BOWLED OVER

Feel­ing the cold? MasterChef win­ner Diana Chan has the per­fect pick-me-up with her laksa that will trans­port you to the trop­i­cal heat of Pe­nang.

delicious - - MASTERCHEF -

NOTH­ING BEATS A WARM

bowl of laksa on a cold win­ter’s day. The type of laksa is de­pen­dent upon the soup base used in its recipe: ei­ther rich and savoury co­conut-milk curry laksa, fresh and sour as­sam, or a com­bi­na­tion of the two. Ev­ery state in Malaysia claims to have the best ver­sion, but my favourites are as­sam laksa and laksa Jo­hor.

Laksa Jo­hor is, for me, very dif­fer­ent to all the lak­sas found in Malaysia. It’s not as soupy, but rather more of a thick gravy con­sis­tency, and uses spaghetti noo­dles.

As­sam laksa, also known as Pe­nang laksa, is a sour fish-and-tamarind-based soup. ‘As­sam’ is the Malay word for any in­gre­di­ent that makes a dish taste sour (eg, tamarind), and lak­sas typ­i­cally use as­sam keping – dried slices of sour man­gos­teen. The main in­gre­di­ents in as­sam laksa in­clude shred­ded mack­erel and finely sliced veg­eta­bles such as cu­cum­ber, onion, red chilli, pineapple, let­tuce, mint, Viet­namese mint and gin­ger flower. As­sam laksa is nor­mally served with thick rice noo­dles and topped off with hae ko, a thick, sweet shrimp paste.

This dish is quintessen­tially Pe­nang, an is­land off the north­west of Penin­su­lar Malaysia. It’s usu­ally sold by street ven­dors and most Pe­nan­gites en­joy a bowl for lunch or din­ner. I think as­sam laksa would give curry laksa a run for its money, but both are de­li­cious.

Soak dried chill­ies in a bowl of wa­ter for 30 min­utes. Drain and set aside.

Soak tamarind pulp in a heat­proof bowl with 2 cups (500ml) boil­ing wa­ter for 20 min­utes to soften. Strain, re­serv­ing liq­uid and dis­card­ing seeds.

Bring 8 cups (2L) wa­ter to the boil in a saucepan. Add mack­erel and boil for 14 min­utes or un­til cooked through. Trans­fer fish to a bowl and set aside to cool. Strain fish stock into a clean saucepan, stir through Viet­namese mint, cover and set aside un­til needed. Coarsely shred mack­erel and set aside. For the spice paste, place drained soaked chill­ies and all paste in­gre­di­ents in a food pro­ces­sor and whiz to a paste.

Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add paste and cook, stir­ring con­stantly, for 6-8 min­utes or un­til dark­ened slightly. Re­turn stock to boil, add paste, tamarind liq­uid, sugar and fish sauce, and sim­mer.

Di­vide noo­dles and laksa among serv­ing bowls. Top with mack­erel, onion, chilli, pineapple, baby cu­cum­ber, mint and ex­tra Viet­namese mint.

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