Laksa in Darwin

In the far north of Australia, closer to Bali than Sydney, the sparsely populated, blisteringly hot “Top End” still feels like a frontier province. Despite its remoteness, Darwin, the biggest city in this tropical region, is remarkably cosmopolitan. Known as Australia’s gateway to Asia, it has a 135,000-strong population featuring over sixty nationalities. You can find authentic Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi food here, plus countless fusion options.

sunset-at-mindil-beach
Sunset at Mindil,Beach (c) Stephen Michael Barnett

The best place to sample this diversity is the twice-weekly Mindil Beach Sunset Market, 3km northeast of the city centre and home to almost 200 stalls. On Thursday and Sunday evenings during the “dry season” (end of April-October), it seems as if most of the city is here. The market is a hive of didgeridoo players, yoga demonstrations, tarot card readers, masseurs, and vendors selling everything from goat’s milk soap to crocodile-skin handbags.

Although you can find stalls offering souvlaki, roast lamb shanks and freshly-shucked oysters, Asian food dominates. Highlights include: Borneo Intersection, which serves Indonesian-Malaysian dishes like jackfruit curry and chilli tempeh (similar to tofu); Gourmet Sushi, whose rolls feature ingredients such as local fish barramundi, kangaroo and crocodile; and Bangladesh Curry Kitchen, which produces a fine okra-and-tomato curry.

First-time visitors, however, should head to the Darwin Laksa Co. A hot, spicy, coconut-rich soup served throughout Southeast Asia, laksa has become a fixture on menus across Darwin in recent years. For $10 (around £6) you get a steaming bowl of potent yellow-orange broth packed with noodles, sliced chicken, pork, beef or prawns, and a spongy cube of tofu. After customising the laksa with help-yourself sprinkles – ground peanuts, crispy onions, chopped coriander and chilli sauce – the only thing left to do is to join the locals on the beach for the sunset.

This is a longer version of an article that was first published here.

 

 

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