While most people think Darwin is known for its stunning sunsets, tropical lifestyle, worldly fusion of markets, barramundi fishing, larrikin locals and crocodiles — and it is — more recently Darwin has become the irrefutable laksa capital of Australasia, where people eat this fragrant sweet, sour, salty and spicy noodle soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Darwin’s proximity to Asia and extensive multicultural population means it’s not surprising that laksa is Darwin’s most highly acclaimed dish. While the ingredients in Darwin’s laksas are a closely guarded secret by each connoisseur, there will surely be a laksa style and flavour to suit everyone. Whether they originate from China, Malaysia or Indonesia all Darwin laksa makers agree, it’s the quality and freshness of their ingredients that make each bowl unique.
Guo Yang Yei (Mary) owner and creator of the famous 20-year-old Mary’s stall at the year-round Parap Markets makes everything from scratch each week, even the freshly ground laksa paste. And the queue that snakes through the market is testament to her food’s high-recognition. Another luxurious, creamy laksa stall, equally as satisfying at Parap Markets is Yati’s — between the two they cover the insatiable laksa appetite of locals and visitors every Saturday.
Almost all Darwin markets, from Mindil Beach to Rapid Creek and Fred’s Pass have a laksa stall to ensure no one suffers withdrawal symptoms. Ghet Some, Darwin Laksa and Tara's Soup at Mindil Beach Sunset Market all offer the perfect companion while watching that massive red ball drop into the Timor Sea. And when there’s no market stall available, there’s always a café or restaurant nearby to satisfy that inner craving.
If you want to try Darwin's award winning best laksa then head to Chok's Place in the Galleria on Smith Street Mall. They won the ‘Golden Bowl’ at the inaugural 2019 International Laksa Festival, chaired by TV star of SBS Taste of the Territory, local restauranteur and owner of Hanuman, Jimmy Shu and panellist, celebrity chef and 2017 MasterChef Australia winner, Diana Chan, via a blind tasting — and taste buds don’t lie!
To sample the People’s Choice International Laksa Festival winner head to family-owned Asian Pot tucked away on the ground floor of Darwin Central Hotel, Knuckey Street, where Aunty Pearl and Uncle Sid also create sizzling Singaporean street hawker food.
For an Indonesian style laksa topped with beansprouts in a yellow curry broth try Laksa House on the Stuart Highway owned by West Timorese refugee, Amye Un. Don’t let the rustic warehouse frontage and old Laminex tables and chairs fool you; they have more five-star ratings than the stars in the sky. You can also sit in their BYO beer garden.
For a lively venue in the city, check out the Deck Bar — their creamy laksa pairs well with an ice-cold beer. Right next door enjoy the cozy atmosphere of Rendezvous Café now in its new home in NT House Mitchell Street. The family-friendly restaurant has been serving freshly made laksa noodle soup daily for lunch and dinner for over 30 years. Opt for a takeaway if time is tight or you need to have your laksa fix at home.
Lazy Susan’s serves sensational laksas, lunches and dinners daily in Cavenagh Street, along with creative cocktails and a good dose of karaoke late at night. Transit Oriental Café and Takeaway in Mitchell Street is another five-star rated hidden laksa delight. This original ‘hole in the wall’ establishment offers great food, good value and friendly service. Another longstanding favourite found along Mitchell Street across from the Darwin Entertainment Centre is Noodle House — a popular choice before and after a show.
Overlooking Raintree Park in Knuckey Street, Ruby Vietnamese Restaurant is another delightful Darwin culinary experience in sophisticated surroundings. If you’re chilling out around the Darwin Waterfront, you’re not left out. Chow is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in town. Their large steaming bowls of laksa will keep you hydrated and sustained after riding high in the Wave Pool or enjoying a friendly game of beach volleyball nearby.
And if you want to join the locals in celebrating everything laksa this year then plan your trip to the Top End between late October and all of November. You can tingle those tastebuds during Darwin’s 2020 International Laksa Festival. The festival is open to any restaurant, eatery or stallholder across Darwin, Palmerston and the rural area that serve any form of laksa dish. Last year there were 40 nominations — that’s a whole lot of laksa!
Darwinian’s laksa obsession during the month-long festival also extends to sausages, burgers, panna cotta and ice cream! Yes, a cool refreshing curry flavoured ice cream topped with crispy noodles, chilli flakes and coriander from Cold Rock ice creamery on Mitchell Street where there's plenty of places to dine. It’s like eating frozen laksa and perfect to cool your inner soul on warm, humid days.
During the International Laksa Festival, locals and visitors eat their way around Darwin and surrounds on the Laksa Food Trail and rate each morsel and business via an App. Winners are announced on the final day’s family-friendly celebrations at Chung Wah Society, Woods Street on Sunday 29 November.