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This is very similar to Sambal Shiok's signature curry laksa, with a strong chilli and shrimp kick. We tend to save cooking laksa for special occasions due to its time-consuming method and many ingredients, especially when cooking the chicken stock from scratch. If you can find them, laksa leaves/rau ram/hot mint (polygonum odoratum) adds a distinctive fragrance to the dish and takes me back to my childhood growing up in a Nyonya household. Like any good curry, the broth develops in flavour if left overnight.

The vast majority of the preparation can be done a day or two in advance, for example cooking the chicken stock, the spice paste, prawns, eggs, blanching beansprouts and green beans. The noodles are best blanched just before eating.

Makes enough for 6

Step 1: Spice paste
Blend all of the spice paste ingredients in a food processor until it achieves the consistency of a smooth fine paste. In a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add the oil and the spice paste, continuously stirring for 30 minutes, until it is a rich dark reddish brown colour and the oil separates from the paste. Ideally, leave for at least 24 hours in the fridge for the fried paste to develop maximum flavour before using it to make the broth.

For the spice paste

  • 80g vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion (300g), peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 inches of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 fresh red chillies, stalks removed then roughly chopped
  • 15 dried chillies, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes before using and then drained
  • 1.5T cumin powder
  • 1.5T turmeric powder
  • 3T coriander powder
  • 3T chilli powder
  • 50g shrimp paste (the Malaysian/Indonesian blocks of shrimp paste are best, otherwise use Thai gapi shrimp paste)

Step 2: Laksa broth
Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the laksa broth ingredients to another large saucepan with the fried spice paste. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the laksa leaves/coriander and lemongrass, and adjust seasoning (salt/sugar) to taste. Then add the tofu puffs to the broth so that they soak up the flavour for 10 minutes.

Step 3: Veggies, shrimp and noodles
Whilst the laksa broth is simmering, blanch the following in boiling water one after the other: beansprouts for 30 seconds, green beans for 3 minutes, prawns 90 seconds. Refresh them in ice-cold water to stop them cooking in the residual heat and drain. Blanch each portion of egg noodles for 10 seconds before putting into bowls.

For the laksa broth

  • 1.5 litres of chicken stock (if making your own chicken stock, put 2 litres of water into a large pot with a chicken carcass, 1 star anise, 2 inches of peeled and roughly sliced ginger, 3 spring onions, 1 small onion chopped into quarters, and 2 cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil, skimming off residue, and then simmer on low heat for 90 minutes)
  • 2 x 400g cans coconut milk
  • 90g palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)
  • 2T salt (or less to taste)
  • 3T tamarind paste
  • 50g bunch of laksa leaves/coriander
  • 2 lemongrass stems, pounded with a pestle to release juices

Step 4: Plating
Portion everything out into bowls ready for serving – the beansprouts, green beans and prawns. Pour the hot laksa broth into each of the bowls with 4 halved tofu puffs per serving. Place soft-boiled egg halves and finish with sliced laksa leaf or coriander.

For the toppings

  • 24 raw king prawns deshelled and deveined, cooked in boiling water for 2 minutes
  • 12 deep fried tofu puffs, cut in half
  • 120g green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 120g beansprouts
  • 400g fresh egg noodles
  • 6 soft-boiled eggs cooked by simmering for 6 minutes 25 seconds before being shocked in ice water to stop the cooking, peeled and sliced in half
  • 50g laksa leaves/coriander, finely sliced for garnish

by Mandy Yin

Sambal Shiok

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