Many of the ingredients specified just aren't available here in my rural location so some substitutes were called into action e.g. using kaffir lime leaves instead of daun kesum (laksa leaves) and flat rice noodles instead of laksa noodles.
The laksa was really good; vibrant and subtle at the same time, if that's possible. There was just the right balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet. It will definitely become a regular meal here, although next time I make the spice paste I'll do it the the blender not my pestle and mortar, unauthentic it may be but all that pounding was better than a workout at the gym, although I suppose it's a good excuse for eating that second portion.
Here's the recipe:
500g (1 lb) fresh round laksa noodles, blanched for 30 seconds
100g (2 cups) beansprouts
10-12 dried chillies, cut into lengths, soaked to soften, deseeded
2-3 red finger-length chillies, deseeded and sliced
16 shallots, peeled
6 cloves garlic, peeled
5 cm (2 in) fresh galangal root, peeled and sliced
2 cm (3/4 in) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 cm (3/4 in) fresh turmeric root, peeled and sliced - I used 1/4 teaspoons dried turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons belachan (dried shrimp paste), toasted
3 stalks lemongrass, thick bottom third only, outer layers discarded and inner part thinly sliced
4 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons coriander powder
50 g (1/2 cup) ground dried prawns - I couldn't get ground ones so just whizzed these up in the food processor until quite finely chopped
750 ml (3 cups) water
4 sprigs daun kesum (laksa leaves) - I couldn't get these so used kaffir lime leaves instead
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
750 ml (3 cups) thick coconut milk
400 g (14 oz) cooked prawns, peeled
12 fishballs, boiled for 5 minutes, then sliced (optional)
12 hard-boiled quail eggs, peeled (optional)
4 large pieces tau pok (deep-fried tofu), blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds, then sliced
4 tablespoons minced daun kesum (laksa leaves)
- I used king prawns and mixed vegetables from a stir fry pack and some additional pea & sweetcorn.
1. To make the Coconut Gravy, grind the chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, ginger, turmeric, belachan and lemongrass to a smooth paste in a blender, adding a little water if necessary to keep the mixture turning.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the chilli paste and stir-fry over medium heat until fragrant 5-10 minutes. Add the ground coriander and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the dried prawns and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the water, daun kesum, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes (I also added my vegetables and raw prawns here). Add the coconut milk, and bring almost to a boil, then quickly remove from the heat. Discard the daun kesum.
3. To serve, divide the noodles and bean sprouts into 4 large serving bowls. Fill each bowl with the Coconut Gravy and top with the prawns, fishballs, quail eggs, if using, and tau pak slices. Garnish with laksa leaves and serve immediately with small bowls of chilli or Sambal Belachan (I used Sambal Olek) and lime wedges on the side.