This recipe for Malaysian curry laksa paste is simple to put together. Once it's done, it very easy to make the authentic laksa soup, too, starring prawns, fish balls and tofu puffs. You'll need to take a trip to your local Asian grocer to find some of these ingredients.
60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
1.5 litres chicken stock
2½ tsp grated palm sugar
450 g chicken thighs with bone and skin, or chicken thigh fillets, thickly sliced
12 large raw king prawns, shelled, intestinal tract removed, tails left intact
500 ml (2 cups) coconut milk
12 fish balls (see note)
150 g tofu puffs (see note), thickly sliced
200 g (2½ cups) beansprouts
500 g fresh thin rice noodles (see note)
fried Asian shallots (see note), Vietnamese mint leaves (see note), chilli sambal (see note) (optional) and lime wedges, to serve
8 small dried red chillies (see note)
2 tbsp dried shrimp (see note)
5 red Asian shallots (see note), chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped galangal (see note)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large lemongrass stalks, trimmed, chopped
6 candlenuts (see note), chopped
1 tbsp belachan (dried shrimp paste) (see note)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
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.
Standing time: 20 minutes
To make laksa paste, place chillies and shrimp in two separate bowls and cover both with enough boiling water to cover. Leave for 20 minutes or until softened. Drain well, then process with remaining ingredients in a food processor to a smooth paste.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add laksa paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add stock and sugar. Stir to combine, then bring to a simmer. Add chicken, return to a simmer and cook for 4 minutes. Add prawns and cook for 1 minute or until chicken is cooked through and prawns are almost cooked.
Add coconut milk, fish balls, tofu puffs and beansprouts. Stir gently to combine, then bring almost to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes or until prawns are just cooked, beansprouts are wilted and fish balls and tofu are heated through.
Meanwhile, place noodles in a large bowl. Pour over enough boiling water to cover, then stand for 2 minutes or until heated through. Drain well. Divide noodles, then laksa mixture among bowls. Scatter over fried shallots and mint leaves. Spoon over chilli sambal, if desired, and serve immediately with lime wedges.
These ingredients are available from Asian food shops.
Photography by John Laurie.