Laksa is a spicy noodle soup popular across South Asia. Ideally the spice paste should be made 24 hours in advance for maximum flavour.
For the spice paste
- 75ml/2½fl oz vegetable oil
- 150g/5½oz onion, roughly chopped
- 4cm/1½in fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1½ red chillies, roughly chopped
- 8 dried chillies, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and drained
- 1 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp ground turmeric
- 1½ tbsp ground coriander
- 1½ tbsp chilli powder
- 12g/½oz shrimp paste
For the laksa broth
- 800ml/1½ pints chicken stock
- 400ml/14fl oz coconut milk
- 35g/1¼oz caramelized palm sugar or dark brown sugar, plus extra to taste if needed
- 1 tbsp sea salt, plus extra to taste if needed
- 1½ tbsp tamarind paste
- 25g/1oz bunch laksa leaves (or mint or coriander leaves), plus small handful, finely sliced, to garnish
- 1 lemongrass stalk, cut in half then pounded lightly with a pestle to bruise
- 24 deep-fried tofu puffs, cut in half
For the laksa bowl
- 3 free-range eggs
- 100g/3½oz beansprouts
- 60g/2¼oz green beans, cut into 5cm/2in lengths
- 12 king prawns, heads and shells removed, deveined
- 300g/10½oz fresh egg noodles
To make the spice paste, blend all of the ingredients in a food processor to a fine purée. In a large frying pan, cook the paste over a low heat for 20 minutes, until it is a rich, dark red-brown in colour and the oil separates from the paste. Ideally leave for at least 24 hours in the fridge so the paste can develop maximum flavour before using it to make the broth.
To make the laksa broth, add all of the laksa broth ingredients, except the tofu puffs, to a large saucepan along with the spice paste. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently over the lowest heat for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the laksa leaves and lemongrass and adjust the salt and sugar to taste. Add the tofu puffs to the broth for 10 minutes so that they soak up the flavours.
Meanwhile, to make the laksa bowls, bring 8cm/3¼in water to the boil in a saucepan. Lower the eggs into the water with a slotted spoon and turn down the heat so it is at a rolling boil. Cook for 6½ minutes for soft boiled or 7½ minutes for hard boiled. Once the time is up, immediately take the eggs out, place in a deep bowl of cold water and leave for 2 minutes to stop them cooking. It is easiest to peel the eggs in the water as the water helps to get between the egg’s membrane and the shell. Slice each egg in half.
Fill another saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Blanch the following in boiling water one after the other – beansprouts for 10 seconds, green beans for 3 minutes and prawns for 90 seconds. Refresh the beansprouts and beans in cold water immediately after taking them out of the boiling water, then drain. Remember to allow the water to come back up to the boil before blanching the next ingredient. Finally, blanch the egg noodles for 10 seconds and drain well before distributing between six bowls. Divide the beansprouts, green beans and prawns evenly between the bowls. Pour the broth into each of the bowls, evenly dividing the tofu puffs between each serving. Place a boiled egg half on top of each bowl and finish with the sliced laksa leaves.