Fragrant Laksa with Tofu Puffs

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Laksa is a fragrant, Malaysian noodle soup – fresh and flavoursome with a gentle heat. My husband proposed to me while on holiday in Malaysia, so I definitely look back at all the food we ate on that holiday with rose-tinted glasses! You can vary the vegetables in this recipe – baby corn and Tenderstem broccoli both work brilliantly here. Sold in vacuum-packed bags, tofu puffs are deep-fried tofu pieces with the texture of sponge. They are very different to firm or silken tofu, so don’t be tempted to substitute either. If you can’t find the puffs, omit them and add another vegetable instead.

Ingredients

  • ½ red chilli
  • 1 green chilli
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2.5 cm (1 in) piece of galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 lemongrass stem, trimmed
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra
  • 200 ml full-fat coconut milk
  • 400 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 kaffir lime leaf
  • ½ tsp each of hot curry powder and ground turmeric
  • a generous pinch each of salt and caster sugar
  • 100 g dried rice noodles
  • 60 g green beans, chopped
  • 1 pak choi, sliced
  • 60 g beansprouts
  • 40 g tofu puffs, halved
  • 1 lime, halved
  • a handful of coriander

Method

  1. Put the chillies, garlic, shallots, galangal and lemongrass in a small food processor or spice grinder and blitz until you have a smooth paste.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over a low heat, then add the paste and fry it, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes. Watch carefully to ensure it doesn’t burn – it should just become very aromatic.
  3. Add the coconut milk, 200 ml of the vegetable stock, the lime leaf, curry powder, turmeric, salt and caster sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Add the remaining vegetable stock, return it to the boil, then remove it from the heat. Pick out the lime leaf and discard it.
  4. Cook the rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet, then coat them in a little vegetable oil to stop them from sticking and divide them between two soup bowls.
  5. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and blanch the green beans until they are just tender. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and divide them between the two soup bowls. Into the same water, add the pak choi and blanch it for a couple of minutes, before removing with a slotted spoon and dividing it between the bowls.
  6. Add the beansprouts to the water for 1–2 minutes, then drain them and divide them between the bowls.
  7. Return the broth to the boil, then add the tofu puffs, and keep the wok on the heat for a moment to allow them to warm through.
  8. Ladle the broth over the noodles and vegetables in the bowls, dividing the tofu pieces evenly between them. Garnish each bowl with half a lime and a scattering of chopped coriander and serve.