This recipe was my second attempt at laksa, a tangy and spicy Southeast Asian soup, using a combination of different recipes and ideas from around the web. The ingredient list is fairly long, but the soup itself is quick and easy to make and really satisfying. This version has chicken and tofu, but it can be made with any combination of chicken, shrimp, or tofu. —Snafu06
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: Snafu06 has been a member of the Food52 community for the past four years and cooks from a variety of cuisines.
WHAT: A sweet and tangy Asian noodle soup that's easy to throw together.
HOW: Don't be put off by the long ingredient list -- once you've raided your fridge and pantry, it's only a matter of cooking shallots, shrimp paste, and chicken in ground spices, then simmering them in coconut milk, tofu, and chicken broth. Pour the soup base over a bowl of rice noodles, add some garnishes, and you're slurp-ready.
WHY WE LOVE IT: As if the beautiful yellow color of the soup wasn't enough to brighten this winter (spring?) day, one spoonful and we were sold. The flavors complement each other beautifully: The spices are balanced by sweet coconut milk, then brought back out by the cilantro and lime garnishes. —The Editors
firm tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
chiles de árbol, stemmed
canola or vegetable oil, divided
boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
shrimp paste (available in the Asian aisle of supermarkets or at Asian markets); omit if you're adding shrimp or prawns
(13 1/2–ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
salt, plus more to taste
lemon grass stalks, bottom three inches, tough outer skin removed, lightly crushed (just to start the juices releasing)
low-sodium chicken broth
rice noodles, cooked to package directions (I use wide ones, but this is a personal preference)
mung beans (canned is fine if you can't find them fresh, but make sure to rinse and drain them)
mint leaves, roughly chopped (optional, for garnish)
Bring well salted water to a boil. Put the tofu in a bowl and pour the salted water over the tofu. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Grind coriander, peppercorns, cumin, fennel, cloves, turmeric, and chiles. Set aside.
Remove tofu from water and place in a single layer on a clean dishcloth to dry. Cover with another towel and pat dry.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a non-stick skillet or a wok over high heat. Add the tofu in batches and fry until golden brown. Don't overcrowd the pan. Set the tofu aside to cool.
Heat the rest of the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil glistens, add the shallots and ground spices. Cook, stirring often, just until the shallots start to become translucent, about 1 minute.
Add the chicken and shrimp paste, and continue to cook, 1 to 2 minutes more. Turn down the heat if the spices or shallots look like they're going to burn.
Add the coconut milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, tofu, lemon grass, and chicken broth.
Return the temperature to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for twenty minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through.
Cook the noodles according to the package instructions.
Divide the noodles among the serving bowls. Spoon the broth over the noodles. Top with mung beans, then garnish with the mint and cilantro. Add a lime wedge to each bowl and serve immediately.