(Malaysian, Singaporean coconut curried noodle soup)
4 to 6 servings
- Shallots, chopped -- 10
- Garlic, chopped -- 10 cloves
- Hot chiles, chopped -- from 2 to 10
- Dried shrimp, soaked and drained -- 3 tablespoons
- Candlenuts or macadamia nuts (optional) -- 6
- Curry powder -- 2 tablespoons
- Coriander -- 1 tablespoon
- Sugar -- 2 tablespoons
- Salt -- 2 teaspoons
- Oil -- 3 tablespoons
- Chicken stock -- 1 quart
- Coconut milk -- 2 (15-ounce) cans
- Lemongrass, white part only, crushed -- 2 stalks
- Shrimp, peeled and deveined -- 1 pound
- Deep-fried tofu squares -- 1/2 pound
- Fresh rice vermicelli or other noodles -- 1 1/2 pounds
- Bean sprouts -- 1/4 pound
- Hard-boiled eggs, cut in half -- 3
- Cilantro or Vietnamese coriander (daun kesum) -- 1 bunch
- Limes, quartered -- 2
- Chili sambal (optional) -- to taste
- Place all of the ingredients for the rempah paste into a mortar or food processor and grind or process until smooth. Adjust seasoning to your taste with sugar and salt.
- Bring a large pot of water to a slow boil at the back of the stove. Heat the oil in another large pot or wok over medium flame. Add the rempah paste and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until darkened and fragrant.
- Stir in the chicken stock, coconut milk and lemongrass. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard the lemongrass.
- Stir in the shrimp and tofu squares and simmer slowly for another 10 minutes or so.
- While the soup is simmering, bring the simmering pot of water to a full boil. Drop the fresh noodles into the boiling water and cook for 10 to 15 seconds, or according to package directions. Drain and portion the noodles into serving bowls.
- Adjust the soup's seasoning with salt and sugar. Ladle portions of broth, shrimp and tofu into the bowls. Top with sprouts, hard-boiled egg halves and sprigs of herbs.
- Serve with lime quarters and chili sambal on the side for diners to stir in as they wish. Laksa is eaten with a spoon for the broth and chopsticks for the noodles and other yummy stuff.
- Rempah Variations: Each vendor has his own recipe for the rempah paste that flavors his broth. Here are some additional ingredients you can use to change the flavor to suit your taste: 1 tablespoon coriander; 2 teaspoons red chili powder; 2 teaspoons turmeric; 6 to 8 dried chilies, soaked and drained; 1 tablespoon minced ginger or galangal; 2 teaspoons toasted shrimp paste (belacan). Substitute chopped white onion if you can't find shallots.
- Broth Variations: Use seafood stock instead of chicken stock for more flavor of the sea. To add extra flavor to your broth, simmer it with 6 to 8 fresh curry leaves and remove them when you take out the lemongrass.
- Soup Variations: Other goodies to stir into your soup: cooked, shredded chicken; clams; scallops; cockles; crab; fish cakes. Cooked and cubed pork blood is a favorite of Malaysian ethnic Chinese. Add some green beans or snow peas to boost the veggie quotient.
- Make Your Own Tofu Puffs: Deep-fried tofu puffs are a favorite in Southeast Asia for stirring into stews. To make your own, place a 1-pound block of tofu between two clean kitchen towels. Place a baking pan on top of the tofu and weigh it down with some heavy cans. Let the tofu set like this for at least 30 minutes to press out any excess liquid. Pat the tofu dry and cut it into 1-inch squares. Heat oil to 375°F in a wok, large pot or deep fryer. Deep fry the squares in batches until they are golden brown and puffed. Drain and stir into laksa or other Asian stew.
- Noodle Variations: Thick or thin rice noodles are used most often in laksa dishes. Try using Chinese-style thin yellow egg noodles instead.
- Garnish Variations: Try topping your soup with chopped scallions, crunchy fried shallots or mint.