Coconut laksa is a favourite around Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as here in Australia. The Asian influences within the cuisine of Australia’s Top End make for some fascinating foods. I made this laksa with a fillet of Australian saltwater crocodile. Don’t cut the crocodile meat too thick or overcook it, as it can be very tough.
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) peanut oil
- 1 kg large green prawns, peeled, deveined, tails intact, heads and shells reserved
- 2 tsp sea salt flakes
- 500 ml (2 cups) water
- 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 8 fried tofu puffs, halved diagonally
- 200 g crocodile fillet or chicken breast, thinly sliced
- 80 g dried vermicelli rice noodles
- 450 g fresh Hokkien noodles
- 125 g bean sprouts, blanched
- Vietnamese mint, coriander sprigs and lime wedges, to serve
- 2 long red chillies, coarsely chopped
- 10 dried chillies, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
- 50 g dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
- 1 tbsp belacan (shrimp paste)
- 6 French or red eschalots, coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 5 cm piece fresh ginger, sliced
- 5 cm piece fresh turmeric, sliced
- 3 lemongrass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp ground coriander
- 6 macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
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.
To make the prawn stock, heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the reserved prawn heads, shells and salt. Cook for 5 minutes, crushing the heads and shells with a wooden spoon until they turn vibrant orange. Add the water and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve, discarding the solids and reserving the stock. Set aside until needed.
To make the laksa paste, process the ingredients to a smooth paste in a food processor.
Heat the remaining ¼ cup of oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Cook half of the paste (see Note) for 10-15 minutes until fragrant and the oil separates, stirring regularly. Add the prawn and chicken stocks, along with the coconut milk, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the oil separates from the coconut milk. Add the prawns and tofu puffs. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the crocodile meat and cook for a further 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, place the vermicelli and Hokkien noodles into two separate bowls. Pour over hot water and set aside until softened. Drain.
Divide the noodles and bean sprouts among bowls. Ladle in the stock and scatter with Vietnamese mint and coriander sprigs. Serve with lime wedges.
• The remaining laksa paste can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 month.