One of the best things about being Asian, aside from the rich culture, is really the food. And one of the best things about being Asian living in Asia? Eating authentic Asian food on a daily basis. Whether it’s straight from your own home, or from the number of street vendors and corner stores selling Hong-Kong style noodles, Japanese takoyaki and whatnot, there is a glorious abundance of Asian food everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a lover of world cuisine and culture, with a special fascination for things European, but being born and raised the way I have been, Asian cuisine and culture will always have a special place in my heart.
And so will laksa.
But as it turns out, I often end up eating laksa when I’m in an airport. For all the amount of time I spend in airport limbo, I’ve become accustomed to seeking out the better Singaporean restaurants just to have my laksa fix. My last one was in an airport headed home from Vietnam, but wouldn’t it be such a misfortune if I had to wait until I had the time to travel just so I can eat my laksa? Good thing I had the sense to check my go-to Asian-cooking website, and sure enough, the recipe was there just waiting for me.
When I think about Singapore, I automatically think about laksa (and on occasion, Hainanese chicken). Laksa is one of the most common foods in Singapore and Malaysia, and it’s also one of the most well-loved both by locals and tourists. I haven’t been to Singapore in a while but I do remember the curries and the laksas I so enjoyed there, the smells and the bursts of flavours… Yum!
Being a perennial lover of pasta and noodles, it seems only natural for me to like laksa. But it’s really the aroma that first captures attention, until you get your first taste of the creamy, spicy and exotic-tasting soup. Add a little bit of shrimp there, some fish cakes and beansprouts here, and of course the egg noodles, and you’ve got yourself a dish with all sorts of textures and taste; not to mention the tofu puffs that explode in your mouth!
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 120 grams instant curry paste*
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 2 stalks lemongrass (pounded)
- 5 kaffir lime leaves (optional but highly recommended)
- 10 tofu puffs, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- Salt to taste
- Yellow noodles and/or Vermicelli
- Bean sprouts
- 10 shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked
- 3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
- Fish cakes, cut into pieces
- 1. In a stockpot, add the oil and sauté the instant curry paste until aromatic.
- 2. Add the chicken broth, water, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, tofu puffs and bring the stock to boil.
- 3. Lower the heat to simmer and add the coconut milk and evaporated milk. Add salt to taste. Keep the stock on simmer as you assemble the dish if eating immediately.**
- 4. Bring to a boil some yellow noodles. Drain and put in individual bowls. If using vermicelli, soak them in some very hot water until they become soft and cooked. Drain and combine with the egg noodles.
- 5. You can either boil your bean sprouts with the egg noodles, or if you want them to remain crunchy, just toss them into some very hot water (similar to what was done to the vermicelli) and let them float for about 3 minutes to soften and cook slightly.
- 6. Top the noodles with the bean sprouts, pieces of whole shrimp, pieces of fish cake, and some egg quarters.
- 7. Using a ladle, pour the laksa broth and a few pieces of tofu puffs on top of the noodles. Serve hot.
- * Always check the label of the curry paste you plan to use, especially if you're not the type to eat or enjoy spicy foods on a regular basis. Different cuisines have varying levels of spiciness, but I would recommend a milder curry paste (try Malaysian, as Rasa Malaysia suggests). If you're not sure, you can scale back to 1/4 cup of curry paste and just keep adding more according to taste.
- ** If serving later, you can just leave the stock at room temperature on your stove-top and bring it to a boil a few minutes before assembling the dish.
I must say I was very pleased with how successful this recipe turned out for me. Not only is it easy, it tastes as fantastic and as authentic as I can remember. A bonus is the smell of the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves that just fills the kitchen and the dining room with an exotic fragrance.
I would suggest that you cook the broth ahead of time (for instance, in the morning if you are planning to have it for dinner) and just leave the herbs and spices on your stove-top to give them time to marry with the stock. You can just boil the soup again once you’re ready to eat. I actually had some leftovers the day after I cooked this and it tasted, dare I say, even better.