Walk into Mamak Malaysian Cafe at Auckland's Chancery Court and chances are you will find someone being served a large bowl of noodles in thick curry broth.
Laksa is what the dish is called, it is one of the hottest-selling items on the menu and is popular with Asians and non-Asians alike, says chef and cafe co-owner Charlotte Ng.
"I think a lot of Kiwis have come to love a little bit of spice in their food, and laksa has just about the right level of spice and flavour to meet their taste," she says.
There are many versions of laksa, but the one that's really popular is the Malaysian or Singaporean version that is served in curry shrimp broth in rich, creamy coconut milk.
Curry laksa differs from the laksa found in Penang and some parts of Thailand which uses fish broth.
No one knows how the dish got its name, but one suggestion is the name comes from the similar sounding word "dirty" in the Chinese dialect, Hokkien, because of its appearance.
Mrs Ng says the process of preparing the broth is a complex one, from having to chop shallots, garlic and lemongrass, to blending and frying them with various spices, shrimp paste, candle nuts and galangal.
"It is a typical Malaysian dish that uses a lot of coconut milk, prawn paste and fried shallots and has a good mix of Malay and Chinese elements," she says.
"The hassle of preparation makes laksa a popular meal to have outside."
However, commercially produced laksa pastes have made the process of cooking it "quick and easy" and straightforward enough for first-time amateurs to cook it at home, Mrs Ng says.
She recommends Prima Taste ready-to-cook laksa kit, which cost about $9 per box that serves three people, and comes with laksa paste, coconut premix and sambal chilli.
"Usually, laksa is eaten with thick rice vermicelli, prawns and seafood, but it would taste just as good with any other noodle and the seafood can also be replaced with chicken," says Mrs Ng.
Topping it with a sprinkle of shredded Vietnamese mint or coriander leaves is the secret to giving your laksa an authentic flavour, she adds.
Laksa (Malaysian/Singaporean curry noodles)
Chef: Charlotte Ng, Mamak Malaysian Cafe
Recommended paste: Prima Taste ready-to-cook sauce kit.
Where to buy: Da Hua, T-Mark, Tofu Shop
What you need: Laksa sauce kit, fried tofu, noodles, bean sprouts, prawns, fish cake
• Add premix and paste into water, stirring well.
• Bring to boil on high heat.
• Add fried tofu and boil for another five minutes.
• Serve with noodles and bean sprouts.
• Garnish with prawns and fish cake or chicken.
(Laksa sauce kit carries full cooking instructions)