Laksa, the epic Malaysian spicy coconut noodle soup, is a must-try at least once in your life! The soup is rich, fragrant and a bit spicy, and loaded with all the essential classic Laksa toppings. This is an easy Laksa recipe because the base is a store bought Laksa paste which is dolled up to make a restaurant quality Laksa. You can’t just dump laksa paste into coconut milk!!
I am obsessed with Laksa.
My mother will disown me for saying this, but I am pretty sure that Laksa would be my Last Meal.
She will also be able to attest to my obsession with Laksa. Because approximately once a month, I will call her and bluntly say “I need Laksa”.
Not want. Need. I really love where I live in the beautiful upper Northern Beaches of Sydney. But Asian food is sadly lacking……
So to get my real Asian fix, I trek wide and far as required. For Laksa, I have been known to drive an hour to a place called Temasek in Parramatta which I think has the best Laksa in Sydney
Let me put that another way. I drive a 2 hour round trip for a bowl of Laksa that takes 15 minutes to consume and I’m booted out of my seat the minute I finish slurping the soup. This place is in hot demand!
What is Laksa?
Laksa is a spicy noodle soup from Malaysia, also found in other South East Asian counties including Singapore and Indonesia. Laksa as we know it here in Australia is made with a coconut broth that is spicy and fragrant. However, there are actually quite a few different types of Laksas and those who travel to Malaysia are often surprised to learn that the most popular Laksa has a much stronger curry flavour and is not made with a coconut broth.
So the coconut broth Laksa that is so wildly popular here in Australia is actually not widely available in Malaysia. Nevertheless – doesn’t it look ridiculously delicious??
How to make Laksa
Making a Laksa from scratch requires speciality ingredients such as dried shrimp, dried shrimp paste, candlenuts and galangal. I’ve only made it a handful of times. And it’s always a big occasion when I do – I make a big deal of it. “I made that from scratch”, I’ll say smugly, repeatedly.
Today, I’m sharing a Laksa recipe that starts with a store bought Laksa paste. If you’ve ever tried to make laksa at home using a store bought paste and just added that to coconut milk like it says to do on the jar, you’ve probably been sorely disappointed with the outcome.
That’s because like any curry paste, Laksa paste benefits greatly from some freshening up. Just a bit of garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chilli sautéed before adding the store bought paste will take this Laksa from meh to mind blowingly delicious!
My preferred Laksa paste is Por Kwan Laksa Paste which is the one on the right which is available from Asian grocery stores. Ayam Laksa Paste, the jar on the left, is the brand that is found at supermarkets in Australia (Woolworths, Coles). It is a bit sweeter and the flavour is not quite as intense, so refer to the notes for how to adjust the broth flavour if you use Ayam Laksa Paste.
What’s in Laksa?
For me, the crowning glory of Laksa is the spicy coconut broth. I want it on tap. I could happily drink it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, Laksa does actually have some things in it other than the broth:
1. Noodles – In Sydney, Laksa is most commonly served with just vermicelli noodles, the thin white rice noodles. However, at the hardcore Laksa places, it is served more traditionally with both vermicelli and hokkien noodles. I usually just make it with vermicelli but when I’m going all out, I use Hokkien Noodles too.
2. Essential: Tofu Puffs – They’re spongey, they look weird and if it’s your first time seeing them, you’re probably suspicious of them. I’m here to tell you – these babies are essential for a truly great Laksa! They are just tofu that’s been deep fried, and yes they are as spongey as they look. Which makes them perfect vehicles to soak up the glorious coconut broth and so you experience a moment of pure bliss when you bite into the tofu puff and all that juice squirts into your mouth……
3. Toppings: I am much more flexible about the toppings than I am about tofu puffs! Typically Laksa comes with bean sprouts and either seafood or sliced or shredded chicken (my favourite). Other additions include any combination of fried shallots (I forgot to put it on for the photos!!), sliced fresh scallions / shallots, sliced fresh red chillies, coriander / cilantro and lime wedges.
4. Chilli Paste – Last but certainly not least is the Chilli Paste that is always served on the side (at good Laksa joints!) so you can add more flavour and heat into your Laksa. The Chilli Paste is made with more than just chilli and I’ve never come across a recipe for it so I made my own up. This stuff is gold, and a little dab of this added into the coconut broth is one of my secrets. 🙂
Who knew that I would be able to write almost 1,000 words about a humble noodle soup without pausing for a breath??
But honestly, if there is one soup to write an essay about, it’s got to be Laksa.
Big punchy flavours. Fragrant, rich and spicy.
