Richard Lee started serving laksa at a Central Market food court 20 years ago. Now you can find it all over the city.
It’s laksa-slurping weather. And if the spicy noodle soup is part of your weekly dinner rotation, chances are you’re more familiar with Laksa House than you’d care to admit. Or you’re due for a revisit.
Richard Lee opened Laksa House’s flagship store in the Moonta Street-adjacent Market Plaza Food Court in 1997, after migrating to Adelaide from Malaysia in 1968 and working in restaurants from 1975.
It seems fitting The Adelaide Review visits him there, where it all began. Gesturing to the surrounding stalls, Lee says his is the only one that hasn’t changed hands in 20 years.
It’s clear why, even at a glance. At 3pm on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon – well outside of the lunch-hour rush – there are no less than 10 people nursing steaming bowls of laksa, and a few more waiting for takeaways.
The original Laksa House at the Market Plaza Food Court
While Laksa House’s namesake dish isn’t the only menu item, it’s definitely the drawcard. “We’ve created a small name for ourselves,” Lee says. He’s being modest. Since the early 2000s his laksa empire has transcended the Central Market. Outposts have popped up on Flinders Street, Hutt Street and King William Street – in that order.
The recipe for Lee’s Malaysian-style spicy coconut broth originated from a curried noodle laksa recipe from Kuala Lumpur. A “master” chef he met in Adelaide some 30 years ago taught him how to make it. “I’ve improved a lot on that recipe,” says Lee. What seems like a simple broth has evolved in his 20 years of business and now comprises more than 10 ingredients.
Lee introduced a few dumpling laksas to the menu a decade-or-so ago. “They’re one of our most popular dishes now,” he assures us. Choose between chicken-and-mushroom dumplings or a vegetarian alternative. Extra sambal is available if you’re looking for a sinus cleansing spice-hit.
Richard Lee at Laksa House
Our habitual order – a chicken-and-mushroom-dumpling laksa – arrives at the table, perched on a bright-orange food-court tray. As is the case with many of the city’s best in-and-out Asian eateries, what Laksa House lacks in airs and graces is well and truly made up elsewhere. Serving sizes are – by all accounts – very generous, prices are reasonable, service is almost instant, and consistency is something you can bet on.
Lee’s seen generations of the same family repeatedly pull up seats in the food court, and at his other CBD outposts, over two decades. “People go overseas, come back, and are still wanting my laksa,” he says, with a smirk. “There has to be something they like to keep coming back.”
Photos: Tomas Telegramma