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
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.
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.
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!)
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!)
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.
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.
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.