Chicken Tofu Laksa

May 15, 2013

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: 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

Food52 Review: 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

Serves: 5
Prep time: 25 min
Cook time: 50 min


  • 2 cups firm tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 8 chiles de árbol, stemmed
  • 4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (available in the Asian aisle of supermarkets or at Asian markets); omit if you're adding shrimp or prawns
  • 1 (13 1/2–ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 lemon grass stalks, bottom three inches, tough outer skin removed, lightly crushed (just to start the juices releasing)
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound rice noodles, cooked to package directions (I use wide ones, but this is a personal preference)
  • 1/2 cup mung beans (canned is fine if you can't find them fresh, but make sure to rinse and drain them)
  • 1/3 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped (optional, for garnish)
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges (for garnish)
In This Recipe


  1. 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.
  2. Grind coriander, peppercorns, cumin, fennel, cloves, turmeric, and chiles. Set aside.
  3. Remove tofu from water and place in a single layer on a clean dishcloth to dry. Cover with another towel and pat dry.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Add the coconut milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, tofu, lemon grass, and chicken broth.
  8. 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.
  9. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions.
  10. 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.

More Great Recipes:

Reviews (10) Questions (0)

10 Reviews

WasteNada September 26, 2018
This recipe is delicious! I wasn't able to find shrimp paste or the chiles de arbol so I substituted with anchovy paste and two fresh habeneros. This one is definitely going into the rotation.
Felicia G. April 20, 2018
I havent tried it yet. But this recipe seems interesting. But from the look, it looks more like Thai Khao soi, or indonesian Lodeh than laksa. I thought laksa usually are reddish in color?
emcsull January 20, 2017
Here we go again. What kind of chilis could I substitute ? Don't think I could get those . Thanks !
Author Comment
Snafu06 January 20, 2017
They're generally pretty easy to get online if no one around you sells them. If you can't get them that way, you could try a different dried pepper or chile powder.
Anneliese M. January 4, 2017
I have never seen instructions to soak tofu in hot salted water first - what is the purpose of this? Most recipes I see indicate to press water out of the tofu before cooking.
Author Comment
Snafu06 January 4, 2017
It is just a method of seasoning the tofu.
Melissa October 11, 2015
Great flavour! I halved the whole spices and chillies because I like food more mildly spiced. I'll make again. Thanks!
Author Comment
Snafu06 October 11, 2015
Glad you liked it. I'd suggest just seeding the chilis instead of cutting back to reduce the spice but if you liked your results who am I to question.
DG March 24, 2015
Wonderful recipe. Very indonesian feel to me. Add a chile sambal to your own taste and it sings. used pressure cooked mung beans....worth the addition. I had no shrimp paste so I used a lobster 'better than bouillon' .... I think I may add some gochujang (korean chili bean paste) for a new twist next time. I loved the dish and so did my wife and kids.
Author Comment
Snafu06 March 24, 2015
Glad to hear you liked it. Let me know how the gochujang turns out. I have a fridge full, but never considered it in this.