Laksa. Not just a matter of boiling up some noodles and tossing them into some stock you happened to have lying around. God, no. About the furthest thing from humble food, laksa soup is an ingenious, aromatic blend of shrimp paste, coconut milk, sambal chili and the odd secret ingredient. Here are our picks of the better bowls to be found around here. Katong Laksa 8 Mercer St., Sheung Wan, 2543-4008 One of the brighter spots in the rather grim landscape of Sheung Wan dining, Katong was opened in 2004 by veteran DJ/entrepreneur Joel Lai and local artist Simon Birch. It’s received such a warm reception that a second shop in Wan Chai was opened last year. The laksa: A mild shrimp and coconut concoction. This tiny restaurant doesn’t have a huge menu, but you can order laksa in five varieties. The bigger claim to fame? So far it’s the only place we’ve found that serves mee siam, a delectably spicy, sweet and sour soup noodle. Prices: $40-70 Also good for: Satay, a recent addition to the menu. Katong serves up succulently grilled meat with cubes of cucumber and onion to cut the uber-peanutty taste of the sauce. Nam Wah Restaurant 8 Pak Sha Rd., Causeway Bay, 2890-4507 This old-school, semi-elegant diner has been around for some decades now. It’s one of those places that always gives you a choice of borscht or creamy soup, whose milk tea is to die for, and whose giant menu of southeast Asian delights is oddly supplemented by things like club sandwiches and tuna salad. The laksa: Classic curry laksa – creamy sour and shrimp-infused soup with a choice of seafood, garoupa, chicken, beef, pork or bean sprouts. Prices: $45-$80 Also good for: Chicken curry, Singapore style. Pasar 197 Johnston Rd., Wan Chai, 3168-2057 Founded by a homesick Singaporean, this restaurant has a huge Singaporean menu including fried kway teow, curries and the ever-popular chili crab. The laksa: Better than most. Round noodles come in a thick, spicy coconut gravy with plenty of seafood, including homemade fish balls. Prices: $50-70 Also good for: All the Singaporean snacks, including rojak, ice kachang, pandan and lapis cake and coconut jam toast. Sabah Malaysian Cuisine 98-102 Jaffe Rd., Wan Chai, 2143-6626 A straight-up, no-nonsense Malaysian shop in the wilds of Wan Chai. Atmosphere-wise, it’s definitely a cheap and cheerful, bolt after your meal, type of place. The laksa: They serve assam laksa – sour and musky with a soup base of tamarind and shrimp paste. Their specialty is served with sardines. Prices: $50 and up Also good for: “Pulled tea,” so named for the way the tea is poured back and forth between containers (it’s really just tea with condensed milk and a thick froth). Insidiously attractive to the milk tea aficionado. Tin Hau Laksa 81 Electric Rd., Tin Hau, 2806-2683 An unlikely candidate for good laksa is nestled away here in Tin Hau. Their menu is full of both traditional and vaguely fusion-esque items, like goose kidney, Muslim ribs and curry sirloin. The laksa: Piquant. The soup base is coconutty-rich with traditional laksa flavor and a touch of Indian curry powder for spice. You dictate how spicy it gets. Comes with unusual meats like French duck breast, razor clam, and succulent ox-tongue. They also have laksa loh – cold noodles served with hot laksa sauce on the side. The daun kesom (laksa herbs) are imported daily. Prices: $35-60 Also good for: Curry, and deep-fried ice cream of all things. Plus healthy alternatives like fat-free ox-tongue and herbed soya milk instead of coconut milk for the laksa soup. What Is This Laksa You Speak Of? “Laksa” can refer to one of two main types and people get grouchy when they eat the one they didn’t expect. Read on. Curry laksa - the coconut-curry-based kind. It’s orange, creamier, and comes with seafood, fish balls and tofu puffs. Locally, most Singaporean/Malay restaurants serve curry laksa. Assam laksa is a more sour, fish- or shrimp-based soup. No dairy involved. The muskiness of a pure prawn stock is cut with tamarind and noodles are usually served with shredded fish, vegetables and herbs, and topped with sweet prawn paste instead of sambal chili. We list restaurants that serve curry laksa here, unless otherwise noted.