HOT PLATES:
Norsicaa’s Malaysian Pop Laksa

 

Born in South West Australia to a Malaysian Chinese mother, Norsicaa (Alice) grew up with the smells of Laksa in the household.

Warning! This recipe is not for the faint hearted, if you’re not into prawn and super hot chilli’s that give you the sweats this recipe probably isn’t for you. If on the other hand you like both of the above and fancy a dead cert, crowd pleasing, mind boggler of a dish, then you are in for a treat!

To accompany this tase sensation Norsicaa has put together a pan-Asian mix of funk, kroncong, trip hop and pop for you to cook to. Like the mix, Laksa isn’t from any specific place. Instead it is a result of influences.

MALAYSIAN POP LAKSA

SERVING SIZE:

Makes 4 large serves, or 6 medium serves (plus double the amount of laksa paste so you can make another batch later)

PREPARATION TIME:

2-4 hours or overnight for Chicken Stock (optional)

2.5-3 hours for rest of the recipe

IMPORTANT NOTE: The key to a good laksa soup is the quality of the stock(s). I personally prefer equal parts prawn stock and chicken stock in my soup, but it depends on your preference and if you have time to make chicken stock from scratch. Please note you cannot use chicken stock cubes or a standard western chicken stock recipe as they have western herbs and other ingredients that clash badly with the Asian flavours.

KEY EQUIPMENT

  • Food processor
  • Clean muslin cloth for fine straining of soup
  • Latex gloves for chopping and handling a lot of chillies (optional)
  • 2 large cooking pots for stock/soup, preferably one with cast iron heavy base

INGREDIENTS

Used in various elements

1 kg raw, unpeeled, large prawns

For the Laksa Paste/Rempah (makes double)

  • 15 dried red chillies, seeded and soaked in hot water for around 20 minutes
  • ½ cup dried shrimp, soaked in hot water (just covering)
  • 2-3 red fresh birds-eye chillies, seeded
  • 1 Tablespoon belacan (fermented shrimp paste – pronounced b’la-chan)
  • 1 large brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped (about 100g)
  • 5 cm piece of fresh galangal, peeled and chopped (about 100g)
  • 5 cm piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped (about 100g)
  • 4 fresh lemongrass stems (white section only – about 100g total)
  • 2 Tablespoons ground coriander
  • 6 candlenuts, or macadamia/large cashew nuts

For the Chicken Stock (optional)

  • 1 whole, high quality chicken carcass (corn fed / organic)
  • 4 spring onions (or 1 brown onion), halved
  • 5 cloves of garlic, halved
  • 4-5 pieces of sliced ginger (about 5cm long)
  • 1 stalk of celery (optional)
  • 1 carrot, halved (optional)

For the Prawn Oil

  • The reserved fresh prawn heads and shells after peeling
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the Prawn Stock

  • The reserved prawn heads and shells from the Prawn Oil

For the Laksa Soup

  • Laksa Paste, as above
  • 1 litre Prawn Stock
  • Prawn Oil, as above
  • 1 litre Chicken Stock (or another 1 litre Prawn Stock if you don’t want chicken)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 or 2 x 425 ml tins coconut milk (to taste)
  • Juice of 1-2 limes, to taste
  • 400g fresh Hokkien/egg noodles or Penang laksa thick rice noodles

Toppings

  • 4 soft-boiled eggs, cooked and halved just before serving
  • 1 cup loosely packed Vietnamese hot mint leaves (called rau răm or praew leaf), finely shredded to serve
  • 100 g fried tofu puffs, halved (optional)
  • 150 g fried fish cakes or plain fish balls, sliced (optional)
  • 200 g bean sprouts
  • Chilli sambal (fermented shrimp and chilli condiment – I prefer Singlong brand)
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber (mini cucumber), julienned
  • Chopped coriander
  • 4 teaspoons fried crunchy shallots (available to buy in packet)
  • 1 lime sliced into quarters

 

METHOD

Make the Chicken Stock first, ideally the day before (simmering on low heat overnight).

Peel and devein the prawns, keeping all the shells and heads aside.

Put the prawn meat in the fridge or freezer for cooking later.

To make the Prawn Oil, add the shells/heads to a large pot with the vegetable oil, sesame oil, and salt.

Cook off for about 10-15 minutes until the shells go a bright red and start to lightly stick to the bottom of the pot.

Drain off the oil (should be about 3 Tablespoons’ worth) into a container for use later.

To make the Prawn Stock, leave the shells and heads you just cooked for the Prawn Oil in the pot.

Add about 2.5L of water, bring to the boil then simmer on medium heat for about 20-30 minutes.

Once finished, strain the stock through a colander into a large bowl, and discard the shells.

To make the Laksa Paste, put all the listed ingredients into the food processor and blend until finely chopped. I recommend wearing latex gloves while handling the rehydrated dried chillies and the fresh turmeric. The chilli water will seep into your skin and tingle or even burn, and the turmeric will stain your hands and nails yellow.

Adding a little of the steeping liquid from the dried shrimp if you need to help the food processer to blend it.

Combine any remaining dried shrimp steeping liquid with the prawn stock.

For the Laksa Soup, heat 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pot (ideally with heavy cast iron base) and add half the laksa paste and fry off for about 10-15 minutes. Refrigerate or freeze the rest of the paste for another laksa.

Stir frequently, until the oil separates from the paste and the fragrances properly release from the ingredients.

Add the prawn stock to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the salt, sugar, and fish sauce and simmer for 20-30 minutes to ensure the prawn stock absorbs the flavours of the laksa paste.

Allow to cool slightly, then strain the soup into another large pot – through a muslin cloth sitting in a colander. You might need to do this gradually as all the solid ingredients will mean the straining takes longer. Dispose of the solid ingredients as you go along. It’s very important to ensure a non-grainy soup.

Bring the soup back to a simmer, adding the Chicken Stock gradually to taste (we want to ensure the laksa soup still tastes mainly of prawn).

Add the Prawn Oil, lime juice and coconut milk (1 full 425mL can if you like it spicier, or add additional coconut milk until it suits your palate), and bring back to a medium simmer for another 10 minutes.

Finishing and serving the Laksa

If you’re having tofu puffs, add them to the soup now and cook for 10 minutes.

Simmer the prawns in the soup for 3 minutes, or until just cooked, then remove from the soup and set aside.

Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as required.

Boil the fish cake/balls for about 2 minutes, or until cooked through, then drain and slice.

Bring water to a rolling boil and cook the eggs for 4 ½ minutes, then refresh in a bowl of cold water and peel.

Halve the eggs just before serving.

Blanche the bean sprouts in boiling water for 30 seconds.

Warm your serving bowls.

Add the noodles, bean sprouts, soft-boiled egg, and cooked prawns to the bowl. Add your other toppings (crunchy fried shallots, tofu puffs, fish cake/balls) if desired.

Ladle in some soup, then garnish with Vietnamese mint, chopped coriander, cucumber, a slice of lime and a spoonful of chilli sambal.

Serve immediately.