Notice I say “vegetable” and not “vegetarian” laksa ? Well, there’s a reason for it and I wouldn’t want to lie. While I am a full-time vegetarian, there are some things for which I shift the Vegetarian line a little. Fruit jubes are one such item – it is a well known fact that they have gelatine in them but they are so yummy I cannot resist. My mother who is quite often a proselytizing (ha ha , big word ! It means the act of trying to convert others) vegetarian has a soft spot for fruit jubes. Of course, these days, pectin is used as a substitute but a couple of decades ago, it wasn’t so common, not even in India.
Curry laksa is another dish for which I slightly modify the definition of “vegetarian”. Those who have eaten laksa will agree with me that it is this amazing taste explosion. Once you’ve had a good laksa, you will crave for more. One of our favourite hangouts in Melbourne was a place called “Coconut curry house” that made some pretty awesome curry laksa. If you are ever there, you must try some. More recently, a Malaysian colleague of mine brought us over some authentic curry laksa. Her mum made the paste and she put it together. We thought it was super fantastic and ever since that day, I’ve been wanting to make some myself. I am currently working on getting her to give me her mum’s recipe but it isn’t so straightforward. In a desperate attempt, I went to the one Malaysian store in this town to buy some laksa paste.
Turning the packet over for ingredients is something I do out of habit. Sure enough, in decent sized letters were the words “shrimp paste”. Of course, I went through the internal dialogue and emotional turmoil of “should I, shouldn’t I” and did look for a vegetarian version of the paste. I had no luck finding a vegetarian version and my craving won so I came back with the paste, some fried tofu, slender eggplants, bean sprouts and bok choy (Chinese cabbage). If I have offended you at this point, please don’t read on. My next recipe will be a 100% vegetarian I promise.
For a packet laksa, it turned out pretty well but given it is from a packet, it is a “cheat’s” laksa. The paste make a LOT of laksa sauce so be willing to share with friends and neighbours. I have two boxes frozen down for a rainy day. The current English summer is giving us plenty of rainy days so it shouldn’t be hard to find an occasion to eat more laksa.
Ingredients (makes enough for 4-6 people – picture 1):
1 packet laksa paste (read the instructions on the packet to work out how many servings you can make)
100 gms of rice vermicelli
400ml coconut milk ( 1 can)
1/2 a zucchini
3 slender eggplants
1 cup of bean sprouts
1-2 bunches of bok choy (depending on how much you like it)
1-2 packets of friend,puffed, tofu
2 large eggs ( add more if you and your guests like eggs)
1 teaspoon of oil for sauté-ing
1. Chop the carrots, zucchini and eggplants into long sticks (picture 2).
2. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the eggs to it (picture 7).
3. In a pan, heat the oil and add the chopped eggplants to it. Cook until the eggplants have released their juices and have gone glossy (Pictures 4, 11 and 12).
4. To the pot with the eggs, add the carrots, zucchini and let them cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. To the vegetable pot add bean sprouts and bok choy and let them cook for 2-3 more minutes (picture 13).
6. Drain the vegetables and eggs using a colander and run them under cold water to keep them looking fresh (picture 14).
7. Peel and slice the hard-boiled eggs and set them aside (pictures 8 & 9) .
8. In a smaller pot, bring water to a boil and add the vermicelli to it. After 4-5 minutes, add the puffed tofu to the pot and turn off the heat. My theory is that this makes the tofu more absorbent so when you toss it into the curry laksa, it will soak up the sauce better (picture 10).
9. While the vermicelli is cooking, get the laksa ready.
a. Firstly, drain off as much excess oil from the packet as you can (picture 3).
b. In a dry pan, add the paste and sauté until the raw smell of the paste has disappeared (picture 5).
c. To the now re-cooked paste, add the coconut milk and 1 litre of water (picture 6).
d. Add the puffed tofu to the sauce so it can absorb the flavours.
e. Turn the heat source off just as the laksa begins to bubble. Don’t over-boil the laksa or it will start to separate.
10. The assembly of the curry laksa bowl (pictures 15 & 16).
a. First, place a small serving of noodles in the bottom of the bowl.
b. Then add a generous serving of the blanched vegetables to the bowl.
c. Then add some fried eggplant pieces and puffed tofu.
d. Then decorate with sliced, hard-boiled eggs.
e. Pour 2-3 generous scoops of the laksa onto the vegetables and serve while hot.
11. Don’t forget to provide your guests with a fork/chopsticks and a spoon to drink the laksa.
1. If you are cooking for 1 or 2 people, then use a portion of the paste (1/4 probably), small can of coconut milk and 250mL of water.
2. Traditional curry laksa doesn’t have the extra vegetables like eggplant, carrots, zucchini but I was trying to get more veggies in. Please feel free to omit these.
3. If you are not a vegetarian, then you’d substitute the vegetables with prawns or fish cake.