I am big fan of a good laksa. For those unfamiliar with what a laksa is (how have you lived is my first question!!) it is a spicy, super comforting noodle soup which stems from South East Asia, though there is much argument surrounding which country exactly can claim to be laksa's true inventor.
Think of it as kind of ramen but with a coconut-y and spicy broth and with rice noodles instead of egg noodles. It's similar to a Thai Red Thai curry but with more complex fishy notes which come from various forms of seafood that are added to the stock and I instantly fell in love with it as a dish when I first tried a bowl in Singapore 2 years.
There are lots of variations when it comes to what goes into a laksa depending on the country you are in and the cook that is making it - some come with the addition of shredded chicken, some with a very reduced almost creamy broth that makes it way less soup like, some have eggs as additional toppings and some include a mix of rice and egg noodles rather than just rice noodles, regardless I have always wanted to attempt to make laksa at home every since getting my first taste of it.
Another reason for wanting to master laksa at home is the fact that it is not actually that easy to get your hands on a good bowl of the stuff in London. However if you are too lazy to attempt the below, and I do have to say it's the kind of recipe to tackle on a slow weekend afternoon, or indeed now during social distancing when you have plenty of time on your hands anyways, with quite a bit prep and cooking time involved there are a few good spots, tried and tested by me. I mean in these very strange times I won't tell you to perhaps plan a dinner at Sambal Shiok, Laksamania or C&R in Chinatown, but a lot of these spots do deliver and offer takeaway so show some support if self isolation isn't bringing the chef out in you but you still fancy a good laksa!
On another note make sure to research a good Asian supermarket near you, I have an amazing one, Longdan, literally on my road and to be honest you will struggle to find some of the more niche ingredients like dried shrimp and deep fried tofu in your normal supermarket (though worst comes worst there are substitutes and missing out a few bits will still mean a decent laksa plus there is always the internet for more random ingredients).
Anyways I loved all the processes and labour that went into the laksa - making the paste, cooking the stock, even finding all the random bits at the Asian supermarket. It was a real labour of love and the end result was amazing to eat, as good as the best laksas I've had in Singapore, perhaps because a lot of love went into make it.
In a time where everything feels uncertain apart from the fact that we will probably have a lot of time on our hands in the next few weeks I urge you to give this laksa a go, especially if you have a well stocked Asian supermarket in walking distance to you that will be more than happy about some extra business!
Cooking soothes the soul and you will for sure be getting a lot more recipes from me in the coming weeks - let's keep sane, together.
Recipe adapted from Felicity Cloake @ The Guardian!
Soak 30 min
Prep 25 min
Cook 55 min
- 300g of uncooked large prawns
- 4 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 litre water
- 2 lemongrass stalks, lightly crushed
- 50g laksa leaves (hot mint), or a mix of coriander and mint, plus extra to serve
- 400ml coconut milk
- Sugar, salt and pepper, to taste
- 8 cubes deep-fried tofu (shop-bought, found frozen at my local supermarket)
- ¼ cucumber, deseeded and finely shredded
- 100g of beansprouts
- 400g wide flat dried rice noodles
- 10 dried chillies, soaked
- 30g dried shrimp, soaked
- 75g ginger, peeled
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 small Asian shallots (about 50g), peeled (normal shallots will do too)
- 30g shrimp paste
- 2 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 5 macadamia nuts (we used almonds and they did the trick as well)
- Soak the chillies and dried shrimp in hot water for 30 minutes, then drain.
- Put in a small food processor with all the other paste ingredients and whizz fairly smooth.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the paste and fry, stirring, until dark and aromatic – about 10-15 minutes.
- Beat in the water, then add the lemongrass and laksa leaves, and bring to a boil.
- Turn down the heat and leave the broth to simmer gently for 30 minutes.
- Pass the stock through a fine sieve to remove the solids, squeezing out as much liquid as possible, then return the broth to the pan.
- Whisk in the coconut milk, return to a boil, then stir in the tofu puffs and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
- Add prawns and reduce heat until they have turned pink, making sure to not overcook them.
- Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, then divide between 3 bowls.
- Pound the fresh bird’s eye chillies with a little coarse salt to make a coarse paste. Check the broth for seasoning, then pour it all over the noodles.
- Top with the tofu and prawns, shredded cucumber & beansprouts.
- Serve with the fresh chilli paste and lime wedges on the side AND ENJOY!