Earlier this month I stumbled on this story in the NYT about a South Asian noodle dish called Laksa. Of course I had to try it. Sadly, I’d have to travel to New York (or at the very least Chicago, maybe) to order up a bowl. I thought I would forgo the plane fare and make some myself.
I felt braced about my chances of success since I am fortunate to live near the amazing Global Foods Market, which I stop by at least three times a week. If they ever went away I might have to move. Seriously, it wouldn’t be good.
My first step was tracking down a recipe. For that I headed to the web. What I found was a lot of sites with endless variations on laksa. Even the name isn’t really standardized. There’s also curry mee, which is similar.
What I found was that there are two components to the dish: the laksa paste and the soup. I found a workable paste recipe and then combined that with a relatively simple soup recipe from another site.
Even in my well equipped Global Foods store, I couldn’t find a couple of things like coriander root and lime leaves. I didn’t ask, though, since I’m a guy.
Here’s my version of the laksa paste recipe:
Laksa Paste (the list is long but it can be vanquished pretty easily)
½ cup of dried shrimps soaked in warm water until soft
1 red chili (these come in big packages so I substituted a couple drops of chili oil)
1 tsp turmeric
6cm/2½in piece of *galangal or root ginger, peeled
(I used root ginger)
3 coriander roots or 1 packet coriander
(couldn’t find this so I used around a tsp. of coriander seeds)
4-5 hearts of lemon grass (tough outer leaves removed)
(lots of cutting to get at the soft hearts, but worth it)
6 shallots, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
6 candle nuts or macadamia nuts
(I used macadamia nuts–no problem)
10 mint leaves
10 lime leaves, rib removed
(couldn’t find so I left them out–maybe they’ll get
some in at some point)
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp blachan (dried shrimp paste)
(this they had in their small Indonesian section)
Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and grind away. (I tried using the blender but found the food processor works just as well.) You get a sort of thick paste that works for several doses of soup. I put it in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed down on it. It should last a couple of weeks.
Here’s my recipe for the soup:
The cooking portion of the recipe uses the following ingredients:
1 14 oz. can lite coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
1.75 oz. medium rice noodles (I bought a lot and just used
a good handful per bowl)
2-3 tbsp laksa paste (see above)
The following ingredients are put into each bowl to await the broth:
.25 lb. cooked large prawns, from a sustainable source
(You can also you faux crab, dumplings, frozen shrimp or anything else that you might have around)
¼ cucumber, seeds removed and cut into strips
I’ve also added half of a hard boiled egg
These go in at the very end, after the broth is done.
juice of half a lime
a small bunch cilantro
a handful bean sprouts
Putting it all together:
Pour hot water over the rice stick noodles and let them soften.
(Mine never really got soft like this so I boiled ’em like pasta. Worked great.)
In a good sized sauce pan, combine 2-3 tbs. of the laksa paste
with a couple of tablespoons of the coconut milk over medium high heat. After a few minutes, add the chicken broth and the rest of the coconut milk. Let this simmer while you load up a couple of bowls with the list above, leaving the bean sprouts, cilantro and lime for the final flourish. After 15 minutes or so, the broth will have thickened a bit. I strained mine into the bowls but it’s up to you.
Add your final garnishes and enjoy.
Here’s what my first bowl looked like: