One of Mum’s friends once made a dry version of laksa for a potluck. It made so much sense to do it without the liquid for easy luggability. It was really yummy, so I had to recreate a version so that DC could try it. It was incredibly easy, although it requires quite a bit of effort in chopping everything up. The picture didn’t come out so good partly because I was trying out a new camera and partly because I lost patience with the chopping. Get some help with the cutting if you can. If not, don’t worry, it tastes much better than it looks!
2 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked in water
1 piece belachan, about the size of two 50 cent coins, toasted
1 clove garlic
5 stalks laksa leaves
3 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp dried shrimp (keep dry, do not wash)
2 lemongrass stalks, sliced
2 thick slices galangal
1 packet laksa paste (I use Dancing Chef brand)
good squirt of coconut milk, approx 10 tbsp
6 taupok, cut into squares
400g beansprouts (40 cents from my market), picked over and washed
1 kg thick beehoon ($1 from my market)
20 poached prawns, shelled
1 big fish cake, shredded
2 chicken breasts, poached and shredded
3 eggs, hard boiled and sliced
1 cucumber, peeled, cored and shredded
large handful laksa leaves, shredded
Pound the soaked shrimp using a mortar and pestle together with the belachan, shallots, garlic and a handful of laksa leaves.
Fry the dried shrimp in hot oil till crisp, taking care to put them all in at the same time. Remove promptly from the oil as the shrimp burn easily. Set aside on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
In the same oil, fry the pounded paste of shrimp, belachan, shallots and garlic with the lemongrass and galangal slices till fragrant, about 2 minutes on low. Pour in the laksa paste and fry till fragrant or till you start choking from the pungent chilli smell (whichever comes first). Remember to turn on the fan extractor if you have one. Still, it’s pretty much guaranteed that your whole house will reek of laksa for days.
Remove the lemongrass and galangal, discard.
Add the coconut milk and stir till you get a thick but fairly runny paste.
Stir in the taupok and beansprouts, making sure to incorporate fully before adding in the next ingredient, then finally the noodles.
Check the seasoning, adding fish sauce to taste. Garnish with cucumber shreds, chopped laksa leaves and crispy dried shrimp.
Serve with fish cake, prawns, chicken and boiled egg slices on the side for everyone to help themselves.
I ran out of gas yesterday. Even though the new cylinder came very promptly, I challenged myself to make lunch without using the gas stove. I had a rather odd bunch of stuff in the house. First, there was some potato to finish before they started sprouting. There was some defrosted chicken thigh, skin on. In the veg department, there was some curly red lettuce crying out to be used, mint leaves, laksa leaves and some leftover celery. I also had some pear and leftover lemon wedges in the fridge.
It all came together in the form of roast potato in laksa and mint salsa verde, baked chicken and a green salad with celeary and pear. It was light yet satisfying and great for fine sunny weather that threatened to turn cloudy. Try this all together or take it apart to assemble your own version.
Roast Potato in Laksa and Mint Salsa Verde and Baked Chicken with Skin
1 russet potato
1 handful laksa leaves
1 handful mint leaves
1 tbsp oil
1 chicken thigh with skin
Scrub the potato thoroughly and slice thickly. Peel the potato if you like but I never bother. Grill the slices on both sides till slightly browned. Remove and then preheat oven to 150ºC.
Chop the mint and laksa leaves finely, add a good pinch of sea salt and then mix with the oil. Smear generously onto potato slices. Put into the oven together with the chicken (and skin) and bake for 15 minutes till the chicken is cooked and the skin crispy.
Serve with the salad.
For one person. Easily scaled up.
Celery, Pear and Mint Salad
1 stick celery
3 small bunches red curly lettuce or other lettuce
1 handful mint
1 tbsp oil
salt and pepper
Cut the celery into long, fine diagonals and the pear into fine matchsticks. Tear the lettuce into small pieces.
Put celery, pear, lettuce and mint into a large bowl. Squeeze over half of the lemon, then pour over the oil and add a good pinch of salt and a generous grinding of pepper.
Using clean hands (use spoons if you’re squeamish), toss the salad until mixed well. Taste and add a bit more lemon juice or salt and pepper if necessary.
