This flavourful curry or soup, with its roots in South east Asia, has been on my ‘to-make’ list for a really long time. I’ve been dying to make and sample this dish in my kitchen, foremost because we love Asian food, especially if it’s from the South east. Tonight, is the night, to indulge in this comforting, aromatic and delectable soup, bursting with flavours and fragrant spices from East Asia. It has its roots in Malay and Chinese cuisine, and is equally popular in Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore. Each of the regions has its own tasty variation and permutations and combinations of ingredients and flavours.
This recipe is an inspiration from Jamie Oliver’s take on Chicken Laksa. His recipe has predominantly Thai flavours seeping into the soup, served along with a yum char-grilled chicken. Laksa is traditionally served with a noodle inside, I think most popular are rice noodles and rice vermicelli. I suppose, just like me, one would require a special trip to the store to pick up some of the vital components which go into this recipe.
I omitted the chicken, just sticking to the soup for tonight. As good as it sounds, I simply didn’t have the time to experiment with chicken today. And if you are not a meat eater, don’t fret, there are plenty of other flavours and vegetables one could add and get creative with. Fresh peppers, squash, mushrooms, root vegetables, the list is endless, with a plethora of fresh veggies one can add, I’m sure. I created a rich stock using fresh veggies like carrots, bottle gourd or lauki and yellow bell pepper, along with store-bought chicken cube. Luckily, since asparagus is in abundance this time of early spring, our side of the world, I added it to the soup, toward the end, to retain its crunchy fresh flavour. Another touch to the soup are the noodles which go in, typically rice noodles. I decided to use good ‘ol egg noodles or lo mein. And a final garnish of freshly chopped coriander, green onions and sliced hard boiled eggs.
But of course, the final outcome was delicious! With so many fresh, fragrant and robust flavours going on, nothing quite like concluding the day with a comforting big bowl of Laksa 🙂
2 small carrots, chopped
2 cups chopped bottle gourd or lauki
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 Chicken bouillon cube
Water – 6 cups
Salt to taste
Coconut milk – 1 cup
Egg noodles – 100 g.
A handful stalks of fresh asparagus
For the laksa paste :
1 stalk of lemongrass. Remove the tough outer skin and layers. Chop the tender white top portion.
2-3 kaffir lime leaves or fresh lime zest of a lime.
Ginger, 2 inch piece
Garlic – 2 cloves
A couple stalks green onions
A handful fresh cilantro/coriander stalks
Whole dried red chilli, an Indian Kashmir red chili or a mild to medium hot Pasilla or Guajillo chile. Soak it in warm water to soften.
Turmeric – 3/4 tsp.
All spice powder – 3/4 tsp.
Roasted peanuts – 1 tbsp. One can use peanut butter.
Soy sauce – 1 tbsp.
Sesame oil – 1 tsp.
For garnish :
Freshly chopped cilantro or coriander leaves, green onions and sliced hard boiled eggs.
Prepare the laksa paste. Add all the ingredients in a mini food processor and grind to a paste. Add a little water, to smoothen out the paste. Set aside.
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon olive oil. Add the carrots, bell peppers and bottle gourd. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Add water. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken cube. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until veggies are tender. Add the laksa paste and simmer. Blend with a hand blender.
Cook noodles as per package instructions.
Before serving, bring the soup to a boil. Trim the asparagus and cut into inch size pieces.
Add the asparagus. Add the noodles, coconut milk and salt. Add a squeeze of lime juice. Serve, garnished with fresh coriander, green onions and boiled eggs.