I generally tend to avoid areas like Bryant Park during the holidays: I don’t have to tell you, it’s swarmed with bodies. On a recent visit, an office worker in a suit Zoomed colleagues with a white backdrop, seemingly to dupe them into not realizing he was outside — while tourists walked so out of sync with the city’s patterns that I felt myself becoming as grumpy as Fran Lebowitz. But I wanted to visit the opening day of the Bryant Park Winter Village, to check out one of its new booths: Laksa Shop, a pop-up serving the Malaysian soup laksa.
This is the first time owner Cassandra Lam has stayed put with her pop-up, which has so far hopped around Brooklyn and Queens at various bars. Through January at the market, her menu is a slender two dishes — a curry laksa with shrimp and chicken broth, teeming with shrimp, fish balls. There’s also a vegetarian version with mushrooms in a miso broth with shiitake mushrooms and tomatoes. Both come with buoyant noodles, crunchy sprouts, herbs, and lime. $14, for a small, and $18 for a large. But don’t say I didn’t warn you: The sumptuous curry soup is known for its silky, creamy orange broth known to stain — at least, if you’re me. (After finding myself a table in the park, I held my Tide to Go pen at the ready).
It’s not the first time Lam has set up at the holiday market. Lam and her mother started Mama Lam’s, a curry paste condiment, back in 2016 (Mama Lam immigrated to New York in the 1980s and grew up in a town outside of Kuala Lumpur) and have set up at the holiday market before. Over the years, their products have been distributed on various store shelves throughout the city, including at restaurants like Andrew Bellucci’s Pizzeria (where you can get the condiment on a slice at no additional charge) and Bench Flour Bakers in Astoria. Laksa Shop felt like a natural extension of those products, Lam, a Flushing, Queens, native tells Eater.
Since launching Laksa Shop as a pop-up in 2022, she’s honed in on her bowls of soup and has brought on Lizzy Singh-Brar, a chef who has appeared on Chopped. The soups are prepared in a commissary in Queens and then assembled out of her new stall that launched in the park last week.
Before landing at Bryant Park, Lam hosted events at breweries at Wild East in Gowanus, Grimm Ales in East Williamsburg, and Heart of Gold in Astoria, among others. I had tried to stop by a few only to find they were already sold out of her shrimp laksa.
At Bryant Park Winter Village, she joins booths like the Migrant Kitchen and Lemak Malaysian Kitchen as some of the program’s more interesting food vendors that offer a lot to snack on while pursuing the gift counters or taking a snack break between ice skating loops.
If all goes as planned with the Laksa Shop, Lam hopes to open a permanent standalone storefront of her own down the line.