When I was still in school, cooking was the best form of procrastination. After graduated, cooking becomes the best stress-reliever. Most of the time, I cook and bake by myself in my small studio. It is a great way to let go the worries and shift my focuses to something else. However, it is also fun to cook with friends too! It is hard to be in the kitchen alone and overlook many things all at once! That’s why restaurant can’t function with only one chef right? Team work is always the best! A while ago, my friend, Cher, invited me over to her place to make a classic Southeast Asian dish, laksa!
Laksa is a common and popular noodle soup in Southeast Asia, but the flavors can be very different among Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Southern Thailand. Laksa normally consists of rice noodles or rice vermicelli with seafood, and served in spicy soup that is either based on rich and spicy fury coconut milk or sour tamarind.
As for toppings, it also varies, but there’re often tofu puffs and bean sprouts. Tofu puffs can be found in most of the Asian grocery stores, in the freezer area. The puffs absorb the soup, and fill the holes with the broth, which made it very flavorful.
Cher got a pack of curry from Malaysia. I didn’t know that you have to sauté the curry in the pan for a while with quite a lot of oil and lemongrass on medium-high heat before adding any liquids. Also, pounding the ends of lemongrass helps the release of the fragrance. As the temperature in the pan increases, the aroma of the spices spread out in the air.
When the curry paste is aromatic, add in rest of the ingredients. Lower the heat to small-medium once it boils. Make sure to stir constantly to prevent burning at the bottom.
While the broth is boiling, you can prepare another pot to cook the noodles. Different regions use different types of noodles, including thick flat white rice flour noodles, rice vermicelli, and alkaline noodles (yellow noodles). We used rice vermicelli, because it was the most accessible, but you can use any kinds of noodles, even Japanese udon works!
The broth only needs to be simmer for around 20 to 30 minutes to prevent the tofu puffs getting too soft, and eventually just break down in the soup. Once it’s ready, time to assemble the bowl!
It was spicy yet soul comforting. The bean sprouts definitely helped to tone down the spiciness, and added crunchiness to the dish. My favorite topping has to go to the tofu puffs. They soaked up the broth, and each bite was succulent.
- 3 tablespoons oil
- ½ pack (~120 g) Malaysian instant curry paste
- 2 cups water
- 2 stalks lemongrass (white part only, pounded)
- 10 tofu puffs, cut into pieces
- ½ cup fresh whole milk
- ½ cup coconut milk
- Salt, to taste
- Bean sprouts
- Shrimps, peeled, deveined, and cooked
- Hard-boiled eggs, quartered
- In a stockpot, add the oil and sauté the instant curry paste until aromatic.
- Add the water, lemongrass, tofu puffs, and bring the stock to boil.
- Lower the heat to simmer.
- Add coconut milk and whole milk.
- Add salt to taste.
- Keep the stock on simmer while preparing the toppings and noodles.
- Soak the dry vermicelli with some warm water until soft, drained, and set aside.
- To assemble a bowl of laksa for serving, bring to boil the vermicelli.
- Drain the noodles and transfer to a serving bowl.
- Top the noodles with 2-3 shrimps, a handful of bean sprouts, and 1-2 egg quarters.
- Use a ladle, pour the laksa broth and a few pieces of tofu puffs on top of the noodles.
- Serve immediately.