I cannot say enough positive things about Laksa, despite only have a vague idea of what it is or where originated. According to this mildly confusing Wikipedia article, vagueness is a characteristic of Laksa, being something that seems to be a mish mash recipe from various cultures.
What I can tell you with certainty is this: it’s a soup, it’s a snap to make and it’s absolutely delicious!
JD and I were lucky enough to be introduced to this culinary wonder by our friends Ashley and John, recent transplants to our city and dedicated Sunday dinner attendees. Ashley gave me the essential directions and ingredients and I went to our local Asian market to procure what I needed. As Ashley so aptly put it “It’s one of those things where you buy the ingredients but then you have them so they just live in your fridge until you’re ready to make it again”.
Laksa is something you can make to suit your own tastes: milder, spicier, adding in the veggies and protein that you want. Shrimp? Sure! Noodles? Why not! It’s very flexible – however note that it not necessarily suitable for vegetarians – the Laksa paste I bought had shrimp listed in the ingredients.
One administrative item before we get on to the good part – there is now a “Print & PDF” button at the bottom of my posts. This nifty feature allows you to print posts and recipes (there a button you can check to remove images) or save them as .pdf files on your computer. Handy! I am testing this option so if there is something more convenient that you can suggest, please do so.
For the Laksa that JD and I ate, I decided on onions, mushrooms, and some leftover chicken. So slice a large onion, add to your large soup pot with some oil and cook over medium heat until onion softens, about 5 minutes. (On that note, I feel that I post so many onion photos that the alternate title for this blog could be “photos of sliced onions by Julia”.)
Go ahead and slice some mushrooms - I used basic white mushrooms but you could use any variety. Add them to the onions and cook, stirring, 2-3 more minutes. Giving them time to simmer in the soup is key according to Ashley: “it makes them into mushroomy balls of laksa flavoured deliciousness”.
Add a couple of tablespoons of black bean paste
Add a teaspoon (to start) of ground chilies in oil with garlic – the bottle of which is apparently impossible to photograph (apologies!)
Add your Laksa paste – I could only find this in a single-pot making packet but Ashley assures me that a well-stocked Asian market will have jars of Laksa paste. If you have a packet, add it all. If you have a jar, start with 3-4 tbsp and add more to taste, if needed. She also suggests a 2:1 ratio of Laksa paste to black bean paste.
Add one can of coconut milk and about 3 cups chicken broth
Bring soup to a simmer, cover, and continue simmering for about 15 minutes until vegetables are soft and flavours have blended
Add your protein of choice – I used leftover chicken from a roasted chicken I made earlier in the week but shrimp or tofu would also be great
Ashley says “You want that delicious chili oil action happening”, as shown below
Then you want to prep your herbs – this really takes the soup to the next level. Some delicious cilantro and thai basil
Add your chopped cilantro and thai basil to your soup bowls with some fresh lime wedges
If you’re crazy like we are, you can also add some additional chili paste to your soup bowl (also pour yourself a big glass of water)
Ladle Laksa into bowls and enjoy!
1 large Onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves Garlic, minced (I forgot both the garlic and ginger and almost didn’t notice, so you can omit if you wish)
1 tsp Ginger, minced
1/2 lb Mushrooms, sliced
1 packet Laksa paste* or 3-4 TBSP of Laksa paste from a jar
2 tsp Ground chili with fried garlic paste* (less if you like things less spicy, omit if you want it mild)
2 TBSP Black bean paste* (also known as black bean sauce)
1 can Coconut milk
3 cups Chicken broth
2 cups Chicken, cooked and shredded, or protein of your choice
Chopped thai basil
* These ingredients can be picked up at your local Asian market.
Slice onion and add to your large soup pot with some oil and cook over medium heat until onion softens, about 5 minutes.
Slice your mushrooms, mince ginger and garlic and add to pot. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
Add black bean paste, chili paste, Laksa paste, coconut milk, and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking, covered, for about 15 minutes until flavours have combined. Add chicken and simmer 5 more minutes.
Chop herbs and add to soup bowls. Add fresh lime wedges to bowl or serve alongside.
Ladle soup into bowls and enjoy.