You might not have heard of laksa, but it’s one of my all-time favorites. Seriously, it’s one of those dishes I crave — and everyone I introduce to it falls for it every time. Your love affair with this dish might just start here…
It’s a coconut soup with fragrant notes of chilli and citrus that hails from South East Asia. With vermicelli noodles and topped with shrimp (or your preferred protein), it’s equal parts warming and palette-pleasing, and it seems pretty healthy on the spectrum of things (it’s not a kale salad but it’s not a dessert)(probably fine for those with resolutions to eat healthy!).
My favorite in New York comes by way of Flinders Lane, one of my favorite spots in the East Village. Ok, so the recipe seems kind of complicated but the Chef, Chris Rendell, said it’s totally fine to just use store-bought sambal (and I think even the laksa paste too, hehe) unless you happen to be up for a true culinary challenge!
Coconut Curry Laksa, Grilled Shrimp, Bean Curd, Rice Noodles
Chris Rendell, Executive Chef and partner of Flinders Lane NYC
For the laksa paste (can be stored and used again)
5 Tablespoons belacan (shrimp paste)
3 Tablespoons dried prawns
5 dried birds eye chili
3 Tablespoons coriander seeds
5 red onions- chopped
10 clove garlic
3 Tablespoons minced lime zest
3 stalk lemongrass
3 Tablespoons chopped galangal
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh turmeric
10 red birds eye chili
¼ cup candlenuts
5 coriander roots
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
3 Tablespoons curry leaves
2 cups vegetable oil
Sambal (can be stored and used again)
1.5 pounds (26 dry oz) red chili-finely chopped with seeds
½ pounds (10 dry oz) red birds eye chili
4 onions-peeled, finely sliced
7 garlic cloves-sliced
1.5 cups blended oil
½ cup tamarind puree
2oz palm sugar-grated
2oz fish sauce
½ cup laksa paste
2 tablespoon sambal
2 teaspoon palm sugar
2 tablespoon fish sauce
3 cans (400mls can) coconut milk
3 cups water
Juice of 2 limes
4 large shrimp. Cleaned. Head /tail on.
1 sheet of fresh rice noodles-cut into ½ in strips
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
½ cup fresh picked Thai basil
½ cup fresh picked cilantro leaf
2 red chili –finely sliced
Dry roast the belacan, dried prawns, chilies and coriander seeds in separate pans – cook over medium heat until fragrant, and allow them to cool. Once cooled, using an electric spice grinder, or a mortar and pestle, grind the spices into a fine powder. Finely chop the onions, garlic, lemongrass, turmeric and birds eye chili. Soak dried shrimp and chilies in water for 10 minutes until they are hydrated. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until they form a small paste.
This will make a quarter of a gallon, which is more than enough for this recipe. Any paste that is not used can be stored in a sterilized screw top jar. Place this paste in the jar and cover with a little olive oil to prevent oxidization. This will keep for up to 2 months in the fridge.
Blend the chilies, onions, garlic and oil into a fine paste. Place the mixture into a non-reactive pot and cook over a low heat for approximately 3 days, making sure to stir regularly to avoid sticking. The sambal should be come a deep red color and the oil should start to appear on the surface. At this stage, add the tamarind puree, sugar and fish sauce and cook for a further 2 hours.
Place laksa paste and chili jam (or sambal) in a heavy based pot and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the palm sugar and stir until dissolved. Once dissolved, add coconut milk and water. Once this begins boiling, reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Season with fish sauce and lime juice.
Divide the noodles into 4 soup bowls. Bring the broth back up to a boil. In a separate mixing bowl, place bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro, sliced chilies and mix together. Divide the soup into four bowls. Place the shrimp on a grill or on a flat pan drizzled with olive oil. The shrimp should be grilled for 2 minutes on each side or until the shells are hot pink and the shrimp is opaque. Place one shrimp on top of each bowl. Just before serving place the bean sprout salad on top of the broth and finish with a sprinkle of crispy shallots.