It has been an interesting week. One day I was outside basking in the warm winter sunshine – the kiddos were chasing each other in the backyard and laughing while I was researching all the veggie wraps with fun sauces and dips I wanted to try.
Then, as soon as I had a plan, winter came roaring back. The wind was howling and blowing the sheets of rain sideways while the kiddos and I stared out the window in astonishment and frustration. Where did the sunshine go? Why is it so cold? Now what do we eat?
So I turned to a tried and true recipe to warm our bellies and our taste buds. This is a recipe I first learned about when I was just a tadpole back in cooking school but one that I have made at least a dozen times.
It’s a Malaysian coconut curry noodle dish that has the perfect balance of heat, acid, saltiness, sweetness and richness. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients – all of the aromatics get processed into a paste which forms the base of the soup. And the rest of the ingredients are part of the soup itself. I promise, it’s completely worth the time it takes to make this from scratch. And if you don’t have a friendly Asian market in your neighborhood, I listed some easy to find substitutions. Enjoy!
recipe from Napa Valley Cooking School – serves 4
for the paste:
1/2 stalk of lemongrass, outer leaves removed and roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic
1/2 inch of ginger
2 candle nuts (or 5 macadamia nuts)
1 tsp belachan (no substitution, just omit)
1 fresh chili (I used red fresno, but whatever chili you like)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 white onion, chopped
Add all ingredients to a food processer and combine until blended into a paste. Set aside.
for the soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons of laksa paste (recipe above)
2 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock or water)
1 cup of water
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
3 lime leaves (or the zest of one lime)
1 teaspoon palm sugar (or agave nectar or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (or tamari or soy sauce)
1 pound of protein – your choice (I used roasted tofu from this recipe, but shrimp or diced or shredded chicken would be delicious in this soup)
10 ounces of rice noodles
garnishes – bean sprouts, mint, basil, thai basil, cilantro, fried shallots, lime wedges, sliced chilis, green onions (I had some roasted sweet potato, so I added that too)
In a large pot over medium high heat, warm the olive oil and the laska paste. Stir the paste constantly so it will not burn and cook for about five minutes.
Add the vegetable stock, water, coconut milk, lime leaves, palm sugar and fish sauce to the pot and stir to combine all the ingredients. Bring the soup to a boil then remove from the heat, strain through a fine-mesh strainer and return the soup back to the pot. Discard the paste in the strainer.
Bring the soup back to a boil then turn down the heat to medium. Add your protein to the soup and heat until fully cooked – unless you are using the roasted tofu, then add to the top of the soup with the garnishes. Once the protein is cooked, turn off the heat.
In another large pot, bring water to a boil. Drop the rice noodles into the water for only a few minutes then remove the noodles and distribute into the serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles, adding protein and garnishes. Serve immediately.
my notes: the paste recipe makes more than you need but you can refrigerate the leftovers for up to a week or freeze for a later date.