I’ve been having so much laksas at Malaysian restaurants lately I’ve seriously lost count. Every time we go out to such restaurants, either Yuye or I (or both) use laksas as a benchmark for how good that restaurant is. The deepness of the flavours, the richness and creaminess of that soup and the toppings and noodles all make a big difference to the amount of enjoyment you can get.
We’ve tried recreating this beautiful dish at home before (by we I mean Yuye while I take photos) and I must say, although it was quite time consuming and required a lot of different ingredients, it was well worth it. Perhaps not as good as what great Malaysian chefs make in their commercial kitchens, but I think our version came pretty close.
Laksa actually brings back memories of blogging because it’s only been in the recent year or so that I’ve been having it a lot. I remember my very first food related post on this blog was about Laksa King (considered the best laksa restaurant in Melbourne) and back then I was a laksa newbie. I also just bought my DSLR so the photos were still in testing stage. I knew I liked what I was eating but I had nothing to compare it to. Now I have many experiences up my sleeves (although I have yet to make my way to Malaysia for some authentic stuff) but I reckon I’m now reasonably equipped to judge how good they are.
Hope you like this recipe and isn’t scared off by the sheer number of ingredients that went into it. You can always substitute or decrease the ingredients to suit your time constraints and availability of the ingredients.
Prawn curry laksa
Time to prepare: 40 minutes
Time to cook: 15 minutes
A rich, creamy noodle soup loaded with flavour seen widely in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Coconut milk and Asian spices give the soup its colour and taste, with okra and eggplant adding to the rich flavour.
For the curry paste
• 20g galangal
• 20g turmeric
• 20g ginger
• 3 cloves of garlic
• 3 medium sized shallots
• 3 long red chilli
• 1 stalk of lemongrass
• 6 candlenuts
• 20g dried shrimp, rehydrated
• 15g shrimp paste
• 25g rock sugar
For the broth
• 250g raw prawns (unpeeled)
• 4 tbsp vegetable oil
• 400ml coconut milk
For the topping
• 8 okra
• 1 small eggplant
• 100g bean shoots
• 2 fried tofu puffs
• 300g fresh Hokkien noodles, cooked according to packet
• Coriander leaves to serve
• Mint leaves to serve
• Fried shallots to serve
• Spring onion to serve
1. Roughly chop galangal, tumeric, ginger, garlic, shallots, candlenuts and chilli. Slice lemongrass. Cut eggplant into bite sized chunks. Cut tofu puffs diagonally.
2. Peel and de-vein prawns, reserving the heads and shells. Lightly season prawns with salt and set aside.
3. Fry prawn shells and heads in 1 tbsp of oil on medium heat until fragrant and crisp.*
4. Add 1 litre of cold water to prawn heads/shells and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Discard heads and shells.
5. Combine laksa paste ingredients with 1/2 tbsp of salt and 1tbsp of oil in a food processor and blend until a paste forms.**
6. Fry laksa paste in a saucepan with remaining vegetable oil on medium-high heat for 3 minutes.
7. Add prawn stock and scrape the bottom of the saucepan to remove any stuck paste. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.
8. Add in coconut milk and rock sugar, stirring to dissolve. Add salt to taste.
9. Add in okra and egg plant, simmering until almost cooked. This takes around 5-6 minutes.
10. Add in prawns and simmer for 2 minutes.
11. Add in tofu puffs and noodles to warm through for one minute.
12. Arrange bean shoots in bowl, add laksa noodle, prawns, vegetables, tofu puffs and soup. Top with coriander, mint, spring onions and fried shallots and serve.
* Split prawn heads (diagram) before frying to release the flavour.
** If paste is too dry, add a little extra vegetable oil to moisten.
– This recipe uses various fresh ingredients to create a laksa paste for the base of the soup, some of which may be difficult to obtain. A pre-prepared laksa paste can be used as a substitute, available from most Asian grocery stores.
– Choose medium to large sized prawns which are in season.
– The amount of chilli can be varied to taste.
– Both the prawn stock and laksa paste can be prepared in advance. Leftovers can be refrigerated and used at a later date.
– Chicken or fish can be used instead of prawns. If doing so, remember to substitute a suitable replacement stock.
– Traditionally, Hokkien noodles and thin vermicelli is used in laksa, but any noodle can be substituted. We only used Hokkien noodles in this recipe.
– Green beans or any other green winter vegetable can be used if okra is unavailable.
– Brown sugar or palm sugar can be used instead of rock sugar.
– Cashews or macadamias can be used instead of candlenuts.
Question time: Have you ever tried okra or ladies fingers before? Do you like them?