I’m going through a laksa leaf craze now and am trying different ways to use it that’s different from the typical laksa lemak dishes. I’ve been wanting to make an oil-free Eastern salad and this came together. If you can’t find laksa leaves, you can use a soft leafy herb like mint or basil. Replace the jambu with apple if you can’t find that either. Add extra lemongrass if you can’t find torch ginger.
The most important thing about this salad is that all ingredients, especially the herbs, must be absolutely fresh. I made this a few days late as I wasn’t able to cook on schedule, and the laksa and torch ginger weren’t as fragrant as I like. Read my blog, learn from my mistakes!
1 red chilli, chopped
½ jambu, diced
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
5 calamansi limes, juiced
2 tsp fish sauce
good handful laksa leaves, chopped
one stalk lemongrass, base only, chopped
torch ginger, chopped
10 local lettuce or Romaine leaves, sliced into strips
2 tbsp ground peanuts
In a large bowl, combine the chilli, jambu and tomatoes with the lime juice and fish sauce. Set aside for the flavours to mingle and get on with the chopping for the other ingredients.
Add the lemongrass, torch ginger and lettuce, tossing gently. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more lime juice or fish sauce. Add some sugar if needed.
Just before serving, sprinkle over the ground peanuts.
By the time I got home last night, I’d almost perished of hunger. Grand plans for a laksa leaf-based chopped salad went out of the window. Even though I was so hungry I could’ve eaten my hand, I stubbornly refused to go the instant noodle route. Sticking to the laksa theme, I got this together in about 10 minutes. It’s simple, quick to prepare and incredibly tasty. (Or maybe I really was that hungry!) The proper version shall have to wait till later.
It’s a warm pasta salad of sorts, a very quick abbreviation of what I originally intended. Aesthetic considerations were tossed out of the window (see photo below). Proportions are even more approximate than usual because I mixed and tasted as I went along.
½ cup mini macaroni or any quick-cooking shape
1 fish from a tin of sardines in oil
2 tsp fish sauce
1 handful laksa leaves, roughly chopped
juice of ¼ lemon
1 red chilli, chopped
1 cake tau kwa, optional
Cook the pasta till al dente.
Mash the sardine and some oil from the tin in a serving dish, then toss in the cooked pasta.
Sprinkle the fish sauce on top and mix thoroughly, followed by the laksa leaves, lemon juice and chilli.
Stir and taste, adding more fish sauce or lemon juice as needed.
Either boil or sear the tau kwa on a grill pan, then cut into pieces and toss into pasta.
Today’s instalment in Pesto Variations is inspired by the many laksa pesto dishes I’ve tried at variousplaces around Singapore, some decent and some utterly FAIL.
By the way, laksa is also known as daun kesom and Vietnamese mint.
If you look more closely at pesto and laksa, you’ll find that laksa is remarkably easy to adapt to a pesto style. Both have some kind of root aromatic, herb and nut. Pesto: garlic, basil, pine nut vs laksa: shallot, laksa leaves, candle nut. The remaining ingredient in pesto is cheese, which adds umami to complete the flavour profile. For laksa, dried shrimp and belachan do the trick. I’ve used only belachan in this recipe, you could add or substitute dried shrimp.
½ tbsp belachan
½ tsp salt
2 cloves garlic
2 good handfuls laksa leaves
2 red or green chillis, or to taste
½ tbsp sunflower oil
handful cashew nuts
1 cake tau kwa, cut into small rectangles
Toast the belachan in a pan until smoky.
Combine belachan, salt, garlic, laksa leaves and chilli in a food processor and pulse till smooth, adding the oil after a few pulses to help the mixture along. You should get a fine-ish paste. The pesto is done.
Cook the linguine to taste.
Toast the cashews in a hot pan and roughly chop once cool enough to handle.
Sear the tau kwa on all sides in the same hot pan.
When the pasta is done, toss it in the pesto, adding a drop or two more oil or cooking liquid to loosen. Top with cashews and tau kwa.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, the picture and recipe have been previously posted on my now-defunct OSF.com account.