Debbie Teoh (food writer, caterer, and cooking instructor) taught us how to make curry laksa in her family's kitchen in Melaka, walking us through the proper preparation of every element. Here's her recipe, which gives you a creamy, not too spicy laksa broth. Want more heat? Just add more sambal once it's done.
- Belacan and candlenuts will be available at some Southeast Asian grocery stores; fresh turmeric may additionally be available at some Indian and Chinese markets.
- Tofu puffs, lightly spongy fried tofu balls that readily soak up the broth of this laksa, should also be available in the refrigerated section of many Chinese grocery stores.
- Hard-boiled eggs can be substituted for the hard-boiled quail eggs; you may want to slice them into smaller pieces.
- Polygonum is also known as laksa leaf, Vietnamese mint, or daun kesom; it's an aromatic herb used often in Vietnamese cuisine but also characteristic of laksa. It is available in some Southeastern Asian grocery stores but can be omitted.
- For the sambal:
- 10 fresh red chiles (100 g)
- 10 stalks dried chile (20 g), soaked
- 2 teaspoons belacan (shrimp paste)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons cooking oil
- For the spice paste:
- 10 shallots, peeled and sliced
- 3 inch segment old turmeric (30 g), skinned
- 2 inch segment galangal (60 g)
- 8 stalks lemongrass (100 g), sliced
- 20 stalks dried chiles, soaked until softened
- 10 candlenuts (60 g)
- 4 teaspoons belacan (shrimp paste), more or less to taste
- For the laksa broth:
- 1/2 cup cooking oil
- 1 quart prawn or chicken stock
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 20 pieces tofu puffs, scalded in hot water briefly to remove oil (see note)
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- To assemble:
- Cooked egg noodles
- Cooked vermicelli
- 200 grams beansprouts, blanched
- 1 cucumber, julienned
- 500 grams prawns, boiled and peeled
- 2-3 large fishcakes, boiled and sliced
- 20 quail eggs, hard-boiled (see note)
- 1 bunch polygonum leaves "daun kesum", finely sliced (see note)
To prepare the sambal: Using an electric blender, finely grind fresh red chiles, dried chiles, and shrimp paste. Heat oil. Sauté chile spice paste until fragrant, stirring continuously. Add salt and sugar to taste. Set aside to serve with finished laksa.
To prepare the spice paste: Using an electric blender, pulse shallots, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, dried chiles, candlenuts, and shrimp paste until they form a smooth paste, adding a bit of water if necessary.
To prepare the laksa broth: In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 1/2 cup cooking oil. Sauté spice paste until fragrant. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add coconut milk, tofu puffs, and salt. Bring to a quick boil, stirring continuously. Turn off heat once broth comes to a boil.
To assemble: Blanch noodles in boiling water and drain. Place some noodles into a bowl, garnish with bean sprouts and cucumber. Ladle hot laksa broth over with some tofu puffs. Top with prawns, fish cake slices, quail eggs, and "daun kesum," if using. Serve with sambal.