Yes ready-made laksa paste is easily attainable and does a pretty damn good job. But making it yourself doesn’t take much longer, tastes super fresh and fragrant, and you get all the self-satisfaction and well-earned smugness that comes from making everything from scratch.
While you’re at it, it’s good to double the paste quantity, and freeze the other half for a rainy day. You can add your choice in seafood (or chicken or tofu if your prefer), and a mixture of vegetables. Eggplant is made for laksa, thirstily absorbing all the coconut milk goodness, some kind of choy (pak choy, bok choy, choy sum – whatever), broccoli… and personally I have a real weak spot for canned Asian goods like bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, baby corn (I know they’re creepy) and even those little slippery mushrooms.
Serve with bulk freshly chopped chilli, coriander and fresh Vietnamese mint or Thai basil, and lime wedges.
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 tablespoon palm or brown sugar
1x 400mL can coconut milk
1L fish or chicken stock
1.5 kg seafood (eg. mussels, clams, prawns, squid)
1 bunch Asian greens (eg. bok choy), roughly chopped
300g other vegetables (eg. baby corn, broccoli, mushrooms)
1 can bamboo shoots, drained and/or sliced water chestnuts
1 tablespoon fish sauce
fresh coriander, roughly chopped, to serve
Vietnamese mint, to serve
lime wedges, to serve
rice noodles, cooked & set aside, to serve
2x 4cm sticks lemongrass, very finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger or galangal
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 small red chillies, deseeded & finely chopped
1 teaspoon (5g) shrimp paste or 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
grated rind from 1 lime
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 bunch coriander stems
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Combine all paste ingredients together in a processor or mortar and pestle and pound or blend until a fine paste is formed.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add paste and fry for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Add coconut milk, sugar, stock and mint and bring to the boil, stirring. When mixture reaches the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add seafood and vegetables and cook, covered, until seafood is just cooked through. Stir in fish sauce.
Divide noodles amongst bowls. Ladle over laksa and serve with lime wedges, coriander and extra chilli.