As part of my foodie goals this year, I really wanted to start eating and cooking more authentic Asian cuisine. My standard stir-fry is all well and good, but I wanted to play with new-to-me ingredients, try new techniques and produce some really exciting dishes. This laksa might not be complicated (though it does create a huge amount of washing up!), but it tastes wonderful.
Generally, laksa is a spicy broth, served over rice noodles with chicken and prawns. I’ve added a little coconut milk to my version, both to temper the spice and also to make it smoother and creamier. I’ve also added a soft-boiled egg, because I’ve come to love the flavour of an oozing egg yolk in spicier foods. The whole thing is sweat-inducingly spicy, and somehow subtly combines sweet, salty and sour notes. It makes for a wonderful Friday night fakeaway, and I know I’ll be making this again and again.
The key to a good laksa, as I’ve discovered, is taking the time to make your own paste. I’ve used ready-prepared ones and they just aren’t quite the same. Yes, it might take a while (both to make and also to hunt down some of the ingredients) but it’s well worth it – and my quantities here make double the amount needed. I’ve frozen it in an ice-cube tray so I can make laksa whenever the mood strikes me.
Oh, and for an even quicker version I have made this using leftover roast chicken and ready cooked prawns. If the paste has been ready-made it’s the perfect quick after-work supper – and it’s wonderful if you’ve got a cold brewing!
This recipe was based on Ping Coobes version in Delicious Magazine. I’ve simplified it a bit based on the ingredients I was able to find – some of them you may need to hunt down in your local Asian supermarket (I specifically struggled finding shrimp paste and galangal).
Recipe for the Laksa Pasta (enough for 4 servings)
- 1 tsp of dried chilli flakes
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 fresh red chillies, roughly chopped
- 4 shallots, roughly chopped
- 4 lemongrass stalks, bottom part only, roughly chopped
- 30g fresh galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
- 30g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 2 tbsp shrimp paste
- 25g peanuts
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
To make the paste, simply whizz all of the ingredients in a food processor until you have a rough paste – add a little extra oil if you need to. I used my mini-chopped and found I had to do it in batches.
Recipe for the Laksa (serves 2)
- 50g vegetable oil
- Half quantity of the Laksa pasta, above
- 2 skinless and boneless chicken thigh fillets
- Tops of the lemongrass discarded when making the paste
- Handful of raw prawns
- 750ml chicken stock
- 150ml coconut milk
- 2 nests of dried rice noodles, cooked according to pack instructions
- Bunch fresh mint, leaves only
- 1 medium egg, boiled for 5 minutes (soft boiled) or 7 minutes (hard boiled), peeled
- Handful of peanuts, roughly chopped
- Lime wedges for garnish
Heat the oil in a wok frying pan over a medium heat. Add the laksa paste and reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and fry for at least 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. I try to fry for 30-40 minutes to really develop the flavour.
Put the chicken in a pan with half of the stock and the lemongrass, then simmer for 15 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the pan and allow to cool before slicing into strips. Add the raw prawns to the stock and cook for 2-3 minutes until cooked, then transfer to the plate with the chicken. Skim off the scum from the surface of the poaching liquid and discard the lemongrass, before adding the rest of the stock and the coconut milk.
Once the paste has cooked, add it to the stock and coconut mixture, and allow to simmer for 15 or so minutes before straining the broth through a sieve. Taste and season if necessary. Bring the broth back to the boil. Portion out the noodles, chicken and prawns into two bowls, and pour the boiling broth over the top. Sprinkle with mint leaves, chopped peanuts and a squeeze of lime, and finish with half of the boiled egg.
As you can probably tell, it does make a huge amount of washing up – but it’s well worth it! The flavours are insanely complex, I couldn’t quite believe I’d made it entirely from scratch. I’m not sure if my version is entirely authentic, but it tastes delicious and I’d happily eat bowl after bowl.
Are you a fan of cooking Asian food? What’s your go-to recipe?