If you’ve already taken a quick glance at the list of ingredients, you will have noticed that it does in fact use 10 dried red chiles -- it is a hot, fiery soup, but one that is tempered down delicately by coconut milk. Even though laksa is technically more Malay/Singaporean, rather than Thai, it takes me right back to the amazing street food stalls of Bangkok -- maybe because the ingredients of these cuisines lie in a pretty similar ballpark.
Laksa is usually served with some variation of seafood added to it. Prawn and mussels are my favorite and I would’ve gladly used them here if it wasn’t for the fact that my husband is allergic to any and all types of crustaceans. So I improvised with chicken (merely pointing out that you could consider that option as well).
If you have some extra time to spare and are in need of an upper-body workout, it really helps to use a mortar and pestle to pound the spice paste. I’ve tried it in an electric grinder, too, and it really does make a difference to do it by hand -- you get to control the exact texture of the mixture and what you end up with is an aromatic, full-bodied paste that beats the blender method hands down.
I love spicy noodle soup and was excited to try Kirthana Dorairaj's recipe for Chicken Laksa. I've only made laksa once before, at a local Slow Food cooking club event, and it was a laborious but rewarding task, with a long ingredient list and many items to prep. I was happily surprised at how easily and quickly this recipe came together. My mortar is on the small side, so I used my mini-chopper without a hitch to make the paste, and using some of the poaching liquid for the finished soup is a resourceful habit I will not forget. My only suggestion is to use a generous pinch or two (or more to taste) of salt in the paste. Without any measurements and my tendency to under salt, the soup tasted a little bland. Another solution would be to add fish sauce to taste at the end, which is what I did, before we happily slurped up our laksa. —gingerroot
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For the soup:
boneless chicken pieces
egg or rice noodles
For the laksa paste:
shallots, roughly chopped
2 " pieces
of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
dried red chillies, soaked in 1/4 cup of warm water to lessen the spice
stalk lemon grass (only the white part), roughly chopped
Poach the chicken pieces in 1 liter of boiling water. Once tender and cooled slightly, shred the chicken with your fingers. Transfer the poaching liquid into a bowl and set aside.
Bring water to the boil in the same pot and add the noodles and green beans. Once noodles are al dente, drain everything into a colander and run them under cold water. Set aside.
Pound all the ingredients listed under 'laksa paste' heading in a mortar and pestle, along with the warm water that the chillies have been soaking in (tip: add salt in the beginning -- it acts as an abrasive and breaks down the other ingredients more effectively). Alternatively, you could use a blender to make the paste.
Add vegetable oil to a medium-sized pot and tip in the laksa paste. Cook on a medium flame until the oils from the paste start to rise to the top and become aromatic, about 10 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of the chicken poaching liquid and fish sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and let it come to the boil, then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until slightly reduced. Check the seasoning and add more stock to loosen out the soup if need be.
To serve, add the noodles and beans to a bowl and ladle in the soup. Top with shredded chicken, other condiments, and a fresh squeeze of lime. Serve hot.