115 Grattan St, Carlton. Phone: 9663 1555
Is there a difference between health food and healthy food?
For me, the former conjures up images of alfalfa sprouts and boringly earnest bean casseroles.
The latter, I guess, is anything we eats that’s good for us.
My $10.90 curry laksa is very definitely neither.
The curry gravy is creamy and oily.
There are egg noodles only; none of your rice noodles here.
The only trace of greenery are scarce segments of green onion.
Gad, the chunky chicken pieces are even fried!
But it’s the best laksa I’ve ever devoured.
Well, at least since the last time I had a best ever-laksa.
Nasi Lemak House is a wildly and deservedly popular place a block from Lygon St that sells straight-up Malaysian food widely revered for its authenticity.
Given its location at uni central, it’s a regular student hang-out.
Subsequently, it can get a bit mad at rush hour.
Which is why I figure dead on noon on a public holiday Monday is good time to front up, with a visit to the neat secondhand bookshop around the corner in Swanston St to follow.
I’m right, as things are a little less frantic than usual, though by 12.30 the place is pretty much full anyhow.
At a table across from me, a big group of young chow hounds do like me and photograph their food. Are they bloggers, photography students, merely food nuts? I don’t ask.
I bypass the obvious – there seems to be several dozen variations on the nasi lemak theme, ranging from the straightahead with fried chicken drumsticks to an array of vegetarian options.
As well there are noodles such as char kuay teow; and ban mien, which is two-plate affair of Shanghai noodles alongside a separate dish of fishballs, chicken and vegetables in a chicken soup. Pretty good deal for $9.80! That’s for me next time.
But today it’s the laksa, and not for the first time, either.
It really is mighty, having the pungency and kick for which laksa aficionados crave.
It’s topped with a couple of papadams, which are good either still crunchy or soaked in the soup. In and around them are the fried shallots.
Further down, in addition to big chunks of the bone-free and incredibly tender/chewy chicken, are a couple of fish balls, delightfully soggy tofu, bean sprouts and probably some stuff I forget.
I fail to finish the noodles or the soup on account of being full and not wanting to spoil a fine lunch.
Nasi Lemak House is a Melbourne cheap eats classic, but it pays to time your visit to periods of what passes here for slow.
The Nasi Lemak House website is very good, with the photos giving a real sense of what the food here looks like.