• For Spice Paste:
  • 12 shallots
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6 candlenuts
  • 5 cm (2 inches) ginger
  • 4 red chillies
  • 1 tsp curcuma
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • handfull fresh Coriander
  • 2 tablespoons of dried prawns, soaked to soften
  • 1 teaspoon of dried shrimp paste trassi
  • 2 lemon grass, bruised.
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 125g prawns, shelled
  • 125g squid, cleaned, skinned and sliced
  • 6 slices 1 cm tofu deep fried
  • 6 slices fishcake deep fried or fish balls deepfried
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1.5 ltr chicken stock
  • 200g fresh rice-flour noodles (laksa) or egg mie (what you prefer), blanched in boiling water,
  • 1 1/2 cup of beansprouts
  • 2 sprigs laksa leaf, chopped roughly
  • 1 egg, hard-boiled and peeled
  • 2 table spoons of fried shallots
  • fresh coriander and bean sprouts for decoration

Laksa is a bowlful of noodles in a unique soupbase which blends the Chinese and Malay styles of cooking. There are 2 distinct types of laksas namely, the tamarind-based assam laksa and the coconut-based laksa lemak, although there are many variations of these types.

Origins
Laksa in Indonesian means sepuluh ribu or “10 thousand” a reference to the many strands of the fine white vermicelli noodles in the dish. The name is believed to be of Sanskrit origin, with a particular link to Indonesia and possible roots in the ancient Majapahit era. However, others believe it is of Chinese origin, the dish having been brought in by immigrants and adapted to local tastebuds. The ingredients in variant Laksas point to obvious Peranakan influences although the use of mint leaves and the sour flavour of also suggest Thai influences.

Ingredients
The key ingredient giving Laksa its unique flavour and aroma is the Laksa leaf, locally known as the daun kesom (Polygonum Hydropiper) or the pepper plant or water pepper. Also mandatory is the spicy paste made up of lemon grass and prawn paste, locally known as belachan. An authentic Laksa is made of thin, white vermicelli or rice noodles and a fish-based soup stock. Seafood like fish and prawns plus generous helpings of vegetables are added.

Variations
Essentially there are two types of Laksas. Firstly Laksa Lemak, where lemak is Malay for the rich flavour derived from santan or “coconut milk”, and secondly, the sweet-and-sour, spicy Assam Laksa which unlike the cloudy Laksa Lemak, has a clear and thinner soup-base. Its sour taste is derived from the juice of squeezed tamarind, locally known as assam. It is a Peranakan variation of Laksa and thus has ingredients such as hei ko or “black prawn paste” and kunyit or “tumeric”.

A common hybrid is the curry mee or “curry noodles” often mistakenly labelled a Laksa dish. It has a thick chicken curry soup-base similar to Laksa but the yellow noodles give it away as authentic Laksas are only made with white vermicelli noodles. Other variations of this hybrid include the seafood version of King Prawn Laksa and Crab Laksa and for vegetarians, there is the Laksa Yong Tao Foo. Various Malaysian states have laid claim to their own version of the Laksa with the Johore Laksa and the Sarawak Laksa.

 

Method :

Prepare the spice paste. Chop the shallots, garlic, candlenuts, ginger and chillies coarsely and blend or process with

the dried prawns and a little of the oil until fine.

Then, mix in the curry powder and dried shrimp paste, blend for a few seconds longer, set aside with the lemon grass.

Heat the remaining oil in a wok or a heavy pan. Add the spice paste and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes until the paste is fragrant.

After that, add coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to the boil, stirring.Put in all the seafood and the beancurd and simmer until it is cooked.Then, season to taste.
Lastly, to serve, divide the noodles and beansprouts among 4-6 bowls. Top with the coconut milk gravy,eggs and sprinkle with laksa leaf,fried shallots,chopped coriander and bean sprouts.

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