I had a lump in my throat as Uncle David, dad and I waved you onto your flight last night. Why did I think it would be easier from a shorter distance ? You will be sorely missed, dear Izzy. Such a happy month for us to have you around, in our settling in period in Sydney. Thank you for your enduring good cheer, great companionship and unfailing support. We did some good exploring of the city together, and I promise to keep you updated on all the continuing great finds.
When you were tiny, everyone looked at you, and after they had finished gushing over those crazy furry eyelashes of yours, they’d all say how much you looked like your dad. None of us have ever disputed that. But from me, you most certainly got the Laksa gene!
Growing up in a little town called Kuching, it was a local delicacy. My family used to go to a tiny food court called Tiger Garden after Sunday mass, and sit around a crowded table, and have bowls of this delicious curry noodle dish. A lifetime away, and living in North America, most people had never even heard of it. Luckily for us when we came home to Melbourne on holidays, Chinta Blues, a Malaysian Cafe down the lane served a good laksa, and we’d make a bee line for our fix.
You looked like a dainty little girl, but appearances belied the tolerance you had for fiery food. Dad even has a video of you in your pretty French pajamas, sitting in the blue and white stroller in Nana and Papa’s living room, wolfing down spicy fish curry. I think you were all of eighteen months. I was so proud! Haha!
So laksa! Why do we love it so? When chilly weather sets in, there is nothing better than a spicy, steaming bowl of comfort soup. The combination of fresh cilantro, bean curd, bean sprouts and omelette strips in a thin coconutty, chilli spiced broth made piquant by a squeeze of lime is quite special. In Malaysia, kalamansi lime is used, a most gorgeously fragrant variety, quite small in size with a thin dark green skin and bright orange inside. The addition of cooked shredded chicken and or prawns is optional, but it does happen to be our favourite version. On the North-West coast of the Malay archipelago, a soured fish version called Assam Laksa is made, with the addition of tamarind. But who am I kidding about the chilly weather bit? We love this soup even on the hottest day!
You were right here in the kitchen with me when we made it a couple of nights ago (thank you for taking the photos!). Dad had a work dinner, so we three girls got our socks on, and sat around the tv slurping chicken laksa and watching MasterChef. What fun, dearest Isabel! Come back soon, and we’ll cook together some more! Meanwhile, here is the easy peasy recipe. (Thank goodness for laksa paste!!)
For your household of vegans (Misha, please note), exclude the chicken of course and add the eggplant, more of the veggie ingredients, and make your stock with just the coconut milk and water. Celiacs can omit the egg noodles and just keep with the rice vermicelli ; as delicious!
Laksa (Kuching version) for four people
- two large chicken breasts
- 2 litres of water
- 1 packet fresh and crunchy bean sprouts
- 1 packet firm fried tofu
- four eggs
- 1 bunch fresh coriander/cilantro
- 1 jar of laksa paste
- 1 packet vermicelli rice noodles
- 1 small packet yellow egg noodles
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- sliced red chillies (optional for extra heat)
- 1 cupful small cooked prawns (optional)
- 1 medium-sized eggplant, sliced, grilled, and set aside (optional)
- cucumber cut into thin match sticks
- 2 fresh limes
- In a small pan of the water, gently boil the chicken breasts for about twenty minutes or until cooked through. Set aside to cool completely, and then shred by hand. Reserve the stock.
- Heat the oil in a stock pot, empty the contents of the laksa paste into the oil, and stir until fragrant. (Check the instructions on the jar to be more exact. )
- Add the chicken stock, and coconut milk, and bring to the boil, at which time, turn the heat down to a low simmer.
- Add the juice of one lime, and adjust seasoning by tasting. If more liquid is needed to make up larger bowls, add a little more coconut milk or chicken stock. The Kuching laksa soup is quite thin, so I add stock if more liquid is needed. Others (the Singaporeans for instance), like a very rich gravy, and use coconut cream and more coconut milk. You chose how you’d like your soup! After simmering for about ten minutes, turn the heat off and set aside.
- Beat the eggs in a bowl and fry a simple omelette. Fold over, and slice into thin strips when cool. Set aside.
- Boil a large pan of water, and throw in the noodles to soften. When cooked, drain, run under a cold tap and set aside.
- When you are ready to eat, turn the laksa soup pot on again to a very low simmer.
- Assemble in large bowls, some well drained noodles, bean curd strips and sprouts, egg slices, and all the other dry ingredients.
- Ladle some simmering soup into the bowls to just cover the dry ingredients, and serve with an extra wedge of lime. For those with the asbestos tongues, top with sliced red chilli. Enjoy!