I’ve been hearing about Mary’s famous Laksa at Parap Markets for a couple of years now and being up here (Darwin) regularly it’s always been on my ‘to do’ list I am just normally really busy on a Saturday. This Saturday however was a different story (let’s just say we weren’t very busy) so I rallied two of my crew and we headed down to Parap to try this famous Laksa that I had h eard so much about. Parap Markets are a little a little bit like Rusty’s Markets in Cairns with plenty of fresh produce but heaps more food stalls in a village-like setting. For those of you that haven’t been to my second home of Darwin picture Rusty’s Markets in Edge Hill and you might have an idea of what Parap Markets are like. The food stalls are mostly Asian type cuisine with a few others thrown in. Walking through reminded me of being in Thailand with the aroma of char-grilled chicken satays and fresh coriander. We arrived early in the morning, not long after 8am, but the place was still bustling with people buying fresh fruit and veg, fresh fruit smoothies and spring rolls.
The Parap Markets are held every Saturday from 8am till 2pm rain, hail or shine, unlike Mindil Beach Markets which are only on in the dry season and like the Mindil Beach Markets they are also a Darwin institution. The Parap Markets are a lot smaller than the Mindil Beach Markets with probably only about a quarter of the amount of stalls and a sh*tload less people to contend with. That’s not to say it’s not busy but Getting there early in the morning as we did is definitely a good idea, plus that way you don’t get too beaten down by the god-awful Darwin sun and humidity. Thankfully summer is over so it wasn’t too bad while we were there.
When we arrived we were both elated and horrified to find that there were in fact no less than 8 stalls selling Laksa. Mary’s stall could have been anyone of them so we decided that each of us would have to get a different one (that makes three out of eight but still a better chance of getting ‘the one’). Then, randomly enough I ran into a guy I used to go to school with (only random because I went to school in Cairns) and while chatting to him and doing a bit of catching up I asked him just which stall was Mary’s famous Laksa stall. AM said that he hadn’t had this famous Laksa before as he chowed down on a Satay Stick but was pretty sure he knew which one I was talking about. He pointed towards the middle of the stalls and told us to walk down the end and look for the large queue of people. So that’s exactly what we did. We soon found a large group of people hovering around a small stall with about 6 people working busily behind the counter ladling hot soup from humungous pots into containers, chopping fresh coriander, prepping noodles and dealing with the throngs of people that all wanted a piece of the action, or should I say Laksa.
Myself and DC had soon made up our minds that we were getting the Seafood Laksa (even though the seafood was imported, yes). It seemed to be the one that everyone was getting and I’m no sheep but I figured that if I was going to try one of Mary’s reputed Laksa’s then it had to be the one that everyone else was having. MJ on the other hand changed his mind at the last minute and ended up wandering off to some Greek stall to buy something else for breakfast where I had earlier eyes off pastries with Haloumi in them. Oh well his loss (and mine so it seems for not getting one of those damn pastries). Despite the long line DC and I waited less than five minutes to be served. They have containers already prepped with the noodles and greens inside which the well oiled machine of workers behind the counter add the steaming hot Laksa to, followed by whatever additions you have chosen (in our case seafood). The lady collecting your money adds your choice of coriander, sambal chilli paste and fried onions. DC went the whole hog and had all three whereas I opted for no coriander. Yuck I hate that stuff.
Afterwards we wandered back through the market searching for somewhere to sit but it seems that we weren’t the only one with that idea. There are a few tables and chairs scattered around the market but they appeared to all be taken with people eating nutella crepes, ladies sipping their coffees and various people happily slurping down their own Laksa’s. In the end DC and I decided that rather than save our Laksa’s till we got back to the boat (that would take away from the experience) we would just sit on the edge of the gutter to eat our Laksa. I have no aversion to sitting on the ground, especially when I’m gagging to get hot Laksa in my belly. We sat down and opened up our containers to be met with a rich and fragrant aroma of coconut milk, fish, chilli and in DC’s case coriander. Both of our Laksa’s were piled high with noodles, tofu, BBQ pork, a wanton and seafood (imported but I’ll come back to that). The seafood included prawns, squid and seafood extender. Apparently that comes with the Laksa territory but hey I’m no expert. I left that to the side and didn’t eat it.
The Laksa was delicious and flavoursome particularly with the addition of the Sambal Chilli paste on the top. I only wish that I had gotten more chilli paste because this stuff was the business! It had just enough kick to it without making you wish you didn’t eat an entire soup spoon full. The seafood, albeit imported, was nice and not chewy or overcooked as were the noodles. The best part for me was the tofu and the wanton as they had both soaked up the rich soup and were full of juice and flavour. DC sitting on the gutter to my right didn’t like the tofu at all but then again most men don’t. It was a large serve for AU$8 but not too large since by the end of it I was content but not bursting.
The only thing that I can fault the Laksa on is the lack of chilli. I really would have liked more so that the dish had a little bit more bite to it because it just seemed a wee bit sweet without the chilli. I realise that I am a little bit of a chilli fiend though and a lot of people don’t really dig it. Also I have to take points off for using imported seafood. C’mon Mary there is just no excuse for it, especially in a place like Darwin where local seafood is plentiful. By the time MJ returned with his spinach/pastry thing from the Greek stall DC and I were halfway through happily enjoying our Laksa’s in the gutter. I wouldn’t say it’s the best Laksa I have ever had (nor am I am expert on Laksa) and upon doing a bit more research it appears that the Rendezvous Cafe in Darwin actually holds the title according to numerous comments posted on the world wide web. DC and I m0re than enjoyed our breakfast Laksa’s. If you are ever visiting Darwin on a Saturday morning then forget the greasy bacon, eggs and hash brown from one of the dodgy cafe’s on Mitchell Street with the seedy backpackers and the street cleaner hosing the leftover kebab off the sidewalk. Stick with the locals and opt for a fresh and piping hot Laksa from Parap Markets washed down with a fresh fruit smoothie. I guarantee it’s a much better way to start your day.
Parap Village Markets
Every Saturday 8am – 2pm