In Malaysia, this dish is known simply as Curry Mee (mee=noodles), pretty self explanatory. However, in Australia, it is called Laksa. I must admit being a little confused when I first heard this because when I say laksa, I think mostly of assam laksa (a sour spicy dish with rice noodles), or laksa Johor (Johor=southern state in Malaysia) or laksa lemak (creamy laksa), all noodle dishes but not quite the same as Curry Mee.
There’s no real hard and fast recipe for Laksa / Curry Mee. Each vendor has their own secrets. I remember my cousin proclaiming that his favourite laksa stall served such good noodles because the vendor used lots of prawn heads for the stock. If you’re a fan of seafood flavours, this is definitely a great trick to get a good bowl of laksa or curry mee. Fried prawn heads (and shells) :)
The base of all laksa/ curry mee starts with the spice paste. I made my own but you could also use store-bought paste. However, it’s really not too tricky to grind your own, and you could even make the paste a few days ahead and store it in a glass jar in the fridge. What goes into the paste? Well, chillies and onions for certain, but then opinions differ. I like to also add ginger, lemon grass, fresh galangal and tumeric if available, some garlic, candle nuts and shrimp paste.
Once you have the spice paste, then it’s a pretty simple meal to put together depending on what you have on hand. It can either be “mostly-from-scratch” like the version I made using home-made chicken stock and leftover roast chicken, or it can be “foraged-from-the-shops” using bought chicken stock, ready cooked prawns and pre-seasoned firm tofu! I must say I was very curious about the Marco Pierre White endorsed stock gels, so I bought some. What can I say? It’s still packaged stock, but hey, at least it comes with a photo of the great chef on the pack!
Shhh, guess what? When I made this, I'd didn't have any more hokkien noodles, so I used dried udon noodles instead :)
Speaking of great cooking, how about sending some of your tasty Malaysian meals on to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com from 3 Hungry Tummies who will be hosting the next Muhibbah Malaysian Monday ?
Have a wonderful week and hope the weather is kind where you are.
Curry Mee/ Laksa
(serves 2 very hungry people)
Laksa paste (makes enough for two meals)
1 stalk lemon grass(white part only) - sliced into small pieces
3 eschallots (we call them bawang kecil, which means small onions)
4 dried chillies, soaked. (Reserve soaking water to moisten paste if needed)
2 fresh red chillies (I use the fresh chillies for colour and the dried for flavour)
a chunk of ginger, peeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 tsp tumeric powder (I couldn’t find fresh tumeric or galangal, otherwise I would have added it)
about a teaspoon toasted shrimp paste
2 candlenuts (if unavailable, I've heard macadamia nuts can be used)
Blitz all paste ingredients in a blender until finely ground. Or use a mortar and pestle.
Curry Mee/ Laksa
3 large heaping tablespoons laksa paste (depending on how spicy you like it).
3 cups chicken stock (you can also use vegetable stock or water but the flavour will be different)
10 prawns, remove head and shells - reserve
coconut milk (to taste. I used a small 165ml can)
firm tofu - sliced. I used about 2 squares. (The quantity of each ingredient is really up to your tastes)
handful beansprouts (remove tails)
hard-boiled eggs (1 per person)
fried tofu puffs (2 -3 per person) (try not to omit this, it’s the best part because the puffs act like a sponge and soak up the yummy soup)
Fresh Hokkien (yellow) noodles - blanched. (You can also use thin rice noodles (beehoon) or a mix of both).
You can also add shredded chicken meat if desired. Others serve the meal with a squeeze of lime juice.
Heat a large pan, add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil. When hot, add the prawn heads and shells, and fry until it smells fragrant and the oil turns red. Use a slotted spoon to remove the all the prawn shells and bits. Add the spice paste to the prawny oil, and stir fry for a couple of minutes until the paste smells fragrant. Then add the stock and coconut milk, and allow to simmer gently for at least ten minutes. The longer it simmers, the more flavourful it gets, but seriously, if you’re starving, a little simmering will do.
Whie the stock is simmering, prepare the rest of the ingredients (eg. blanch noodles, peel eggs, etc) and arrange in serving bowls.
Ladle the hot stock over and serve piping hot.
Purists will add a dollop of spicy chilli sambal but I didn’t have any on hand.