I was watching UKTV Food a few days ago and young woman was making laksa on the show. I had never seen or even heard of laksa before but it had seafood so I was intrigued. It looked so good on TV. She was even making the stock from scratch with shrimp shells. I wasn’t too sure about the coconut milk because I usually don’t like coconut but I decided to give it a go. It seems like it’s the latest trend for me to try to make things I see on TV! I suppose that is not uncommon as most of us tend to “eat” with our eyes first.
We had almost everything we needed for the laksa from our trip to a small Oriental shop in Wood Green but I had my heart set on a ceramic spoon and chopsticks for the pictures so Matt drove me to Oriental City about half an hour away. What an experience! We had the best Dim Sum ever and came home with more goodies from the big supermarket there.
I had a recipe for laksa that I found online; it wasn’t the one on TV which is the one I really wanted but it would do. I ended up not following it to the T and sort of creating my own recipe but it was a good guideline.
The first thing that struck me was the foul smell of the laksa paste when I opened the jar. It was one of the worst smelling edibles I have ever come across. I thought right then and there that I would not like this dish after all but I continued just so I could give it a fair judgement when finished. However, once the coconut milk and the stock were added, it didn’t taste as bad as it smelled. In fact, it tasted good. I think the coconut milk and the laksa paste sort of balance each other out so that the broth is not too fishy or too coconuty, if that makes any sense.
It was fairly easy to cook. I used bean vermicelli (cellophane) noodles for no other reason than they look cool! Any noodle will do though. I will give the recipe before I give my final opinion of the laksa so you can draw your own conclusions. This is the actual recipe I used:
5 oz tofu, cut into bite size pieces
1 tbsp oil
4 fl oz laksa paste
280 ml coconut milk
375 ml vegetable or chicken stock
15 fish balls (precooked)
100 g raw shrimp, peeled
80 g uncooked noodles
Prepare the noodles as per package instructions.
In a large wok or saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the laksa paste. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and stock. Turn the heat to high and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered for 8 minutes.
Add the fish balls and tofu and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the noodles and prawns and simmer until they are both cooked. Serve.
Serves 3-4 people
First of all, we found the fish balls absolutely disgusting. We have had pork and chicken balls before with no problems but the fish balls are just vile. No problem, we just took them out of our bowls and kept on eating. The rest of the soup was actually nice and I’d make it again minus the fish balls.
Another then I’d change is that I would use firmer tofu. We got some that was quite soft and while it didn’t disintegrate, it wasn’t right. Alternatively, I’d subsitute the tofu for chicken which is not really traditional but who cares. I would also cook the noodles separately, put in bowls and then pour the laksa over them; although that wouldn’t really change the taste.
It was definitely a learning experience (we learned we hate fish balls) and I’m glad I made it. I don’t want to be one of those people that never discover the wonderful foods of the world because they are constantly afraid to eat anything they are not used to eating; maybe out of habit or maybe out of fear they are going to hate it; or maybe because it “sounds bad”. I like to experiment (although I do have limits) because you don’t know if you like something or not until you actually try it. After that, if you don’t like it, you get on with your life but if you do, you’ll be glad you took that first step.
And just for a laugh…….