Laksa – Sin­ga­pore’s culi­nary con­tri­bu­tion

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

As pho is Viet­nam’s gift to the world, Ka­tong laksa is Sin­ga­pore’s culi­nary con­tri­bu­tion.

Laksa is best de­scribed as a form of noo­dle soup that is ubiq­ui­tous in Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia. There are two main ver­sions of this dish, laksa le­mak (also known as nonya laksa) which is a co­conut milk and curry based broth com­mon in Sin­ga­pore, and as­sam laksa, which is a fish and tamarind, based broth com­mon in Malaysia. There are other vari­a­tions but all con­tain the pri­mary in­gre­di­ents of rice noodles or ver­mi­celli with any­thing from fish­cakes, prawns, cock­les, to eggs, tofu puffs, chicken and sam­bal chilli.

Two of the defin­ing flavours in this dish would have to be the laksa leaves (also known as Viet­namese mint), which have taken over my glass house like trif­fids, and dried shrimps. I was in a quandary whether to cre­ate the paste for you from scratch or go with a pre-made paste. I am­not one to usu­ally use pre-made pastes, how­ever, as the list of in­gre­di­ents is so long, I de­cided to go with the lat­ter as feared no-one would make it oth­er­wise! Rest as­sured, I did sam­ple a num­ber of the pre-made pastes and chose the one clos­est to the lak­sas I fondly re­mem­ber from Sin­ga­pore.

We ate this dish a lot when we lived there as our house was only a few blocks from the fa­mous Ka­tong area where laksa is said to have orig­i­nated. It was in­spired by the Per­anakans, eth­nic Chi­nese who set­tled in Bri­tish Straights Set­tle­ments (such as Sin­ga­pore) and mar­ried Malay or In­done­sian part­ners, re­sult­ing in a de­li­cious fu­sion of food cul­tures. There are many Per­anakans cur­rently based in Ka­tong, one of food­ies’ favourite spots in Sin­ga­pore.

This dish is sim­ple to make and will im­press your guests or fam­ily with its de­li­cious flavour pro­file, vi­brant look and au­then­tic taste. If you cant find the same brand paste, be aware that they vary in heat and you may need to add a lit­tle fish sauce, lime or palm sugar to get the flavour that suits your palate.

In­gre­di­ents

3 ta­ble­spoons vege oil 1 x 200g jar of Por Kwan Laksa paste (avail­able at Queen­stown New World) 400ml chicken or fish stock 1 x 400ml can co­conut milk 1 pack Tri­dent flat rice noodles 12 fish­balls (avail­able at the Asian Food Mart) – op­tional 300g un­cooked prawns, tails on 1 tea­spoon palm or brown sugar (if you find the sauce too tangy)

Gar­nish

2 good hand­fuls bean sprouts 2 free range eggs, hard-boiled and quar­tered 1 good hand­ful laksa leaf (Viet­namese mint), thinly sliced (you could use co­rian­der and mint in­stead but the flavour is quite dif­fer­ent) 1 fresh chilli, thinly sliced 1 lime, quar­tered

Method

1. To make the sauce, heat the vege oil to a medium high heat and cook the paste for 10 min­utes, stir­ring fre­quently, un­til it dark­ens and a red oil sep­a­rates out from the spices. 2. Pour in your co­conut milk and stock and sim­mer for a fur­ther 5-6 min­utes. 3. Add in your fish ball (if us­ing) and sim­mer an­other 2-3 min­utes. 4. Mean­while, cook your rice noodles ac­cord­ing to in­struc­tions. Blanch the bean sprouts in boil­ing wa­ter for 10 sec­onds then run un­der cold wa­ter im­me­di­ately. 5. Put prawns in the laksa sauce and cook for 2-3 min­utes, un­til pink. 6. Drain noodles and spread evenly be­tween four bowls. Pour laksa sauce over and spread prawns and fish­balls evenly amongst the bowls. 7. Gar­nish with the blanched bean sprouts, sprin­kle with laksa leaf, chilli and place a lime and two quar­ters of egg in each bowl. Serve im­me­di­ately. 8. Pro­vide some fish sauce, chilli, lime and laksa leaf so guests can add flavour to suit their palate. Serves 4

Sin­ga­porean laksa by Masterchef NZ fi­nal­ist Bec Stan­ley

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