November 20th, 2009


Prawn Coconut Laksa

Recently I inadvertently came across Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey but to be honest I do not like watching him cook as I find it a bit cringe worthy at the best of times. However I really enjoyed watching this series as it was very informative and I found myself glued to the telly. This was to see something I had not seen before or to be given the first explanation on how something  was made, grown or looked like before it was worked into the object that we buy in the shops. In particular I enjoyed watching how they made rice noodles.

Rick Stein was chatting with these cooks who had learned to cook  for survival from their parents and this knowledge had been passed  from generation to generation. Food in the far east is a matter of survival rather than consumption for enjoyment. Lets face it if I was to go without food for a couple of days I would easily survive as I’m well fed and perhaps it would do me good not to eat but for those people food means survival. It makes me feel guilty and a bit like a fat pig  and at the best of times as I take food for granted.It’s too easy to discard food if its gone past its date or if I have too much as I have overstocked. Throwing food away for these people is not an option, it’s a matter of survival.

They used fresh turmeric as much as we use garlic and  it went into nearly everything they cooked. Rick  pointed out that it made a huge difference  to the food, so I made a mental note to buy some when I next saw it. So when I saw fresh turmeric at the Oriental store on my twice yearly visit, I nearly fainted. After I made this laksa paste I froze the remainder of the fresh turmeric which I shall only use for my very special dishes. It’s a great find indeed, it looks almost  like fresh ginger however the arms are thinner.I suggest that you  peel it very carefully as it’s easy to waste more than you really need.


I also found these fantastic pea aubergines and choi sum, not something I would  find easily at my local supermarket but a great treat if you visit the Oriental store only twice a year like I do. I also bought freshly made ramen noodles for this delicious prawn coconut laska recipe.

We ate like kings and thoroughly enjoyed the freshly made laksa paste. As it’s not very easy to make only a small amount of the laska paste, I made the whole recipe and froze the remainder of the paste. I used  a rubber ice cube tray, so next time I can easily pop the frozen laksa paste pellets out of the tray and cook  from frozen. It’s incredible how the fresh taste is locked in, add a dash of fresh lime juice to your laksa right at the end just before serving, this will help to highlight the freshness of the dish.

If you cannot find pea aubergines use ordinary aubergines instead, they add a meatiness to the dish. Replace the choi sum with bok choy or even pac-choi,  as this works just as well. If you happen to have very fresh mackerel or salmon, slice it very thinly, place the raw fish slices on top of the warm noodles and then pour the boiling hot laksa over the raw fish, this will cook the fish in seconds, it’s delicious!

Merrill Stubs from Food52 writes for The New York Times and is the creative contributor to The New Staples column enjoyed this recipe and in particular the use of fresh turmeric. Read more about what Merrill said about fresh turmeric….

Fresh Home-Made Laksa Paste

  • 100ml peanut oil
  • 5g fresh turmeric, peeled and finely grated
  • 5g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp shrimp paste
  • 90g fresh coriander and roots, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, remove the stalks
  • 1 stick of lemongrass, chopped
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • 1red chillies, de-seeded and sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, diced

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until a smooth paste.

Alternatively use a pestle and mortar to grind all the ingredients till fine.

I found it difficult to just make what you need so I make a larger quantity and then freeze the paste in ice cube trays, use them from frozen, perfect.

Prawn Coconut Laksa Soup

  • 80g aubergine, cut into 2cm dice lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 80g pea aubergines, washed and stalks removed
  • 1tbs sesame oil
  • 1tbs sunflower oil
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 4tbs of the freshly made Laksa Paste
  • 6 large peeled tiger prawns (3 per person or 5 smaller ones each)
  • 2 portions of fresh ramen noodles
  • 1 choi sum, shredded
  • 1tbs fish sauce
  • 2tbs fresh bean shoots
  • 2 tbs fresh coriander roughly chopped
  • ½ fresh lime
  • 1 spring onion finely sliced

Heat a wok or large saucepan with the sesame and sunflower oil, wok the seasoned aubergines and pea aubergines until golden brown and remove from the pan, set aside keep them warm.

In the same wok fry the prawns for 2 -3 minutes, set aside, keep warm.

Fry the laksa paste in the same wok for 2 minutes, stir continuously, deglaze with the fish sauce and add the stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes.

While the soup is coming to the boil bring a large saucepan with salted water to the boil and cook the ramen noodles until tender, drain.

Place the ramen noodles, aubergines, prawns and shredded choi sum in warm soup bowls; pour the hot soup over.

Garnish with the fresh raw bean shoots, roughly chopped fresh coriander and add a generous amount of freshly squeezed lime juice to taste.

Serves 2

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7 Comments to “Prawn Coconut Laksa”

  1. Susan @ SGCC says:

    This looks absolutely wonderful! Lovely recipe and beautiful photos!

  2. Hi Maddy, I haven’t used fresh turmeric before (will be looking for it now!), but have often used dried turmeric roots when grinding my own Indian spice mixes – you can buy packs of dried turmeric roots at most Indian grocery stores here in the UK.

  3. sarah says:

    i love love love laksa! and this looks delicious. i make a similar paste but use more chilli, but i’m curious to try yours out.
    the aubergine is an interesting addition too, but would it not get too soggy?

  4. Madalene says:

    Hi Sarah, if you ensure the aubergines to be deep golden brown they do not go as soggy as one to expect. They add a meatiness to the dish, the pea aubergines where a very good and super interesting find and they do not go soggy at all.

  5. Maninas says:

    I’m not too sure about Rick either, but I love the latest book. I cooked a few dishes from it already, and they were all amazing. One of them was with fresh turmeric (Yellow prawn curry), and the taste and aroma of it were a revelation to me. Simply gorgeous. Unfortunately, it took me a week to get rid of the stains from my hands!

    Love your photo ,btw.

  6. Thermomixer says:

    Sounds like a great little Oriental store that you have.

    Maybe there should be a warning about fresh turmeric and what it does to your skin and clothes for those who happen upon some. It can be deadly with your clothes.

    Try some candlenuts or macadamias or brazil nuts in the mix too.

  7. Beautiful photograph – looks delicious!

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