Malaysian Prawn Laksa

I think Laksa has to be among my favourite foods. An amazing coconut noodle soup from Malaysia/Indonesia. Filled with intense tastes – a real revolution of flavour. There are few places in and around Sydney that claim to serve the best, each slightly different than the last. My personal favourite must be Jimmy’s secret recipe in the city centre. The spicy, creamy soup just goes on and on, which isn’t a bad thing – I could eat it all day. The only thing I do is make sure I wear something black when I eat it. It tends to splash me (and everyone within 3 metres) with the vibrant orange sauce. The recipe may seem a little daunting, but it’s pretty easy to follow. You can make the soup in advance and just drop in the prawns last minute. It’s THAT easy! This recipe will serve 3-4 people. This is South East Asian perfection.

Spice paste:
1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh galangal (chopped)
6 dried red chillies (soaked for 20 mins)
2 fresh hot red chillies (chopped)
3 macadamia nuts (pounded)
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
110g shallots (or onion)
1/2 tablespoon coriander powder

2 tablespoons peanut oil
1.2 litres coconut milk
1 lemon grass stalk (trimmed and bruised at end)
500g king prawns (whole, with shells)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 lemon (juice of)
1 teaspoon sugar

fresh coriander leaves
fresh mint leaves
2 cups vermicelli noodles (cooked)
2 cups hokkien noodles (cooked)
shop-bought crispy onions
lemon wedges

To make the laksa paste:
Grind together all the ingredients for 20 minutes or so in a pestle and mortar until smooth. Set aside.

To make the soup:
Shell the prawns, removing the tails also. Set the flesh aside. Place all the shells into a large saucepan with 500ml water the sugar and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Pass through a fine seive retaining the liquid. Discard the shells.

Heat a wok with the oil then add the laksa paste together with the lemon grass stalks and fry until the oils begin to separate. Tip in all the coconut milk, the prawn stock and fish sauce and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Drop in the prawns and simmer for 3-4 minutes until cooked. Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and lemon juice to your taste.

Arrange about 1 cup of vermicelli noodles and about 1/2 cup hokkien noodles in the bottom of a large soup bowl then ladle over plenty of the broth and prawns. Add a small handful of mint and coriander and a few crispy onions and finished off with a lemon wedge. Serve immediately.

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