Joo Chiat prawn laksa with dill

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

Food and Travels: Asia

Food and Travels

By Alastair Hendy

Published 2004

  • About

Laksas are age-old fusion food. A touch of Thailand, a soupcon of Vietnam, a bit of Bali and a shred of Laos: little snippets of Asia, slung together in one beautiful fragrant Malay-style noodled curry. For the authentically minded, fried pressed beancurd or fish cake, cut into strips, can be bunged in too - these can also be bought vac-packed from Oriental stores. If you have a mortar and pestle, use it here, as the hand-pounded ingredients will lend an edge, the rough with the smooth, how we like it. If not, use a processor, but don’t mulch down to baby food.

Ingredients

  • 300 g whole uncooked tiger prawns
  • 4 heaped tbsp unsalted toasted cashew or candlenuts
  • 1 tsp each of salt, peppercorns and coriander seeds
  • 5 cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 small red birdseye chillies, chopped
  • 2 large dried red chillies, chopped
  • 2 sticks lemongrass, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste or 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp dried shrimp
  • 2 x 400 ml cans coconut milk
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 small bunch dill or coriander, chopped
  • 250 g rice vermicelli noodles, prepared according to the packet instructions, rinsed and drained

Method

Boil the prawns in around 500 ml water until cooked through. Keeping their water, de-shell some and halve them lengthways, then return their heads and shells to the water (keeping the flesh on one side) and bubble again for about 20 minutes. Strain. Pound the nuts until coarsely ground, tip out and keep to one side, then pound the next eight ingredients, starting with the seeds and harder ones and working in batches. Next, heat 2 tbsp oil in a wok, tip in the pounded paste, and fry all over until it wafts fragrant and has darkened a little in colour, then stir in the dried shrimp, then the ground nuts. Add the coconut milk, sugar and about half of the strained prawn stock and bring to a low bubble, cooking for about 10 minutes. Stir in the prawns and cook for 1 minute more, then stir in most of the herb. Divide the noodles between four big bowls, ladle over the prawn sauce and chuck more herbs on top.