Laksa is a very popular spicy, noodle soup and like most great dishes everyone has a variation which they think is superior! My version of course comes from Plenty More, my go to recipe book for vegetarian meals that are guaranteed to pass muster with Mr “It’s not a meal without meat”.
I love the coconut curry broth version of laksa and find the flavours really comforting and nourishing (as my Grandma would describe any good soup, but I’m pretty sure she has never had one like this!) Asian cooking is all about balance between hot, salty, sour and sweet and while this recipe looks complicated, I find it a pleasure to make because I know the end result will be amazing. Also, since I make it in a food processor rather than spending a long, long time pounding the ingredients into a paste using a giant mortar and pestle I really don’t think this recipe qualifies as difficult!
You can double the spice paste and freeze the surplus, or freeze the soup in portions (sans noodles and vegetables) to make an easy meal another day. This recipe suggests bean sprouts and beans but I have eaten laksa with broccoli, carrots, snow peas, bamboo shoots… use whatever you have on hand. The soup won’t mind!
- 8 baby shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 8 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large lemongrass stalk, soft white stem only, sliced
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 3 large dried red chillies
- 2 tbs sambal oelek (or another savoury chilli paste)
- 4 tbs vegetable oil
- 40g coriander (about)
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 3 branches fresh curry leaves
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 2 tbs caster sugar
- 400ml cocunut milk
- 3 cups bean sprouts
- 150g green beans
- 100g rice vermicelli
- 250g fried tofu puffs
- 2 limes, halved
- Place the shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander, chillies and sambal oelek in the bowl of a small food processor. Add half the oil and the coriander stems and process to a paste. Coarsely shred the coriander leaves and set aside for later.
- Heat the remaining oil in a wok over medium low heat and fry the spice paste for 15-20 minutes (yes really!), stirring frequently. You want to cook it slowly, without burning. It will change colour and smell amazing.
- Add the stock, curry leaves, curry powder, sugar, coconut milk and 1 1/2 tsp salt. Increase the heat and bring to a gentle simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Throw the beansprouts in a pan of boiling water, drain and refresh.
- Cook the beans in boiling water for 3 minutes, drain and refresh.
- Soften your rice noodles in cold* water for about 10 minutes.
- When you’re ready to serve, pile the noodles, tofu and vegetables in a deep bowl and pour over the soup. Squeeze a bit of lime on top and sprinkle with coriander. Enjoy while minimising sauce splatter on your face and shirt!
*Hot water will cook the noodles too quickly and you will end up with small bits of noodle in your soup not satisfying strands.
PS Don’t be tempted to put the dry noodles straight into the soup to save on washing up, I have made that mistake and you end up with laksa stir fry and no soup. Not ideal!
PPS I did use thicker noodles in my version because that’s what I had in the cupboard. Feel free to do the same!