Going to an all-boys school like Sekolah Sultan Abdul Samad in Petaling Jaya after oh-so-many years in co-ed schools was a thrilling experience, to say the least. There are tonnes of experiences that I still cherish even until now, one of which is the food I ate. Of course back then, there were no qualms about Muslims eating food prepared by Non-Muslims and they could sell food to all races in a government school. Aaaah! Those were the days of racial-unity bliss!
And one of the food sold there that I remember until now is the Chinese Curry Laksa. I recall the first time I had the Laksa was by pure luck. There was no other food left, so I decided to give it a try. It was love at first bite, because after that, I hunted down the recipe for years, until a good friend finally disclosed the recipe to me. Well, they say that good things should be shared and so I am doing the same! It may be a teeny bit different from any other Chinese Curry Laksa you know, but then, that's the world of gastronomy!
For the broth :
- 3 stalks lemon grass, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 5 shallots
- 1 inch fresh turmeric
- 1 thumb-size galangal
- 1 thumb-size shrimp paste
- 1/2 cup dried shrimp
- 15 pieces dried chilies, soaked
- 500 ml coconut milk (not cream)
- 1 liter water (or chicken stock)
- 2 pieces Asam Gelugor
- 10 Vietnamese mint leaves
- 5 tbs vegetable oil
- 20 fish balls
- 3 pieces fish cakes, sliced
- 10 fried tofu
- Salt to season
Place the first eight ingredients in a blender and blitz until a smooth paste. In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the spices until aromatic and cooked. Then pour in the coconut milk and water (or stock) and allow to come to a rolling boil (at this point, you can add the fish cakes, fish balls and fried tofu) Bring down the heat, add in the Asam and salt, and simmer gently until the flavors have seeped into the tofu and fish cakes/balls. Finally add in the Vietnamese mint leaves, simmer for another minute and turn off the heat.
Note : The broth should not be too thick. In fact, it should be a bit watery.
To serve, place some blanched yellow noodles in a bowl and top with some sliced cooked chicken (I use poached chicken), some beansprouts, sliced spring onions, onion crisps and half a kalamansi. Ladle in the broth along with a few pieces of fish cakes/balls and tofu. Serve with sambal as an accompaniment.
Note : Traditionally, this Laksa has cockles (see hum) in them. However, cockles make my tonsils and gout act up. So, I avoid them.