Thursday, 13 September 2012

Malaysian Curry Laksa Soup

Can you see from today's recipe photo that it is slightly out of focus on the right side? That's because I was in such a hurry to eat this laksa that I was already pulling the bowl nearer to myself before the picture had a chance to fully expose. What a greedy guts.

You can't blame me though. Every now and again I cook something so unbelievably incredible, that I go a little bit crazy. Laksa is not really 'cooking' in the narrowest sense of the word. It's really an assembly job, and the key is to assemble as many ingredients as you possibly can. More is definitely more, so to speak.

Mrs Ribeye and I ate a delicious laksa at Makan Cafe on the Portobello Road, which was delicious and came with lovely king prawns, and so I resolved to make my own at the first opportunity. Mine however, comes with king prawns, chicken, tofu puffs, and fresh chillies.  I'm sure that mine is not as 'Malaysian street food authentic' as a laksa is supposed to be, but I certainly didn't see anyone complaining when I served it as part of my Asian-inspired dinner party last week.

I served my Asian Salad as a starter, which was vividly bright and refreshing, followed by this rich, creamy, spicy soup. A fabulous combination of flavours and textures.

Sorry to be banging on so much about this soup. Although I'm no stranger to a bit of shameless self promotion, I really feel like this recipe could become my signature dish, so I'm allowing myself a little bit of extra backslapping.

As far as Laksa paste is concerned: Yes you could make it yourself with your blender or pestle and mortar or authentic bamboo and rock plate equipment, but I wouldn't. Go to your local Asian grocer, who specialises in ready-made authentic pastes. It's not a bit lazy or shameful - even in the Far East, pastes are sold in every market and grocery store. Although making a Thai green curry paste is better from scratch, because the ingredients are that much fresher, laksa paste is better shop-bought for some reason. Maybe it's because the main ingredients are dried or woody, rooty things, rather than fragile herbs. Who knows? Anyway, a Malaysian company called Dollee make the best one by a long way - it comes in a foil pouch.

Oh, and one last thing: Don't bother making your own tofu puffs either. When buying your laksa paste, you will find a big clear polythene bag of fried tofu puffs in the chiller section. They are utterly sublime (and if I'm honest, the best thing to scoff straight from the fridge after a heavy night out. The other night I ate ten. Oops.).

Depending on what you put in your laksa, the cost will obviously vary. Today's recipe comes in at £3 per serving, but you could be more austere and leave out the prawns, or more luxurious for special occasions and put in some crab or lobster. It's completely up to you.

Serves 4


1 x 200g foil pouch of Dollee (or other brand) curry laksa paste
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
1.5 litres water
4 chicken thighs, skinned and boned and cut into 2cm dice
200g rice noodles, soaked until tender
200g beansprouts
200g cooked king prawns
8 tofu puffs, halved
2 red chillies, cut into fine rings
Fresh coriander leaves
Fresh root ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks

In a large pot, heat the laksa paste, coconut milk and water until it is simmering. Add the chicken pieces and cook until tender (20 minutes approx). In large bowls, place portions of rice noodles and beansprouts. Pour the soup over and pile the chicken pieces on top of the noodles. Add the king prawns to the pile of chicken and place tofu puff pieces around the edge of the bowl. Garnish with the chillies, coriander leaves and fresh ginger.

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