Malaysian cuisine is a melting pot of traditions from its Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and ethnic Bornean citizens, with heavy to light influences from Thai, Portuguese, Dutch, Arabian cuisines and British cuisines, to name a few. The condiments and spices used in cooking varies and this results in strong regional nuances.
There are two types of laksa: curry laksa and asam laksa. Curry laksa is a coconut milk curry soup with noodles, while asam laksa is a sour, most often tamarind-based, soup with noodles. I have tried to keep this vegan, (took inspiration from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More) and so did not use any of the traditional seasonings like shrimp paste. Here is my take on the classic.
FOR THE PASTE
2 tablespoons sambal oelek
100g shallots, peeled and chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
30g ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon ground lemon grass (frozen)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1-2 red chillies, chopped
40g coriander roots, stems and leaves
30ml vegetable oil
FOR THE LAKSA
30ml vegetable oil
1.2l vegetable stock
400ml coconut milk
2 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon sugar
300g bean sprouts
150g French beans
200g rice vermicelli
200g tofu puffs or squares
Salt to taste
2 limes, halved
Chopped red chillies and coriander leaves for garnish
Put all ingredients for paste into a food processor and make a semi smooth paste.
Heat remaining oil in a medium sized saucepan and fry paste on medium low for 15 -20 minutes stirring frequently.
Add stock, coconut milk, curry powder, salt and sugar. Increase the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile blanch the bean sprouts and French beans and set aside.
Cook vermicelli by steeping in hot water (about 70 degrees) for 20 minutes. Refresh in cold water and drain well.
Add beans and half the bean sprouts to heat up in the soup.
Spoon the noodles into four large bowls. Top with the tofu puffs and remaining sprouts. Pour over the hot soup.
Garnish with lime halves, coriander leaves and sliced chillies. Serve hot.