in case.” Water cooler talk in December consisted of Ben Cousins and bloody AFL rather than the cricket calendar (raow!) and bushfire preventative measures. And just as the global warming skeptics started rubbing their hands with glee, THE MERCURY HIT THE BALL WAY BEYOND THE MEMBERS STAND FOR A 38. When the weather is hot, you don’t feel like eating. Especially foods that are either rich or spicy. Something light such as a salad or a filet of steamed fish with ginger, soy and shallots usually does the trick. Or perhaps a smoothie. So when my parents, who had spent the afternoon visiting their rental property in Altona and were now on their way home via the city, suggested having dinner at Laksa King in Flemington I was amazed to find myself nodding and telling them that I’d be there at 6:30pm.
Some of you might know what I’m talking about. Laksa King, a small Chinese Malaysian cafe located in a dingy arcade on Racecourse Road. There are at least two other Asian cafes in the same strip but on any even given night, Laksa King is the one that’s packed while the other two get by with maybe 2 or 3 patrons. Ever since Adam introduced my family to this place, my parents have been going there to get their laksa fix every so often, usually when they’re coming home from Altona. Although I’ve only been there once or twice, I can safely agree with many punters in that it serves Melbourne’s most awesome laksa (though I’m waiting for someone to dispute this – perhaps Kelly the undisputed queen of Malaysian cuisine?). The extensive menu may house dozens of other dishes such as fried noodle mains the ubiquitous lemon effing chicken and sweet and bloody sour pork (and more dubious choices such as Vietnamese spring rolls – the eff?! ), but the only thing that you should order is a steaming bowl of laksa. Doesn’t matter which one, they’re all good.
My favourite dish is their seafood curry laksa which I decided to have again last night. Everyone also swears by the fish head laksa which I was about to try last night but didn’t feel like spending dinner gnawing on bones and hunting for what little meat the fish head holds, thus the seafood laksa was the most appealing choice – lots of meat (relatively speaking) and less work to do, great! At $10.80, you get a steaming bowl of aromatic broth made up of curry, coconut milk, grounded prawn shells and a hint of chilli amongst other wonderful things… that and a cornucopia of “weird things that live in the sea” (which is what my brother blatantly refers to as “seafood”): 3 plump prawns, a few fishcakes, a couple of mussels, squid combined with bean shoots, fried bean curd and an eggplant. These were tangled amidst a web of both rice vermicelli and yellow mee. Last time, they added fish fillets but I was sad to find no fish in my laksa that night. My guess is that the heavily inflated fish prices at the moment means that small restaurants such as this one will not buy fish unless it was absolutely necessary. Never mind though, the laksa was as good as Mahathir’s promise to cast an iron fist on Malaysia during his watch. A healthy amount of noodles and shellfish, the way that the bean curd puffs absorbed each little bit of exciting flavour from the soup, the rich creamy soup … all of which you could never obtain from a stodgy ready-made laksa paste from the supermarket … mmmm! My brow may have been sweating due to the lethal combination of chillies, spices and the hot weather but I was enjoying my laksa too much that it barely rated on my care factor radar. Two thumbs up.
My mum’s har mee ($9.20) was also nicely done; the soup so full of flavour thanks in large to the 10 billion prawn sht heads that were crushed to make the broth. A handful of large prawns and slice egg pieces joined the flurry of noodles to make one tasty bowl of broth, which was slightly milder than mine but no less flavoursome. In hindsight, har mee would’ve been a better choice for dinner in such hot conditions (my mum wasn’t sniffling as much as I was) but I’ll remember that for next time. Dad had the nasi goreng aka Indonesian Malaysian fried rice ($9.50) which is something that I rarely order in restaurants as 1) I’m not a big fan of nasi goreng/fried rice and 2) it’s not that hard to make at home but one bite of his meal was enough to warrant a few more spoonfuls from yours truly. Nothing out of this world but it wasn’t half bad either.
Ahhh, hot and stuffy room… muddled service… annoying fobby patrons loudly “sik sik sik sei sei sei”-ing around me… but damn good food. It’s just like being in Malaysia!*