A spicy noodle soup popular in Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, laksa is a blend of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian cuisines. Laksa can be made with readymade laksa paste, sold in supermarkets. The recipe below gives the method for making the paste yourself.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) raw prawns (shrimp)
  • 80 ml ( fl oz/1⅓ cup) oil
  • 2–6 red chillies, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, halved
  • 2 cm (¾ inch) piece ginger or galangal, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 3 lemongrass stems, white part only, chopped
  • 1–2 teaspoons shrimp paste
  • 625 ml (21 fl oz/ cups) coconut cream
  • 2 teaspoons grated palm sugar (jaggery) or soft brown sugar
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, lightly crushed
  • 1–2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 200 g (7 oz) packet fish balls
  • 190 g ( oz) packet tofu puffs
  • 250 g (9 oz) dried rice vermicelli
  • 250 g (9 oz) bean sprouts
  • chopped mint, to serve
  • coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve

Method

  1. Peel the prawns and gently pull out the dark vein from each prawn back, starting at the head end. Keep the shells, heads and tails. Cover the prawn meat and refrigerate.
  2. To make the prawn stock, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or wok and add the prawn shells, heads and tails. Stir until the heads are bright orange, then add 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, discarding the shells. Clean the pan.
  3. Put the chilli, onion, garlic, ginger, ground turmeric and coriander, lemongrass and 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) of the prawn stock in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
  4. Heat the remaining oil in the clean pan and add the chilli mixture and shrimp paste. Stir over low heat for 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Pour in the remaining stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut cream, sugar, lime leaves and fish sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the prawns and simmer for 2 minutes, until just pink. Add the fish balls and tofu puffs and simmer gently until just heated through. Soak the rice vermicelli in a bowl of boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and divide among the serving bowls. Top with bean sprouts and ladle over the soup. Sprinkle with the mint and coriander.
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