A wise man (OK, restaurant critic Jay Rayner) once said of laksa’s medicinal properties that “it should be available on the NHS (the National Health Service) by prescription,” and I agree. With its searing chile, ginger, and garlic enveloped by a blanket of noodles and coconut soup, laksa is a wonderful antidote to colds and cold weather. I urge any rutabaga dodgers to think twice: its buttery earthiness, alongside the caramelized shallots, adds a sweet and smoky magic.
Preheat the oven to 425°F and line two large baking sheets with foil.
To make the laksa paste, put the garlic, ginger, chile powder, cumin, lemongrass, and cilantro stems into a blender with 2/3 cup of stock. Peel and roughly chop 2 shallots and add them to the blender too, then whizz to a paste.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a deep-sided pot on a low ﬂame and, once hot, scrape the paste into the pot. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly so it doesn’t catch, then slowly add the coconut milk until it’s mixed in. Add the remaining stock, the salt, and sugar, and simmer for 20 minutes until rich and ﬂavorful. Season to taste, then take off the heat.
While the soup is cooking, halve the rutabaga, cut it into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then arrange on one of the lined sheets. Peel and halve the remaining shallots lengthways, then separate them into “petals” by removing the individual segments, and put these on the second lined sheet. Lightly drizzle oil over both vegetables, toss with your hands so they’re well coated, and sprinkle with a little salt. Roast the shallots for 20 minutes and the rutabaga for 30 minutes, until cooked and caramelized.
Cook the noodles in boiling water as per the package instructions (usually 2 to 3 minutes), then drain and rinse under cold water.
To serve, reheat the soup on a medium heat. Distribute the noodles between four bowls and ladle over the hot soup. Put the hot rutabaga and caramelized shallots on top and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Squeeze a wedge of lime over each serving, and serve with more lime on the side.