Following on from the pun-tastic Ham Hockusai, I thought I’d stick with the Oriental theme and attack the laksa. As ever, I hadn’t really appreciated what I was letting myself in for. Laksa, far from being a simple dish, is pretty complicated. For starters there are two distinct types: curry laksa which tends to be a coconut curry with noodles and asam laksa which is a sour fish soup with noodles (and not a type of tea).
It is commonly found across China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and increasingly across Australia. It derives a lot of its flavour from ground, dried shrimps.
I decided to make a curry laksa sticking relatively closely to a very authentic recipe I found, shamefully, on Delia’s website!
I bought my mussels from Moxon’s just outside Clapham South tube station and went in search of the other key ingredients in Balham where I managed to find everything except dried shrimp paste. Bugger.
After some excellent suggestions from Lizzie, Essex Gourmet and Kelsie Mortimer decided to mash up some prawns with a dash of anchovy essence, Worcester Sauce and lemon juice. It’s clearly not ideal, but it seemed to do the trick!
Here’s how I made my mussel and prawn laksa:
Empty a kilo of mussels into a colander and run under cold water. Pull out their beards and give them a good rinse. Leave them on the side as you’ll only need them a fair bit later.
Then you need to make your spicy paste. To do this grab a handful of chillies, two stems of lemon grass, a few shallots, a spoonful of turmeric, a knob of galangal (or ginger) and your home made shrimp paste (or better still, the real deal if you can find it). Add some liquid and blitz this in a blender and you’ll be left with a wonderfully orange, fragrant, spicy paste that will be the base of your laksa.
Then toast a handful of nuts in a hot wok so that they turn golden. Remove them and then fry your paste in a glug of vegetable or groundnut oil. The aromas should almost knock the pan out of your hand. Let this sizzle for a couple of minutes and then add a can of coconut milk and the same amount of chicken stock.
Allow this to simmer for 10 minutes and then add the mussels, a pack of prawns and enough vermicelli noodles for two. When they are almost done add half a bag of beansprouts and scatter with half of the toasted nuts. Season and then ladle into deep bowls.
Garnish with a wedge of lime, some crushed toasted nuts and Vietnamese mint if you’ve got it.
It was comforting, spicy, vibrant and a joy to eat. Slurping and guzzling sounds are a sure fire sign of culinary satisfaction! I sank back in my seat and sighed. Muscle relaxer indeed.