Planet Food Malaysia: Florence Tan’s Laksa Melaka

Lakhsa by Yanwen Tan

Serves 6, cooking time 1 hour (plus time to prepare stock)

Ingredients

  • 20 dried large chillies soaked in warm water for a few minutes and drained
  • 30 shallots peeled
  • 5 large cloves of garlic peeled
  • 6-8 candlenuts (alternatively, use macadamia, brazil, hazelnuts or almonds)
  • 2.5 cm peeled and chopped turmeric root or 1 heaped teaspoon dried turmeric powder
  • 3.5 cm peeled and chopped galangal or possibly ginger
  • 5 stalks stripped and chopped lemon grass
  • 3 cm cube of belancan (crushed dried shrimp paste)

Additional Soup Ingredients:

  • 500 ml coconut cream (or use fresh grated coconut and water
  • 1.25 litres of thin coconut milk.
  • 100 gm dried anchovies (experiment with fish sauce or stock cubes if you can’t find these)
  • 150 ml cooking oil
  • 400 gm small raw shrimps – cleaned and de-veined
  • 3 stalks of polygonum (kesum) asian mint leaves.
  • 15 pieces of tofu puffs roughly chopped into 2.5 cm pieces
  • 30 fish balls (from a chinese supermarket – alternatively use 300 gm shredded cooked chicken)
  • 2 anchovy or fish stock cubes
  • salt to taste (around 2 teaspoons)
  • 400 gm bean sprouts – quickly blanched and refreshed in cold water.
  • 300 gm rice vermicelli (noodles) blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes and drained

Garnish – Ingredients:

  • 1 kg fresh cockles, cleaned and scalded in boiling water for 3 minutes, drained and shelled. or approx. 300 gm cooked fresh cockles or small clams.
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced in very long fine strips
  • 12 large red chillies pounded with a little sea salt
  • 3 large red chillies sliced
  • 2 stalks of de-stalked and finely shredded polygonum (kesum) leaves

Method:

1, Prepare the coconut milk, either from a packet or using fresh coconut to create a thick cream and set aside.

2. Prepare the coconut milk as well and set aside. Add the dried anchovies to 1.5 litres of water and bring to the boil, simmering for 30 minutes to reduce to 1 litre stock. Strain and set aside.

3. Blend all the paste ingredients into a smooth paste either with pestle and mortar or an electric blender.

4. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok until almost smoking and add the paste (watch out for the spitting). Fry off the paste for a couple of minutes to blend the flavours.

5. Add the shrimps and fry them till they begin to turn pink.

6. Stir in the anchovy stock followed by the thin coconut milk and a bunch of whole laksa leaves. Simmer for 7 minutes, stirring regularly.

7. Add the chopped bean curd puffs, fish balls and coconut cream to the mixture, seasoning with crushed anchovy stock cubes, sugar and salt, simmering for about 5 minutes.

8. While this simmers, arrange the noodles on a platter with all the other garnish ingredients in separate bowls.

To serve, put a small portion of bean sprouts and noodles into a rice/soup bowl, sprinkle on cockles, add a small spoon of chilli paste, a few sliced chillies, threads of cucumber and shredded laksa leaves. Ladle enough of the soup on top to cover the ingredients. Serve immediately and savour.