Saturday, January 24, 2009
Owing to the fact that I have been avoiding health hazardous commercially made noodles over the years and have been discouraging my children from consuming noodles when they eat out have made us into a non noodle eating family in the home. Most of the time. And since the fascination and novelty of making my own homemade flat rice noodles (kuay teow) has finally fizzled out and come to a hiatus (at least until I regain both energy and zeal to make homemade noodles of any kind again) a curry laksa recipe post was something that I have been postponing for the past several weeks.
But, being the animal that I am, my appetite has gotten the better of me. So although no one at home will eat curry laksa, for various reasons (allergy, spicy, bean sprouts etc), with the exception of number 3 son who, thankfully, will try anything, familiar or strange, I have decided to cook up a small pot of this very racially and culturally ambiguous dish using, instead of yellow noodles, pasta vermicelli (the safest type that I can find that does not contain preservaties and such) as the noodle base.
I have to say that curry laksa is one of my favourite dishes ever since I was exposed to it at the ripe old age of twenty. It is a complete dish (in taste rather than nutritionally) in the sense that it is spicy, is soupy, is creamy, is noodley, and (at the risk of sounding cheesy) is Malay, is Chinese and is loved by Asians and westerners (especially Australians) alike.
I find it quite hard to claim curry laksa as a Malay dish because Malaysian Chinese cook and specialize in this dish just as feverishly. Or perhaps even more so. So I do tend to believe that this is a dish that was invented by the Nyonyas (originally Chinese immigrants who adopted Malay culture in the choice of language they used and in the way they dressed and cooked their food). And thus I believe the curry laksa was born.
And like other nyonya dishes which have, over the centuries, resulted in the perfect balance between the elements of Malay and Chinese cuisine, curry laksa is one of the most satisfying, sought after noodle dish in the country that is palatable and very flavour friendly to all, whether they have been born and bred with it or have only recently been acquainted with it.
The Malay components of the curry laksa are the coconut milk, the sambal, the ground paste of onions, chillies and lemon grass while the Chinese features are the tofu, the noodles and the soupy-ness of it.
Ironically, one could make the most horrible tasting curry laksa by using (gasp) curry powder. I had this most ghhoribble dish of curry laksa at the 'new' Kota Kinabalu airport many years ago and I almost threw up. And that was at a time when I had no idea how to make curry laksa and yet instinctively I knew that it was all simply a dish of big mistake.
So you should never cook a dish (this is a warning to all chefs/cooks at airport restaurants) based on its name ONLY. Do some googling for heaven's sake or ask your mother.
Ellice Handy's curry laksa recipe is one that never fails me if I follow it closely. Authentic, 'clean' and precise is how I would describe recipes that she has devotedly written down. Click here to find out more about Ellice Handy. Since I have tried no other recipe for curry laksa hers is what I will be posting now with a few very minor adjustments to accommodate the use of packaged coconut milk and some additional topping ingredients.
600 gm fresh prawns, shelled and cleaned
small fish balls made from :
300 gm ikan tenggiri/mackeral or ikan parang(don't know the english translation for this)**
5-6 teacups thin coconut milk, the consistency of thinned milk
2 cups thick coconut milk, the consistency of full cream milk
salt to taste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Ingredients to be ground and mixed to a paste :
2 dessertspoons coriander powder
* 3 stalks serai, sliced
1/2 cup galangal/lengkuas, sliced
*6 candlenuts/buah keras
*12 - 14 dried chillies, soaked and de-seeded
*1 cm fresh tumeric/kunyit
*a slice of belacan (1 inch square pc)
*1 cup shallots
All * ingredients to be ground in a food processor or blender until it becomes a fine paste and then mixed with the coriander powder.
Put oil in a deep pot and when hot add ground ingredients and saute until fragrant and the oil begins to seperate from the ingredients. Add the prawns and a little salt. Fry for about 5 minutes and then add 5 cups of thin milk.
When it boils add the fish balls and when the fish is cooked, add teh 2 cups of thick coconut milk, adding more salt if necessary and stirring gravy to prevent the coconut milk from curdling. Keep fire low. When gravy begins to come to a boil, remove pan from fire. keep aside
450 gm beehoon or yellow noodles (preferably homemade) :D
6-7 tofu puffs, halved
300 gm bean sprouts, cleaned, scalded and drained
fresh cockles, boiled briefly and drained, optional or /and
1 cucumber, deseeded and shredded
Golden fried shallots
To serve :
Put a serving of noodles each into 4 -6 deep bowls or soup plates.Top it with the tofu puffs beansprouts, cucumber, cockles (if using) and shredded chicken meat. Pour piping hot curry gravy over the noodles etc. Top with sambal for extra spiciness if desired. Serve.
NOTE : Instead of fish balls I made chicken balls as I could not get the fish that I was looking for. Nothing could be easier than making your own fish/chicken/meat balls if you have a food processor. I am not inclined to buy ready made fish balls because they contain, like manufactured noodles, boric acid, preservaties and loads of msg. For the chicken balls I used :
500 gm of chicken breast meat, cut into chunks
1 1/2 tsp salt
Process the 3 ingredients in a food processor until it becomes a fine paste. Remove, shape into small sized balls and dunk in boiling water until they float to the top. Remove and drain. Any extra can be kept in the refrigerator to snack on, for noodle soups or for stir fries with veggies.