Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Have you ever eaten laksa? Before yesterday, I hadn't, since this spicy South Asian noodle soup is often made with dried shrimp and fish sauce. But my sister raved about it when she made it the other day and encouraged me to try it. I was especially intrigued after I saw her beautiful photos -- so welcoming, warm, spicy and sour, arguably my native flavors.

This laksa is called 'laksa lemak' because it is coconut milk-based and falls under the umbrella of 'curry laksa,' according to Wikipedia. It reminds me of Thai red curry except this uses a plethora of spices. It has similar components though -- spicy, sweet and sour, and the garnishes of spring onions and lime makes it stunningly fresh and impressive.

Fried tofu is traditional here and gives the curry a boost of protein -- I used a combination of fried and plain extra-firm tofu to add different textures. Any vegetable can be added, but I like tender broccoli, sweet onion and crunchy peppers. Wide rice noodles that need only 3 minutes of soaking in boiling water are a perfectly traditional, easy and quick option here. Other than omitting the shrimp, chicken and fish sauce, I followed my sister's recipe. Give it a try, it's something different yet easy enough to make on a weekday when you want to be transported to a warm country.

Vegetarian laksa lemak
Adapted from My Tangerine Dream
Serves 4

Curry paste:
4 dried whole red chilies (like Kashmiri chilies**), soaked in 3 tbs water
A thumb-size piece of ginger
4-5 large garlic cloves
3 tbs lemongrass, chopped
1/2 cup chopped shallots
3 tsp dried coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
3 tsp curry powder (I used Goan curry powder)

500g /17oz full fat (18%) coconut milk
6 cups / 1 1/2 liters water or vegetable stock (I use 1 bouillon cube)
3 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
A cinnamon stick
1/2 - 1 tsp chili powder (like Kashmiri)

1 large carrot, chopped
1 large onion, sliced
1 large broccoli, chopped into florets
1 large red pepper, sliced
1 tbs sugar
salt to taste
150g rice stick noodles (like the ones used for pad thai)
500g (17oz) extra-firm tofu*
Potato/Corn starch, for coating, about 2-3 tbs
Canola/Rapeseed Oil for frying

1 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 lime
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
A handful of fried shallots (optional)

1. Make the curry paste: grind all the ingredients for the paste in a food processor or mortar and pestle until smooth.

2. In a large heavy-bottom stock pot, cook the creamy fat of the coconut milk and the curry paste for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Then add the rest of the coconut milk, stock/water and bouillon, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon stick and chili powder. Cover and cook for 10 minutes on a low simmer.

3. Meanwhile, cube the drained tofu and coat each piece in corn or potato starch and dust off excess. Heat oil and fry the coated tofu until nicely golden on all sides. Drain on paper towel. Alternately, place the potato-starch coated cubes on an oiled baking sheet, coat both sides with oil, and bake in 450F/200C preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tofu is golden.

4. Once the curry has cooked for 10 minutes, add the onion and carrots and simmer for 5 minutes or so. Add sugar and check for salt. Turn off heat. Then add the dry noodles, peppers, broccoli and a squeeze of lime. Give it 5 or so minutes for the noodles to soften. Then taste. The end result should be spicy, slightly salty, slightly sweet and sour.

To serve: Spoon some noodles, vegetables and curry into a bowl, then top with the crispy tofu, a sprinkling of peanuts, spring onions, fresh coriander, fried shallots and a good squirt of lime. YUM!

* I always keep my tofu in the freezer and defrost it in the microwave before using. I also squeeze out most of its liquid. This creates a distinct chewy texture that I simply prefer. You can read more about this preparation here.

** Kashmiri chilies are generally mild and used for their color more than their spiciness. I use them here because they impart a rich crimson color to the laksa.

*** Lemongrass store nicely in the freezer so that you can use it whenever the need arises.


  1. I don't think I have ever even hears of laksa, but it definitely sounds intriguing! Another soup recipe to add to my ever-expanding list. :)

  2. Thanks Eileen! If you like Thai food, you're going to like this!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...