Kurma’s Curried Malay Noodles (Laksa)

the laksa:

I guess I brought it on myself when I suggested to my readers that they could twist my arm for the recipe for my laksa. After a good deal of cyber-twisting, here it is.

There’s a bit of work involved, and a lot of the success in this dish is the presentation. There are three distinct layers: the noodles, then the juicy, chunky fragrant broth, then the lovely toppings, all carefully piled up as high as you can. You’ll need deep laksa bowls to serve it in, to get the “meal in a bowl” look, not miserly little soup bowls.

By the way, if you have a copy of ‘Cooking with Kurma’, you’ll find the recipe there in full technicolor.

And if you are reading this on Facebook, you might find it easier to follow on my blog, where there are better line breaks. It seems Facebook is a bit stingy on proper page layout.

Curried Malay Noodles (Laksa)

Laksa is a taste sensation—a delicious one-pot soupy combination of mild, chili-hot, rich, aromatic and delicate flavours, and a tantalising combination of crunchy, soft and milky textures. There are many versions of laksa served throughout the Malaysian peninsula. This is my hearty vegetarian version. Serves 6-8 persons.

The curry

1 cup liquid tamarind puree,
1 cup stringless beans, or snake beans, cut 2.5cm,
400g fried small tofu pouches (or tofu puffs, as they are called – spongy and full of holes to soak up the juices. I like to cut them in triangles),
1 tablespoon cumin seeds,
1 tablespoon coriander seeds,
5 or 6 large dried red chilies,
3 tablespoons oil,
one 5cm cube fresh peeled ginger,
one 2.5cm cube fresh peeled galangal,
white inner stems 2 or 3 stalks fresh lemongrass, finely sliced,
1½ teaspoons yellow asafetida powder,
5-6 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped,
2 tablespoons Malay curry powder (Babas brand is my favourite),
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper,
2 cups potatoes, cubed,
1½ cups carrots, sliced,
2 cups rich vegetable stock (the most important part of the broth),
2-3 tablespoons palm sugar (my favourites are the dark, caramelised varieties like gula jawa, gula aren or gula melaka),
2 teaspoons salt,
4 cups coconut milk, or better still, coconut cream

The noodles

1kg fresh wheat or rice noodles (my favourite is udon),

The garnish

2 cups bean sprouts (trim off the sprout ends for pristine presentation),
2 small seedless green cucumbers, unpeeled, cut into long matchstick strips,
1 small bunch laksa leaves (Vietnamese mint) whole or chopped ,
coarsely ground black pepper,
lime or lemon wedges, on the side,
sambal oelek (optional)

To prepare the curry:

Place the beans and a little water in a small saucepan and steam the beans for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and set the beans aside.

Dry-roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and dried chilies in a small saucepan or non-stick frying pan over moderately low heat for 5 minutes or until fragrant and slightly dark. Place the spices in a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind them to a powder. Set the powder aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over moderate heat. When hot, add the shredded ginger and galangal. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes or until opaque and fragrant. Add the sliced lemon grass, fry for another minute, or until fragrant. Sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder, fry momentarily then add the tomatoes. Stirring occasionally, cook the tomatoes for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are soft and broken down, and the oil is visible.

Add the dry-roasted powdered spices, the curry powder, black pepper, potato, carrot and vegetable stock. Stir to combine. Cover with the lid, bring to the boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

While the curry is cooking, cook the noodles briefly in lightly salted boiling water, or according to directions. Drain and keep hot.

Add the tamarind puree to the simmering curry, then add the cooked beans, the sugar, salt, fried tofu, and the coconut milk. Allow the mixture to almost return to the boil, then remove the saucepan from the heat.

To assemble the laksa:

Scoop a large handful of hot noodles into each individual pre-warmed serving bowl. Ladle on the curry. Garnish with bean sprouts, cucumber, shredded laksa leaves, and black pepper. Serve with wedges of lime and optional sambal oelek. Individual diners can squeeze over the fresh lime juice.

Posted by Kurma on 16/11/10; 3:44:27 AM

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