Laksa King: a tale of two laksas

12 Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington
Phone: 9372 6383

I hadn’t been to Laksa King in a couple of years. It had since changed locations, and I’d heard varying reports about the quality of the laksa. Some people had said the quality had gone downhill, an others reported being quite pleasantly surprised that the change of premises hadn’t meant a change in quality or taste. So there was only one thing for it: I’d have to see for myself.

I ordered the combination laksa. I can’t remember if it was called the Laksa King special laksa, but that sounds like something I would order…? Anyway, it came laden with slices of fish cake, a couple of prawns, some sliced chicken, puffs of fried tofu (my favourite part of any laksa) and a huge plump oily chunk of eggplant. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, oily isn’t being used in a negative way here.

The soup was a heady mix of coconut milk and curry spices, and though others have claimed Laksa King’s soup doesn’t carry enough depth of spice, I have to disagree. It was enough to have me sweating within a few minutes. Though then again, I do tend to sweat quite easily when chilli is involved.
As you can see, I quite enjoyed this laksa.

Food court (South end), Highpoint Shopping Centre, Maribynong

Then I was at Highpoint Shopping Centre not long after, and I had heard that Laksa King had an outlet there. In the name of research (and not having eaten breakfast that morning) I decided to try the same combination laksa.

It was a little disappointing, given the fact that the girl behind the counter had bothered to ask me whether I was eating in or taking away, that I was served a laksa in a disposable plastic bowl. Combined with the disposable chopsticks and the thin plastic soup spoon,it made for a truly food court experience. Which is fair enough, I suppose. I was eating in a food court, after all.

The quality of the laksa, however, was definitely above your standard food court fare. Again, the (smaller) bowl was laden with seafood, chicken and tofu, though the soup was noticeably less spicy – perhaps catering to a wider audience? – and was a little overly coconut-ty.

So my verdict? If you’re out and about in the West – and you’re most likely in a car if you’re visiting Highpoint – take the trouble to drive over to Flemington and have the original Laksa King laksa. It’s much better than the food court facsimile. Though in all honesty, if you read food blogs with any regularity, you probably didn’t need me to tell you that.
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Plume (Maribynong)

200 Rosamond Rd, Maribynong
Phone: 9318 6833

Whenever people ask me for yum cha recommendations, Plume in Doncaster always gets a mention. It’s a bit of a trek, but over the years, it has remained reliably good. So when Penny suggested impromptu yum cha at Plume over in Maribynong, I immediately said yes. Even though I was over the other side of town on an(other) Ikea mission.

Expectations were high, which in fairness, probably wasn’t fair.

The one thing Plume Maribynong has over its Doncastrian sister is ample parking. It backs on to the Knifepoint shopping centre car park, so it’s easy even on a Sunday afternoon to find a park. We arrived at around 2pm, which is towards the end of the yum cha session. I’m hoping that somewhat explains the lacklustre fare with which we were assaulted.

First up was my favourite – deep fried taro dumplings.

The flavour of the filling wasn’t bad, but the entire experience was somewhat let down by the fact they were lukewarm. Lukewarm fried dumplings? That would be strike one.

Henry was keen on the fried calamari tentacles, which I’m not a huge fan of, mostly because they always come in a huge serve, and everybody only ever wants one or two, so the rest sit there getting cold, until there’s a lull in the service, and then I fall into the trap of having another one while we wait for more dumplings, and am disappointed when I find their only characteristics are rubbery and oily.

So this would be ball one. Not Plume’s fault, I’m just not a fan.

Chicken’s feet. What I love about going to yum cha with seasoned tea drinkers is I don’t need to worry when ordering weird stuff that I’m going to end up eating it all myself.

These chickens feet were flavoured quite well, though felt like they could have done with more time cooking. The skin was soft, but nothing was falling off the bones. First base, just.

The others ordered some congee, but it being a morning-after-drinking, I had no time for that ‘healthy’ stuff. The fat content quite plainly wasn’t high enough. So I won’t comment on its quality.

Apparently Penry go to Plume primarily for the sui gao (prawn soup dumplings – like big won tons). They’re not a part of the regular yum cha fare circulating the restaurant in carts; you have to order them specially.
One bite, and I could see why they keep going back. The dumplings are plump and springy, with huge chunks of prawn meat. Second base.

The bao cart rolled around, and since we were only a table of three, I had to choose between the char siu and the egg custard buns. I went for the char siu, because we weren’t ready for the sweet stuff yet.

What we got was the sweet stuff anyhow. While bao dough is supposed to be sweet, this is usually offset by a savoury char siu filling, which has an elemnt of sweetness to it, but also a hefty amount of salt. The char siu at Plume was too sweet for my liking. A bit disappointing, as the surrounding bun was reasonably soft and pillowy.

Then came the dumpling parade.We went for the classics: siu mai, haar gao and one of my favourites, the prawn and chive dumplings.

The siu mai were a little odd, with chunks of pork instead of a smooth texture formed by finer mincing – we all know I approve of mincing, right? – and Penny and I agreed that the skins on the haar gao were far to thick. The chive and prawn dumplings, however, were great! With more tapioca starch in the skins, they had a more delicate, glassy appearance, though upon biting into them, I found this was also due in part to the fact the skins were thinner as well. The filling was super tasty, and still stickily moist. In fact, I think the gloriousness of these dumplings outweighs the disappointment of the other two, so Plume just managed to sneak third.

We had to order the haar cheong fun (steamed rice noodle), which you would think would be a good thing – it’s made to order, it must be better, right? Wrong. The noodles were thick and claggy, and just a general fail. Strike two.

Rather unimpressed by the mixed results, we thought we’d just move onto dessert. I ordered the yum cha classic maanguo bou-ding (mango pudding).
OK, three strikes, and you’re out! The pudding was far too firm – too much agar? – and generally a bit bland. There were a couple of chunks of mango in it, but overall there wasn’t enough mango flavour.

Similarly, Penny’s doufu faa (tofu dessert) was disappointing. The tofu wasn’t smooth enough, and in a dessert which is pretty much about the quality of the tofu, there’s pretty much no redemption after that.

Henry did promise to make some homemade tofu sometime though, so it wasn’t all bad.

It’s a shame that the food was so sub-par, because Plume is such a convenient place to head for yum cha. As I said, I hope this might have something to do with the fact we came towards the end of the service. I’ll be back, but next time I’ll be sure to go earlier. Hopefully they might get a home run next time.

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