This came about from contemplating the gritty solids that gather at the bottom of a bowl of traditional laksa when the soup has been almost completely drunk. It led to this alternative of a light, clear and flavoursome bouillon.
For the spiced bouillon
- 1 litre light chicken stock
- sugar, to taste
- 10 French shallots, chopped
- 1 lemongrass stem, trimmed of tough outer leaves, bruised and sliced
- 3 cm piece of galangal, bruised and sliced
- 2 cm piece of fresh turmeric, bruised and sliced
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground
- 8 dried chillies, deseeded
- 6 medium prawns, unshelled
- lime juice, to taste
For the prawn relish
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- fish sauce, to taste
- lime juice, to taste
For the accompaniments
- oil, for deep-frying
- 25 g dried fish maw (see Note)
- 100 g spanner crab meat
- 10 g laksa (Vietnamese mint) leaves
- 1 Lebanese cucumber, peeled and sliced
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
MAKE THE SPICED BOUILLON
Bring the chicken stock to the boil. Season with salt and sugar. Add the shallots, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, coriander seeds and dried chillies and simmer for 10 minutes. Peel the prawns, reserving all the shells. Drop the prawns into the stock and poach for 5 minutes, then remove and set aside. Add the shells and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain and set aside. When ready to use, season with lime juice and additional salt and sugar if you like.
MAKE THE PRAWN RELISH
Devein the poached prawns and shred the meat as finely as possible. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the prawn meat and cook for around 30 minutes. While it is frying, use the wooden spoon to press the meat against the side of the pan to shred it to floss. Add a little water if the mixture starts to stick. It’s ready when the meat is evenly shredded into a dried floss (although the floss should not be overly dry). Season with fish sauce, salt and lime juice.
ASSEMBLE THE DISH
Heat the oil to 180°C (350°F) and deep-fry the fish maw until puffed up and golden. Rinse in cold water. Pour 100 ml (31/2 fl oz) of the spiced bouillon and 250 ml (81/2 fl oz) of water into a pan, add the maw and simmer for 30 minutes until very soft. Take out of the stock and cut into small chunks. Use the hot chicken stock to steep the crab meat until just cooked. Place a laksa leaf, piece of cucumber, some fish maw and crab meat into each person’s bowl and pour the broth over until the objects are semi-submerged. Sprinkle with prawn relish.
• Fish maw is the cleaned, dried stomach of a fish. Find it online or in Asian supermarkets.
Recipe and image from Green Pickled Peaches, Chui Lee Luk (Hardie Grant Books, $59.95, pbk).