Nice ‘n’ Spicy

Baby it’s cold outside! A quick to prepare soup, full of warming spices and filling noodles is just the ticket.

Put very simply Laksa is a coconut milk based curry noodle soup,  with either chicken or prawns, originating in the Malaysia/Indonesia/Singapore area. Not so simple is finding an authentic recipe. Thanks to big name chef Jamie Oliver, who I personally find rather annoying, nearly every blogger and recipe sharing site (on the first few search pages) merely trots out his rather apochryphal recipe involving butternut squash. I’m sure it’s very nice, but it’s not Laksa! And as for the asparagus, ewww! Also not a traditional Indonesian vegetable as far as I’m aware, do correct me if I’m wrong!

My version was put together after comparing several recipes and choosing what sounded like the best bits from each one. Rice noodles are the most traditional but feel free to use your prefered variety. If you don’t have fish sauce just use more soy sauce, and if you can’t get hold of lime leaves – don’t worry about it. I used a mixture of white fish and prawns because me and the boys don’t eat anything with an exoskeleton and Mr Crumbs won’t eat fish! Alternatively, use 2-4 chicken portions instead.

Laksa serves 4

  • ½ a bunch of coriander
  • 2 peeled cloves garlic
  • 2 peeled and chopped onions
  • a 4cm chunk of peeled ginger root
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp each of ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric and chilli flakes
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 fillets of white fish, cut into chunks
  • 200g raw shelled prawns
  • ½ litre fish or chicken stock
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • ½ tbsp each soy sauce and fish sauce
  • juice of half a lime (or lemon)
  • enough rice noodles for your family

Whizz the coriander, stalks included, plus the garlic, onions and ginger, in a blender until pureed. You could use a pestle and mortar if you like, but the fumes really get to the eyes!

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Gently fry the puree for 3 mins. Add the powdered spices, chilli flakes and lime leaves and fry for another 2 mins.

Add the stock, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, fish and prawns. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for 10-15 mins or until the fish is cooked through. Add the lime juice, then taste for seasoning. If it could do with more salt add a little more fish and/or soy sauce.

While the soup is still cooking, follow the instructions on the noodle packet to cook the noodles. It’s best to cook them separately because they give off a large amount of starch, which would give the soup a slightly “slimey” feel in the mouth!

Divide the noodle between bowls and ladle the soup on top. I serve prawn crackers as a side dish.

It is not certain wher the word Laksa comes from, suggestions include the Cantonese for “spicy sand” and the Hokkien for “dirty”.