Depending on who you read, there are either 2 major types of laksa In Singapore or 3. The 2-types theory reports make one curry-based and one tamarind-based.
I’ve never tried the tamarind-based version, and I don’t know if I can lay my hands on a tamarind. Hence, I’m making a curry-based version.
When I learned to make Singapore laksa, the grand-kids would not eat fish or prawns, so I used to do it with chicken instead. How times have changed. One now eats prawns quite happily, while the other is a vegetarian who will not touch chicken, but fish and prawns are very definitely on the menu.
Tonight I’m using prawns. If you try this dish out, hack about with the ingredients until you get something that suits you.
Curry laksa is basically simply a stock (chicken or fish), with some curry ingredients to make it spicy, some coconut milk to tone down the heat of the curry, and noodles as the filler. Plus some protein on top. There is nothing sophisticated here. It is street food.
I’m starting with a chicken stock. I want enough between the stock and the coconut milk that I will still have something soupy even after the noodles have soaked up some of the juice.
My curry core is a Thai red curry paste that we get from the Dutch deli in Lagos. This is based on dried red peppers, and it is going to turn my soup red. Other recipes add curry powder, but there is a flavour in curry powder I dislike, possibly cumin, and my Thai red curry sauce does not have any of that.
Take a frying pan and put in a glug of vegetable oil. Throw in some chopped onion and pepper and soften these. Make and add your chicken stock. Add some Thai red curry paste, plus some lemon grass, Kaffir lime leaves, and I also add a splash of fish sauce. I did that even when the grand-kids turned up their noses at fish and prawns, and I never got a single complaint. Add enough coconut milk to make the whole thing drinkable. As in tasty, but not blow your head off.
Par-cook your noodles in boiling water. The aim is to get them soft enough to polish off the cooking in your curry mix, where they will soak up some of the flavour, so do not overdo the boiling water part.
What do I add? Let me see, the prawns will take only a short time. I’m adding some coriander (ciltrano) to flavour the soup with some as a garnish.
I have seen recipes with other additions. Garlic in the initial fry mix. Ginger, but I would only add fresh ginger, which I do not have in the house at the moment. Tofu chunks – it’s a shame I had not seen this earlier, because I’d be interested to find out if one can flavour tofu with anything, The one that strikes me as a bit odd is half a hard-boiled egg. Mind you, food in Malaysia seems to bung a hard-boiled egg into several dishes.
Then you have a big hearty bowl of Singapore laksa. The next challenge is – how are you going to eat it? It’s soupy but do you plump for a spoon, or do you go for chopsticks, or both?