Laksa Spaghetti

January 30, 2019

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

Putting pasta in Malaysian laksa seems to be bordering on blasphemous, but it's not nearly as weird as you think. After all, the traditional Johorian laksa in Malaysian is sometimes had with spaghetti! So really, this recipe has all the makings of a classic laksa, just adapted slightly to a Western pantry—using pasta in place of rice noodles and a condensed list of herbs and spices. It's a great entry point into what Anthony Bourdain has called "the breakfast of gods."

Yi Jun Loh

Food52 Review: Featured in: A Cozy Malaysian Spaghetti Dish to Keep You Warm for Days on End.The Editors

Makes: 5 bowls
Prep time: 1 hrs
Cook time: 1 hrs 30 min

Ingredients

Laksa broth and noodles

  • 2 pounds small whole mackerels, or mackerel fillets (Indian mackerel is traditionally used)
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 large white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 8 to 10 pieces dried chilies, rehydrated in water
  • 3 to 5 fresh red chiles
  • 1 1-inch piece galangal (or ginger)
  • 1 1/2-inch piece turmeric, or 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste (can be substituted with fish sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, mixed with water and then strained
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 1 torch ginger flower bud, optional
  • 1 handful laksa leaves, aka Vietnamese coriander (15 to 20 individual leaves)
  • 12 ounces dried spaghetti

Garnishes

  • 1/2 head lettuce, sliced thinly
  • 1 handful mint
  • 1 cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 to 8 wedges
  • 1 fresh chile, thinly sliced
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Pour the gallon of water and salt in a pot, bring to a boil, and turn it down to a low simmer. If you’re using whole mackerel, make sure to gut and debone the fish. Then, add the mackerel flesh to the water, and poach it for 10 minutes, until cooked through.
  2. Remove the mackerel from the water, then, flake it with a fork, discarding the skin. Reserve the poaching liquid. Then, place the mackerel flesh in a blender, together with about a cup of the poaching liquid, and blend until smooth.
  3. For the laksa spice paste, roughly chop up the onion, garlic, fresh and dried chiles, galangal, and turmeric, and put them all in a blender and blend into a smooth paste. Add a few tablespoons of water to help it blend. (You can use the same blender without cleaning it out; it’ll all go in to make the same soup anyway!)
  4. Add the laksa spice paste, tamarind, lemongrass, and shrimp paste to the poaching liquid and keep on a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the broth starts to smell really fragrant. Then, add in the blended mackerel flesh and simmer for another 10 minutes. Finally, throw in the the torch ginger lily buds and laksa leaves. (These two are added at the end as they tend to lose their fragrance if cooked for too long.) Finally, add the fish sauce and season liberally with salt. (You need more than you’d expect!)
  5. While the broth is simmering, start prepping the garnishes. Slice the lettuce. Pick the mint leaves. Shred the cucumbers. Boil the eggs. Slice the red onions. Wedge the limes. Slice the chile.
  6. Set a separate pot of salted water on a rolling boil to cook the pasta. When the water starts boiling, plop the pasta in and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Strain.
  7. To serve, place the pasta in each bowl, then ladle the laksa soup onto the noodles. Pile on the garnishes to your heart's content! Serve it straight away, piping hot.

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