Taken from The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon (Hardie Grant, £14.99)
For the prawn stock:
- 1 tablespoon oil
- shells and heads of 500g (1lb 2oz) raw prawns
- 2 teaspoons salt
For the soup
- 375g (13 oz) rice vermicelli noodles
- 6 large dried red chillies, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons dried shrimp, or 2 teaspoons dried shrimp paste
- 2 onions, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh galangal, or 2 teaspoons laos (dried galangal) powder
- 6 candlenuts, or brazil nuts
- 2 stems lemongrass, white part only, thinly sliced, or 1 strip lemon zest
- 80ml (2fl oz/⅓ cup) peanut oil
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1.5 litres (54fl oz/6 cups) coconut milk
- 500g (1lb 2oz) Chinese-style fish cakes, sliced
- 175g (6oz/1 cup) crabmeat (optional)
- 500g (1lb 2oz) raw prawns, peeled
- 180g (6oz/2 cups) fresh bean sprouts, trimmed, to serve
- 1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and thinly sliced, to serve
- 1 large handful Vietnamese mint leaves, to serve
- sambal ulek or sambal bajak, to serve
- fresh lime or lemon wedges (optional), to serve
To make the prawn stock, heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the prawn shells and heads and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn pink. Add 2.5 litres (85fl oz/10 cups) water and the salt, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until reduced by a third. Strain the stock, discarding the shells and heads. Set aside.
Soak the vermicelli noodles in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain.
Soak the chillies and dried shrimp in hot water for at least 10 minutes, then drain well, reserving the soaking liquid. Place in a food processor with the onion, galangal, candlenuts and lemongrass and process to a purée, adding a little of the soaking water if needed.
Heat 60ml peanut oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the chilli mixture, stirring to prevent burning, until it darkens and becomes fragrant. Add the turmeric and coriander and stir-fry for 1 minute longer, then add the prawn stock and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Add the coconut milk to the soup, then taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Add the fish cake and crabmeat and bring to simmering point. Add the rice vermicelli, stir to combine and heat through.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the prawns and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes, adding a little salt to taste. Remove from the heat.
Serve the laksa in large bowls, topping each bowl with a few prawns, some of the bean sprouts, cucumber and Vietnamese mint. Serve the sambal ulek separately for intrepid chilli eaters and lime or lemon wedges for those who prefer a more piquant flavour.
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