Laksa is an everyday soup made famous by the Peranakan (Chinese-Malay) from Malaysia and Singapore. It was in Singapore where I first discovered this rich and spicy soup. The name may originate from the Sanskrit word laksha, meaning “many” and referring to the soup’s many ingredients. Asian vegestables such as bean sprouts, bok choi or pea-sized Thai eggplant works well with this dish so feel free to experiment.
200g crab meat
250g uncooked tiger prawns
250g mussles, scrubbed
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced diagonally into 2 cm pieces
2 cm ginger, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
400ml coconut milk
juice of 1/2 lime
350g thick rice noodles (can use thin rice vermicelli noodles)
parsely, mint, basil or coriander leaves to garnish
3 garlic cloves
8 candlenuts or macadamias
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into thin rounds
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
3 fresh or dried chilies
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste or 1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon palm sugar or demerara sugar
In a covered pan, cook the mussels with a glassful of water until open. Reserve the mussles, still in their shells and cooking liquor. Fry the crab in the oil, add the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, ginger and coriander. Stir in the mussel liquor. Cook until almost evaporated. Add half the coconut milk and all the water. Simmer for 15 minutes, then strain.
Make the laksa paste by blending the shallots, garlic and nuts with a pestle and mortar or food processor. Stir in the lemongrass. Fry the paste in the oil to release the aromas. Stir in the chilies.
Add shrimp paste or fish sauce, turmeric, cumin and sugar to the pan. Heat through and then add the shellfish stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the coconut milk. Add the crab, prawns and mussels and simmer on the lowest heat for 5 minutes. Check and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat and add the lime juice.
Boil the noodles in a seperate pan according to instructions. Divide between four bowls and pour the shellfish laksa on top. Garnish with your choice of fresh herbs.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: There are numerous variations to laksa. The term laksa is used to describe two different types of noodle soup dishes: curry laksa and assam laksa. Curry laksa refers to noodles served in coconut curry soup, while assam laksa refers to noodles served in sour fish soup. Usually, thick rice noodles are preferred, although thin rice vermicelli also known as bee hoon and any other type of noodles can be used. For more recipes try a Google search.
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