For the Love of Laksa
The Darwin International Laksa Festival returns this month, brought forward from its usual November appearance to delight tastebuds and celebrate the Territory’s "unofficial official dish."
By Kate Conway
Ah, the mighty laksa. It’s the dish Territorians love to devour. Whether it’s enjoyed for dinner, lunch or even – to the confusion of many an uninitiated visitor – at breakfast. The delicious bowl of fragrant, spicy broth and noodles topped with all the trimmings never fails to hit the spot.
Now in its fifth year, the Festival was created to support business during what's traditionally a quieter time of year, but the beloved month-long laksa love-in has grown into so much more.
Owner of Besser Kitchen and Brew Bar, Lisa Heames says as well as creating a buzz across the Territory, the Laksa Festival unites the hospitality industry.
“There’s a real community around the Festival … we’re all doing our own thing, we’re all trying to run a business and look after our customers and our teams, but this is a really lovely way that we’re all in it together,” she says.
Minister for Business, Jobs and Training, Paul Kirby says the Festival is fast becoming one of the Territory’s most anticipated and competitive food festivals.
“It gives businesses and chefs the opportunity to create new dishes, and even drinks, with a twist on the classic Territory laksa,” he says.
Besser’s laksa burger is a dish that has transcended the Laksa Festival.
Originally entered in the Festival’s Inspired by Laksa category, Heames says the dish quickly became a fan favourite and is now a permanent fixture on the menu.
“Every Friday was laksa Friday and our customers knew that. People would ring up and order 10 laksa burgers to take back to the office and it just built from there,” she says.
“It’s just a sure thing, the laksa flavours are so good especially on crispy chicken … our menu is all day and you’d be surprised how many people have a laksa burger for breakfast.”
Jason Chin of Chok’s Place is an undisputed legend of the Laksa Festival.
The inaugural winner of the Golden Bowl for the NT’s best laksa in 2019, Chok’s Place has been a force ever since taking home the Golden Bowl on two more occasions and back-to-back People’s Choice winner in 2021 and 2022.
This year, Chok’s Place is awarded Hall of Fame status, which means they’re not entering the Golden Bowl competition, but Chin isn’t disappointed.
“I’m very happy to pass the throne on to someone else and let them embrace the journey and experience for themselves what we are so fortunate to have had,” he says.
“Our clientele has just grown, when we won the award back-to-back our sales grew two hundred percent in laksas alone.”
This year sees the introduction of the Laksa League online community, an interactive twist to participating in the Festival.
Laksa lovers can earn points towards daily, weekly and major prizes by tasting and reviewing dishes, checking into venues, inviting friends to join the fun, and of course – voting for your favourite laksa and laksa-inspired dishes.
It’s an exciting new layer to what was already a pretty fun month for foodies.
The Laksa Lawns once again take over State Square to wrap up the Festival with the Grand Finale Festival Day. Head along to see who takes home the coveted Golden Bowl for 2023 and spice up your life!
Darwin International Laksa Festival Food Tour
WHEN DAILY UNTIL SUN 29 OCT
Grand Finale Festival Day
WHEN SUN 29 OCT | 3-9PM
AT LAKSA LAWNS, STATE SQUARE
Inset: Jason Chin. Photo: Darwin International Laksa Festival