This soup is me in a bowl. – Nagi x
- 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
- 1 tbsp minced chili from jar or paste , or more Sriracha
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil (any plain oil)
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp Laksa paste (Note 4)
- 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
- 1/2 garlic clove , minced
- 2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock / broth
- 1 cup (250 ml) water
- 2 large or 3 medium chicken drumsticks (Note 2)
- 1 1/2 tbsp oil
- 2 garlic cloves , minced
- 2 cm / 4/5" piece of ginger , finely grated*
- 1 lemongrass , white part grated*, reserve stalk (Note 3a)
- 2 birds eye chillis , finely chopped (Note 3b)
- 1/2 cup / 175g laksa paste (Note 4)
- 400 g / 14 oz can coconut milk (Note 5)
- 1 - 2 tsp fish sauce
- 50 g / 1.5 oz vermicelli noodles , dried
- 100 g / 3.5oz hokkien noodles (optional - or use more vermicelli) (Note 6)
- 80 g / 2.5 oz bean sprouts
- 80 g / 2.5 oz tofu puffs , cut in half (Note 7)
- Fresh coriander / cilantro
- Lime wedges
- Crispy fried shallots (Note 8)
- Finely sliced red chilli
Chilli Paste: Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside for 20 minutes.
Chicken Stock: Place the Chicken Stock ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to simmer then reduce to medium high. Cook for 25 minutes or until chicken flesh is falling off the bone and liquid is reduced to approx 2 cups. Discard skin, pull flesh off the bone and place in bowl, discard bone. Set broth aside.
Heat oil in a large saucepan or small pot over medium low heat. Add garlic and ginger, sauté for 20 seconds, then add lemongrass and chillis. Cook for 1 minute.
Add laksa paste. Turn heat up to medium and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, or until fragrant.
Add chicken stock, coconut milk, 1 tsp fish sauce and 2 tsp of Chilli Paste. Tie the lemongrass stalk into a knot and pop it in too. Place lid on and simmer on for 10 minutes.
Adjust to taste using lime juice (for sour) and fish sauce (for saltiness).
Meanwhile, prepare noodles according to packet instructions.
Add tofu puffs into broth.
Divide noodles between 2 bowls. Top with chicken. Pour broth over chicken. Top with beansprouts. Sprinkle with Garnishes you choose to use. Serve with Chilli Paste on the side.
* If you don't have a fine grater, you can finely chop them. Very finely!
1. Part of the laksa experience in Sydney includes the chilli paste that is served on the side of the Laksa which I always dollop generously onto my Laksa. It is not just plain chilli, it has much more flavour. I've never found a recipe for it so have created my own. Some of it is used to add more punch to the laksa broth, and the rest is used to serve on the side.
2. I love making this with drumsticks because the flesh that falls off the bone looks and tastes like the chicken in Laksa that is served at proper Malaysian joints. Also the chicken skin adds richness to the broth. It can be made with chicken breast and thigh, poached per recipe and sliced, but it is not as authentic!
3a. Lemongrass - peel the outer layer off then use just the juicy white bit on the bottom, usually around 3-4cm / 1.5". Don't use the green reedy parts.
3b. Birds eye chillies are small red chillis that are commonly found in Australia. Around 3cm long, they are spicy! Deseed them to reduce hear - I leave the seeds in. Feel free to substitute with any spicy chilli you have.
4. My preferred Laksa Paste is called Por Kwan (see photo in post) which is available at most Asian stores. If I'm really desperate, I use Ayam Laksa paste available at Woolworths and Coles in Australia, but it is a bit sweeter than Por Kwan - balance it out with a bit more fish sauce or a squeeze of lime juice.
The amount of laksa paste required will depend on the brand you use - some have more intense flavours than others. Start with 1/2 cup for sautéing, then after you add the coconut milk, have a taste test and if you want a stronger flavour, add more laksa paste to taste. Also add fish sauce for saltiness.
5. My preferred is full fat coconut milk. If I'm desperate and trying to be healthy, I will use low fat. I find coconut cream too rich for me.
6. The "best" serious Laksa joints in Sydney serve laksa with both vermicelli and hokkien noodles. However, most laksa places only use vermicelli.
7. Tofu puffs are essential for a true laksa experience! They are deep fried tofu that are "sponge-like". They soak up the broth so when you bite into them, the broth squirts out in your mouth. They are sold at Asian stores and at Harris Farm Markets in Sydney, in the fridge section with the noodles. They don't need cooking, they just need to be plonked in the soup to heat up as they soak up the broth.
If you really can't find it, the laksa will still be gorgeous. Tofu puffs are more about the laksa experience rather than flavour. 🙂
8. Crispy fried shallots can be purchased at Coles/Woolworths in Australia and Asian grocery stores. They are crispy salt fried shallots pieces that are used to garnish laksa. I am kicking myself for forgetting to garnish my laksa with it!
9. Nutrition per giant bowl. Worth every single calorie, I swear! If you use light coconut milk, it reduces to 516 calories per serving with 34.3g fat.
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LIFE OF DOZER
Spotted FOOD in the water….(i.e. fish!)