Laksa ia a very popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan Cuisine. It is the combination of Malay and Chinese cuisine. While growing up in a Peranakan kitchen, I will always stood next to my late nanny (like our grandmother) to see her cook. She will always told me not to stand too close to the fire but I always won’t listen but she was very kind to teach me a few of her specialties. I can admit that she and my late mom are my teachers in cooking. Of course, after so many years, I have achieved more than them in terms of using the modern technique and utensils to improve my cooking.
I always find that cooking laksa soup is very difficult and time consuming but now, I find it easy. Laksa soup is always one of our favorites. If you do not have the laksa leaves in my opinion does not taste like laksa – it is more like curry laksa. Laksa leaves give a very unique flavoring that you cannot find any herb to substitute with. Do not worry, there is substitution with instant laksa mixture from most Asian grocery store but it is very difficult to find the same kind mixture for Peranakan/Malaysian types. The instant laksa paste are mainly Vietnamese or Thai Laksa.
There are many varieties of Laksa. The varieties are Johor Laksa, Sarawak Laksa, Palembang Laksa, Kelantan Laksam, Penang Laksa and Betawi Laksa just to name a few. Also the general differences between Assam Laksa, Curry Laksa and Sarawak Laksa are – Assam Laksa has no coconut milk in the soup, Curry Laksa is with coconut milk in the soup and Sarawak Laksa is with no curry but with sambal belacan and coconut milk. Well, I hope this brief explanation will help you decide when a time you might have to choose in a Asian restaurant wherever you are residing.
1½ pounds laksa noodles (quite similar to Udon but smaller strands), Udon, yellow mee (Hokkien mee), rice vermicelli (need soaking with warm water for 15-30 minutes, drained) or any noodles of your choice
¾ pound bean sprouts, tails off, rinsed well
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered or poached eggs (I preferred poached)
36 cooked wontons
7 dried red finger chilies, seeded, soaked in hot water until soft
3 fresh red finger chilies, seeded
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 teaspoons grated ginger
3 tablespoons dried shrimp
3 stalks lemongrass, white portion only, coarsely chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves
8 macadamia nuts/candlenuts
1½ tablespoons premium fish sauce
3 teaspoons turmeric powder
1½ teaspoons coriander powder
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1/3 cup canola/vegetable/corn/peanut oil
Place all the ingredients a blender/food processor or mortar and pestle and grind/pound until ingredients form a smooth paste. Set aside.
4 cups “No MSG” chicken broth
3¼ cups water
2½ cups coconut milk
¼ cup evaporated milk
3 stalks lemongrass, white part only, pounded
1 cup laksa leaves, finely chopped, divided
Salt to taste
Laksa leaves (aka: Daun Laksa (In Malay), Rau Cai (in Vietnamese))
Heat a soup/stock pot with oil and laksa paste over medium-high heat and sauté until fragrant. Add the chicken broth, water, half portion of laksa leaves, tofu puffs and bring the gravy to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Add coconut milk, evaporated milk and salt to taste. Stir until well mix. Keep the gravy on simmer.
To Assemble A Bowl of Laksa Noodle Soup:
Heat a pot of water over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Use a Chinese sieve with wooden holder to hold a handful of noodles (of your choice) and bean sprouts and blanch into the boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain the noodles and transfer to a serving bowl. Top the noodle with cooked wontons and poached/hardboiled egg and with a ladle, pour the laksa gravy and a few pieces of tofu puffs on top of the noodles. Garnish with laksa leaves and chili paste. Serve immediately – hot.