I will be the first to admit that one of my pet peeves is smacking lips while eating, that, and probably aggressive slurping of soups. But there are dishes that you simply have to allow and enjoy the experience of just that; lip smacking and slurping. Laksa is no exception. After watching some television, I noticed that on one of the travel channels, that the hosts were adventuring in Malaysia, and one of their food stops was to experience laksa. It immediately drew my attention as they were discussing the curry and coconut style broth, the noodles, and the overall experience. You could totally tell that everyone was enjoying the laksa, and that the beauty in making it, is that it can be done differently, depending on where you are at. That was right up my alley.
I love curry paste, whether it be red or green, with the addition of coconut milk. It could be some of the best gravy when cooked, and poured over rice or noodles. To me, it screams flavor, but also comfort, and so with the little knowledge I had while looking at what these people were eating, I decided to come up with my own broth, creating a really killer laksa.
Let’s get started.
- 1 lb of large shrimp, shells on
- 1/2 lb of white, flaky fish (catfish or cod)
- 7 cups of water
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
- 14 oz coconut milk
- 4 oz red curry paste
- fresh bean sprouts
- cilantro springs
- 2 oz bamboo shoots (optional)
- lime wedges
- Sambal chili paste
- Thai Bird’s eye chili (optional)
- Rice noodles, cooked per order
Begin by peeling and deveining your shrimp. Reserve the shrimp and the shells. Heat the oil on medium heat in a soup pot. Once heated, toss in the shells of the shrimp. The goal here is to create the base of your stock, and in our case, a seafood stock. Cook the shells for about 5 minutes, mixing along the way.
Add in your water and the salt, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a medium-low, cooking for about one hour.
Now that you have your shrimp stock, remove all of the shells with a slotted spoon, making sure you get all of the shells out. Add in the cod or catfish, and let cook another 20 minutes or so. Using a couple of forks, begin to pull apart the fish in the broth, flaking it into very small pieces.
Let this continue to cook. During this time, take a small sauce pan out and place on medium heat. Add in the curry paste and cook for a few minutes, stirring to break up the paste. Add all of the paste into the stock, and give a good stir. Cover, and continue to cook, letting all of the curry flavor settle in, roughly 20 minutes or so.
Now that the laksa is almost complete, add in the coconut milk, bamboo shoots, and shrimp, giving a good stir.
Bring about 6 cups of water to a boil. Take your rice noodles, in my case, I like to use a banh pho noodle which is a Vietnamese flat noodle, used in soups such as Vietnamese pho. You can find these noodles in Asian markets, and they are now beginning to show up in local grocery stores in the ethnic aisle. Vermicelli is another nice option.
To a large bowl, add about a handful, if not more of the dried noodles. I like to break mine in half, being careful not to explode the noodles all over my kitchen. Add the boiling water, and with some tongs, stir around, cooking the noodles. These will only take a few minutes to cook, so keep an eye on them as they will get mushy if you do not remove them shortly after they cook in the water.
To your serving bowl, add the cooked rice noodles. Ladle in the delicious broth, making sure you get a few shrimp, bamboo shoots, and the cooked fish. Make sure the broth covers the noodles. Top with a generous amount fresh bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, and serve alongside lemon wedges, sambal chili paste, and a Thai chili for additional heat.
This noodle soup, in my opinion, is the best for breakfast or brunch. A soup that really is good any time of the day, and a soup indeed deserves slurping, the smacking of lips, and the occasional sniffing from the heat of the chili paste.