"I have long been a fan of laksa, a rich noodle soup made famous by the Nyonya cooking of Singapore and Malaysia," says Manfield. "It's something I've made ever since I first started cooking, and I tweak it every now and then for a subtle difference. The soup can be adapted to use chicken or fish stock or a combination. To make it vegetarian, use a spiced vegetable stock and double the amount of tofu. This soup is one of my defining tastes of the '90s, loved for its restorative and seductive flavour. The laksa paste and the stock can be made ahead of time, making the last-minute cooking and assembly quick and easy."
- 500 ml coconut milk (2 cups)
- 1 tbsp chilli jam
- 750 ml fish or chicken stock (3 cups)
- Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 150 gm silken tofu, cut into 12 cubes
- 1½ tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
- 12 large uncooked king prawns, peeled, tails intact, deveined and butterflied
- 1 tbsp lime juice, or to taste
- 300 gm fresh thin rice noodles (see note)
- 100 gm bean sprouts
- Fried shallots, thinly sliced small red chilli, coriander and Vietnamese mint, to serve
- 120 ml vegetable oil
- 25 gm candlenuts (see note)
- 6 red shallots, coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 4 red birdseye chillies, finely chopped
- 2 coriander roots, finely chopped
- 2 long red dried chillies, roasted and ground (see cook’s notes)
- 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
- 1 tbsp finely chopped Vietnamese mint
- 2 tsp belacan, roasted (see note)
- 1 tsp finely grated lime rind
- 1 tsp galangal, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh turmeric, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried prawns, roasted and ground
- 1 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground (see cook’s notes)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1For laksa paste, blend ingredients in a food processor or a blender to a smooth paste. Store in a sealed container covered with a film of oil and refrigerate until ready to use. Laksa paste will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks.
- 2To make the soup, combine coconut milk, chilli jam and ¼ cup laksa paste (reserve remaining for another use) in a large saucepan, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer to infuse and develop flavours (10 minutes). Add stock, bring back to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
- 3Heat oil in a deep-fryer or deep saucepan to 180C. Deep-fry tofu in batches until puffed and golden brown (4-5 minutes; be careful, hot oil will spit). Drain on paper towels.
- 4Add fish sauce to soup, remove from heat, pass through a fine sieve (discard solids), return soup to pan and bring back to simmering point. Add prawns and simmer gently until opaque and just cooked (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in lime juice, taste and adjust balance if necessary with extra fish sauce and lime juice.
- 5To serve, divide noodles evenly among bowls, add fried tofu, ladle soup and prawns over and served scattered with bean sprouts, fried shallots, sliced chilli, coriander and mint.
Fresh rice noodles, candlenuts and shrimp paste (known as belacan in Malaysia) are available from Asian grocers. If you can’t find fresh noodles, use cooked dried rice noodles. To roast shrimp paste, wrap in foil and roast in a 200C oven until pungent (2-3 minutes).
Drink Suggestion: A chenin blanc from the Loire (I love Domaine Pichot Vouvray), or one from the Perth Hills. Drink suggestion by Christine Manfield