Laksa noodle soup.
Laksa noodle soup.
Image: Yang Zhao

A few years ago, I was scrolling through social media on the page of a much-admired photographer from Hong Kong, who documented the daily lives of those living in the city. I came across a photo that is imprinted on my memory till this day. Captioned: “Laksas and Ferraris”, the photo showed a black Ferrari parked in a narrow alley. Next to it, a man in a suit sitting at a small table on the pavement, enjoying a bowl of noodle soup.

The background showed a shop sign hanging over a tiny kitchen that read “best laksa soup”. I remember thinking, “It’s true. Even if you’ve tasted all the delicacies in the world, there’s still no flavour like the flavours of home”.

Laksa paste from Indo Mart in Cyrildene.
Laksa paste from Indo Mart in Cyrildene.
Image: Yang Zhao

Laksa noodle soup is a fragrant, spicy noodle soup that originated from Southeast Asia. You can find different versions of it in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. It doesn’t shy away from strong flavours, as the laksa paste uses fermented shrimp paste (umami bomb) along with garlic, ginger and lemon grass.

There are two distinct types of laksa; one is cooked with coconut milk, while the other is tamarind based, giving it a more hot-and-sour flavour profile. The broth is thick and spicy, commonly eaten with rice noodles and topped with prawns, chicken, egg, coriander, pounded fish cakes, fried tofu puffs or seasonal vegetables.

Some prefer the thickened soup like a gravy, while others like it light and brothy. Laksa is best eaten at a street-food market — nothing like sitting on a pavement slurping a bowl of hot, delicious noodle soup while the busy atmosphere of the night market awakens all the senses.

After some research, I’ve combined different parts of various recipes to create a relatively simple laksa dish for you to try at home:

Laksa noodle soup.
Laksa noodle soup.
Image: Supplied

Ingredients:

(serves two)

  • 400g prawns, shelled and deveined. If frozen, blanch in hot water for two minutes
  • Two chicken thighs. Season with salt and pepper and roast in oven for 40 minutes. To be hand pulled and used as a topping later
  • 200g rice noodles, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
  • Two garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • One tablespoon of ginger, finely chopped or grated
  • Half a stalk of lemon grass, finely chopped
  • Two Thai red chillies
  • Half a cup of laksa paste (purchase this at Indo Mart on Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene. Using the paste will reduce your cooking time significantly, but you can also make your own. An authentic recipe can be found on www.linsfood.com. An electrical chopper is required to blend the ingredients)
  • Four cups of chicken stock
  • 200ml of coconut milk
  • Two teaspoons of ginger powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil (I used peanut oil for this recipe)
  • Fish sauce
  • Six fried tofu puffs (you can find these in the fridge of any Asian supermarket. I love it for this recipe, because it soaks up the soup beautifully)
  • One lime, quartered
  • Half a cucumber, julienned
  • One boiled egg, halved (optional)
  • Handful of bean sprouts
  • Handful of coriander

Method:

Lay chicken thighs on a sheet pan, add salt and pepper, roast for 40 minutes

In the meantime …

 

  • In a bottom-heavy soup pot or wok, add one tablespoon of peanut oil, chopped garlic, ginger and lemon grass and fry until aroma releases. Then add red chillies, fry a minute, then add laksa paste and fry for another three minutes.

 

  • Add chicken stock, bring to boil, then lower heat to medium. Add tofu puffs and let simmer for 10 minutes, then lower heat and add coconut milk. Continue simmering for 12 minutes (tip: coconut milk should be cooked on low heat to avoid curdling).

 



  • In another pan, add one tablespoon of peanut oil, add prawns, sprinkle ginger powder, toss and let cook for six minutes. Then turn off heat and set aside.

Image: Yang Zhao
  • Bring water to boil in a medium pot and cook presoaked rice noodles. Depending on your choice of noodles, you will have to gauge cooking time accordingly.
  • To assemble: in a large soup bowl, lay out your noodles, tofu puffs, prawns, shredded chicken, egg, bean sprouts and coriander.
Image: Yang Zhao
  • Pour hot laksa broth over and enjoy!
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