ON my walk to work the other morning I suddenly developed a laksa craving after I passed Kopitiam Cafe on Harris Street at Ultimo – a small cafe that has been at the site since 1999 serving up Malaysian staples to homesick Malays.
I used to work five buildings down from Kopitiam Cafe in the late ’90s and I had always meant to go there (but the attraction of Sydney’s Chinatown just down the road was even more inviting to a young HBV who had just moved to the Big Smoke).
So, after 14 years I finally made the effort to take another stroll down Harris Street one lunchtime and pop into Kopitiam hoping to get an authentic laksa.
Kopitiam Cafe is just up from the powerhouse Museum and has a very interesting menu featuring street food hawker dishes as well as an array of Malaysian specialties. Aside from the usual char kway teo and beef rendang there is claypot loh see fun (which translates to ‘rats’ tail noodles’ as the noodles are round and fat and are stir-fried with dark soy, pork mince, pork fat, chili and bean sprouts), as well as nasi lemak, and fish head curry.
I was here for laksa so some of the other tempting dishes need to wait for another occasion (hopefully not another 14 years).
When thinking of laksa I always anticipate the Singaporean/Nonya style. Kopitiam’s chicken laksa ($10) is more curry mee (and it wasn’t what I was really expecting). Curry mee is the Malaysian curry laksa and there are different versions of it.
The “laksa” came out less than two minutes of ordering. It was a large bowl with a lot of thin rice noodles topped with blanched bean sprouts, half a boiled egg, fried tofu and large chunks of curried chicken and potato. It was if the last two ingredients may be interchangeable between the chicken laksa and Kopitiam’s chicken curry.
A lot of effort has gone into the soup – it was rich and creamy with a nice curry flavour with pieces of curry leaf (there were even a couple of bits of curry leaf stem in it), as well as fried onions. Alas there was not enough fiery chili heat – a good dollop of sambal would have been nice. It would be interesting to see if there is any similarity between the laksa soup and the curry chicken gravy.
Kopitiam’s chicken laksa was a very filling dish with good flvours but was not what I was expecting – it was more a soupy Malaysian chicken curry with noodles.
The verdict: I prefer the Singaporean/Nonya style of laksa but with the crowds of Malays and a menu featuring street dishes you thought would be only available in Malaysia, it is clear why Kopitiam Cafe has been around for 15 years. Will be back to try the Malaysian specialties.
What: Kopitiam Cafe, 594 Harris St, Ultimo, NSW, Australia. Open seven days from noon to 3pm.
Ate there: June 2014.