Prima Taste Singaporean La Mian Instant Noodles

Prima Taste's laksa la mian (image from

Prima Taste’s laksa la mian (image from

While browsing through T & T Supermarket in Richmond, B.C., some instant noodles caught my eye. What intrigued me was that they were manufactured in Singapore, by a company called Prima Taste. At C$2.99 each on sale, they were a better bargain when converted to US dollars (about $2.33 at the time). I would discover later when I got back home that they’re available from Amazon at $3.87 each for a package of 12 or as much as $6.50 each for a package of two! Pricey. At least, here in the States. Of course, I had no idea at purchase time whether I’d like the noodles or not, so I only bought a single package each of laksa la mian and curry la mian.

In hindsight, I wish I had gotten more. And I wish I’d purchased chili crab la mian as well. Next time I’m in Vancouver.

Here are my tasting notes. Let’s start with the dried noodles themselves. They’re air-dried in a similar manner like Myojo with its line of excellent Chukazanmai packaged dried ramen. No frying in saturated fats. The instructions recommend that the noodles be boiled for 7 minutes, which for most instant noodles would be far too long, turning them into soft, pasty messes. But, incredibly these noodles remained firm and held their chewy resilience from beginning to end, clearly their outstanding virtue.

The different ‘flavors’ come in two packets, one holding the coconut powder that forms the milky basis for the soup, the other the spices, herbs, and whatever else constitute the primary taste. You can adjust the proportions of each according to your own taste.

The broth is quite milky, almost like a New England clam chowder, and briny from a touch of shrimp paste. Combined with the mix from the other packet, they’re also a bit spicy. The laksa la mian can hold its own against good ones served at restaurants, rich and flavorful. The curry la mian has excellent curry flavor. Both have hints of shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and warm spices. These noodle soups will not appeal to as broad a consumer base as instant ramen might. But to me, they’re delicious especially with the addition of shredded rotisserie chicken, fish cakes or surimi, boiled egg, cilantro and plenty of minced green onions. I’ll need to be patient before I can buy any more up north. I haven’t found any locally in the Seattle area. If I get desperate, there’s always Amazon.

Update (7-18-18): Seattle’s Asian supermarket, Uwajimaya, now carries this line of noodles. I first saw them last year. I am now a happy camper that I don’t have to wait until my next visit to Canada.

Melbourne’s Elizabeth Street, Coconut House for Dinner (Melbourne, VIC)

Elizabeth Street from Federation Square to Queen Victoria Market is as noisy, overcrowded and vibrant as any commercial avenue in the world. Think Times Square with its convenience stores, hair salons, tourist shops, electronics and adult stores and ATM machines, with abundant traffic and streetcars noisily making their way. The hustle and bustle were in stark contrast to the tranquility of Torquay and Lorne along The Great Ocean Road only 90 minutes away by car. It is also lined with restaurants and cafés of every imaginable kind, especially Asian, that compete for your meal dollar. There are more southeast Asian eateries here along this Melbourne street than I’ve ever seen anywhere.

Coconut House drew our attention as we were walking back from Victoria Market to the hotel. A Malaysian restaurant, the small space was packed with customers. Only a few storefronts south, there was a Coconut House 2, apparently established to satisfy demand, and it too was filled to the gills with eager eaters, surely a good sign.

Back at the hotel, my wife read that Coconut House is known for its authentic laksa, a spicy curry noodle soup, music to my ears because other than making one in a cooking class, I’ve never had one. Some reviewers on TripAdvisor also raved about its fried chicken chops. When dinnertime rolled around, this was my first choice.

The width of Coconut House 2 is barely 10 feet, seating 25 people or so. The crowd had died down from earlier in the afternoon so we were seated immediately. Other than preparing drinks, we couldn’t figure out the function of the small “kitchen” in the back because the laksa and fried chicken we ordered were delivered to our table from the original location down the street.

My wife’s chicken arrived first, served with bowls of clear and tasty chicken soup and dipping sauce made with plenty of garlic, chile paste, lime juice and perhaps fish sauce. There was also a generous mound of chicken rice. The boneless chicken thigh pieces lived up to their praise, the meat juicy and nicely seasoned and generous batter shatteringly crunchy. Dipped in the garlic sauce, it was even better (☆☆☆).

Fried chicken chop with chicken rice

Fried chicken chop with chicken rice

Laksa is not a pretty soup. Coconut milk and curry fried in oil don’t blend well so the mixture looks more like a Jackson Pollock painting. Still, there is an undeniable attraction to the soup because it is vivid and has tofu puffs, noodles, vegetables and a dollop of sambal on top. My bowl had sliced chicken thigh pieces, green beans, bean sprouts, half a hard-cooked egg, very tender Japanese eggplant and two kinds of pasta—thin rice vermicelli and thicker egg noodles. The first taste of any soup broth is the defining moment, and my laksa’s was excellent with coconut flavor, spicy from red curry paste and savory from most likely shrimp paste (belacan). A very good soup (☆☆☆½).

Chicken laksa

Chicken laksa

Coconut House, it seems, is the best among several Malaysian restaurants in Melbourne. It’s almost tempting to go back and try other things, but we’re here only for two more days. What a pity.

Coconut House/Coconut House 2
449 Elizabeth St
Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9329 6401