Laksa basically means ‘lots’, because there are so many condiments added to this tasty dish. This southeast Asian noodle soup is sold as a meal by thousands of soup vendors, all of whom have their own special recipe. You can, for instance, substitute the seafood in this recipe for chicken – and don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients; the taste sensation will reward your efforts.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
1. The spice paste
(This paste lasts for 3 days in the fridge)
- 3 long, fat stalks of lemon grass
- 2 red chillies (deseed them if you prefer a milder taste)
- 2cm ginger
- 5ml shrimp paste
- 3 shallots, peeled and chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic
- 60ml peanut oil
- 5ml turmeric
- handful fresh coriander
- 60ml tamarind paste
Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend at the highest speed until it forms a smooth paste. Scoop into a glass jar (it will stain plastic) and refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
2. The soup
- 30ml peanut oil
- 250ml spice paste
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 60ml nam pla (or other fish sauce)
- handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- 200g prawns, shelled
- 300g linefish, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
- 1pkt medium-thick rice noodles (or noodles of your choice), cooked
3. Divide the noodles in serving bowls and pour the soup over. Garnish with your choice of accompaniments.
• crisp bean sprouts
• deep-fried tofu chunks
• diced fresh chillies
• julienne cucumber
• roasted sesame seeds or peanuts
• fresh coriander or basil leaves
• hard-boiled eggs, halved
Shrimp paste The paste smells somewhat unpleasant, but imparts a delicious flavour to food. It is an important ingredient in southeast Asian cooking and is made using salt and fermented shrimps. Store the bottle in the fridge after you have opened it.
Tamarind paste The paste is the pulp around the seed of the tamarind fruit. It’s a traditional ingredient in sour Thai soup, as well as in Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce.
Nam pla/fish sauce Fish sauce is to Thai food what soy sauce is to Chinese cuisine. It has a distinctive flavour and salty taste. In Thai, Nam bplah means, literally, ‘fish water’. Real fish sauce is the water, or juices, extracted from the fish flesh duringalong pickling or fermentation process.
Rice noodles are noodles made from rice, the principal ingredients being rice flour and water. However, sometimes other ingredients such as tapioca or corn starch are also added to improve the transparency or increase the chewy texture of the noodles.
Tofu, or soybean curd, is fairly tasteless, and soft, with a cheesy texture. It is made by curdling fresh warm soya milk and thickening it with a coagulant. Tofu is very healthy and usually takes on the taste of whatever you cook it with.