Sunday Laksa

Today’s one of those days where the sun has shown its face early and then decided it’s all too much and gone back to bed, only to be replaced by that despondent greyness which occupies much of the UK most of the time.
The only antidote to days like this is to cook.
Today, is a Laksa day and due to popular demand, (well, three friends), I decided to blog my Laksa.

This was originally a recipe by Ruth Watson, whom I adore, not just because she’s won the Glenfiddich Magazine Cookery Writer of the Year Award… twice, and done other crazy things like open an 18 room inn on the Suffolk coast in England, but purely for the down-to-earth and totally straight-down-the-line sort of way she writes.  I love reading her books… She writes how she talks, which is like the sort of ‘girl’s night’ that you have down the pub where your best plain-speaking friend says something so straight, yet so funny that you cry with laughter until you’re weak.  It’s probably for this reason that I return to my Laksa recipe so often… and the fact that it is the most warming, virus weakening, tasty and fabulous food in the world.

So here you go.

Sunday.  It has to be a Sunday so you have enough time.

Start with a large breakfast and then get out for a loooong walk.  There’s a reason for this.  You’ll work it out.
After raiding your favourite Asian store (I like the ‘Saigon Sandwich’ in Wentworth Falls, not just for the ingredients, but squeezing round the narrow shelving to find just how many things are made with coconut is fascinating… I now have to find out how to use coconut vinegar…. )

You will need:

The Paste Bit
2 stalks of lemon grass
4-6 Thai chillies – halved and de-seeded (I like it hot, so I’m using 6)
6 cloves of garlic – crushed and roughly chopped
2 ‘thumbs’ of root ginger – peeled and roughly sliced
2 large shallots – peeled and roughly chopped (the tiny round brown onions you use for pickling etc, not the long green ‘spring onion’ that get called shallots in Australia.)
Large handful of fresh coriander –  leaves and stalks roughly chopped
2 teaspoons of ground coriander
2 pinches of ground turmeric
1 small ‘thumb’ of turmeric root – peeled and roughly chopped

The Soupy Bit
250g either egg noodles or thin vermicelli rice stick noodles (I prefer the latter because they’re wheat free)

750g of raw shell-on tiger prawns – peeled and the debris reserved
1.2 litres water
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 400ml can of coconut oil
About 200g fresh bean sprouts
3 bushy sprigs fresh mint
Handful fresh coriander – leaves roughly chopped at last minute
4 lime wedges to serve
Plus, if you like, some deep fried tofu which is like little cubes of deep fried egg custard…   I like these eggy textured cubes very much, so just throw a couple on top of the soup to serve.

First, pour a large shot of gin into a long glass and add a little tonic and a slice of lime.
Put some great music on.  Stones, whatever. 

Next peel the prawns (apart from two which you’re going to use as a garnish) and put the debris (heads, tails, everything) into a large pan with the outer leaves of the lemon grass leaves you kept when you peeled them.  Add the water and bring to the boil. 

Simmer for about 15-20 mins and then strain the stock through a sieve.  Throw away the debris. 

Keep the peeled prawns for cooking later.


Whilst that’s bubbling away, blend the ingredients in a blender with 4-6 tablespoons of water until you have a thick, slightly coarse sludge.

Refrigerate for 72 hours.
Now, you’re going to say you haven’t got 72 hours, but don’t worry because this is where it gets cunning.  The paste you’ve just made is double the quantity.  So put half of it in a closed container in the fridge and leave it for 72 hours or longer if you like.  Then put the other half to one side and get going on the rest.
I never remember to make this three days before… and it still tastes amazing.  Of course, you can be more organised than I am and make this before, but life generally gets in the way.
Drink your G+T and think about the possibilities for the rest of the sludge later on in the week. 🙂

Cook the noodles, drain and rinse under cold water to stop them cooking.  Put to one side.

Now here’s the fun bit.
Put a VERY large saucepan over the heat and when it’s hot, add the sesame oil. 
Scrape all the Laksa paste (the other half is in the fridge, right?) into the pan and cook it for about 1-2 mins, stirring all the time.
Now add the prawn stock, coconut milk and Thai fish sauce.

Cover pan, bring contents to boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 mins. 
Add the prawns, cooking for 1 minute and then throw in the noodles and bean sprouts and simmer until everything is piping hot.  Pop the two whole unpeeled prawns in at this moment until they cook and turn pink.
Divide laksa between bowls, throw chopped mint and coriander over each bowl and perch a wedge of lime on top, and place the prawn at the edge so he looks like he’s enjoying a spa bath.

Eat and enjoy… I like to eat my noodles and prawns first with chopsticks and leave the soup until after… but the choice is yours.

If you had a cold before you made this, the laksa will ease it on the way.

Repeat later on in the week with the rest of the paste.  For kids, use less chilli in the recipe and add more coconut milk.

Happy Sunday… And, cheers Ruth!