Laksa is a spicy noodle soup which is eaten in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. It comes from Chinese and Malay cultures.
Wikipedia – most reliable website in the world, I will hear no claims to the contrary! – says that there are two types of laksa – curry and assam.
Curry Laksa is a coconut curry noodle soup, while asam is a fish soup. There are specific rice noodles called laksa noodles used in this dish, but it’s more common to see rice vermicelli in laksa.
Curry laksa is usually garnished with some coriander and served with spicy sambal chilli paste. For your general interest, this is what Wiki has to say about curry laksa:
Variants of curry laksa include:
- Laksa lemak, also known as nyonya laksa (Malay: Laksa nyonya), is a type of laksa with a rich coconut gravy. Lemak is a culinary description in the Malay language which specifically refers to the presence of coconut milk which adds a distinctive richness to a dish. As the name implies, it is made with a rich, slightly sweet and strongly spiced coconut gravy. Laksa lemak is usually made with a fish-based gravy (with vegetarian food stalls omitting fish) and is heavily influenced by Thai laksa (Malay: Laksa Thai), perhaps to the point that one could say they are one and the same.
- Laksam, a speciality of the Northeastern Malaysian states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah, is made with very thick flat white rice flour noodles in a rich, full-bodied white gravy of boiled fish and coconut milk. Though usually made of fish flesh, it is sometimes made with eels. Traditionally laksam is eaten with hands rather than with eating utensils due to the gravy’s thick consistency.
- Katong laksa (Malay: Laksa Katong) is a variant of laksa lemak from the Katong area of Singapore. In Katong laksa, the noodles are normally cut up into smaller pieces so that the entire dish can be eaten with a spoon alone (that is, without chopsticks or a fork). Katong laksa is a strong contender for the heavily competed title of Singapore’s national dish.
So the dish I’ve made is a curry laksa, with prawns. It’s closest to a laksa lemak, and here’s how I did it!
1/2 tbsp oil
400ml coconut milk
2 tbsp lime juice
500ml chicken stock
1/2 tsp brown sugar
A big handful of bean sprouts
1/2 tsp fish sauce
salt and chilli to taste
For the laksa sauce:
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
40ml coconut milk
1/2 tbsp ginger
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste)
1 red chilli
1 tbsp shrimp paste
1. Blend the laksa sauce ingredients in a food processor. 40ml of coconut milk is usually about 2-3 tablespoons from the can of milk.
Add oil to a large saucepan (ideally groundnut oil, since it’s not flavoured) and bring it to a medium heat. Then add the ingredients to the pan.
The aim is to sauté the onions with the rest of the spices, so it usually takes about 2-3 minutes or until the laksa sauce goes darker in colour.
2. Add the can of coconut milk to the saucepan and let it bubble up, this will take about a minute as well.
3. Then add the stock, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce to the pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce reduces by about 2 cm.
4. Put the rice noodles in a pan of boiling water for 3 minutes and drain it. Wash thoroughly under cold water for a long time, this will remove the starch. Or cook the noodles according to packet instructions.
When the sauce has reduced enough, taste it. Adjust the seasonings according to your taste – more chilli or salt if you think it needs it, more lime juice etc.
5. Stir the prawns into the soup and mix it well. Give it about a minute or so, then add the bean sprouts.
I like to add the noodles to all this, so it’s thicker and feels more like a soup. A more traditional way to serve it is on top of noodles which are piled into a bowl. Do whatever you’d rather!
A small handful of chopped coriander to garnish goes really well with this!