An early spring laksa

This is an excellent soup, but requires careful planning and last minute dedicated coordination – not one of those ready-and-waiting-to be served soups. BUT excellent if given enough attention. When making it for the first time I found myself in panic in the last moments of putting it all together and was not really ready not careful enough to give it its due..

Once you have made the spice paste (which will take less than a minute in the food processor), the rest of the recipe is a real doddle.

Serves 4

Paste:

  • 2 small hot red chillies – or even 1 for the weaker souls
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a lump of ginger the size of your thumb
  • 2 plump stalks of lemon grass
  • 5 or 6 roots of coriander leaves and stalks
  • 1 lightly heaped tsp turmeric
  • a little vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste

soup:

  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 300g broccoli or purple sprouting – in Ottawa we do not have such delicacies , I replaced successfully with bean sprouts
  • 1 small bunch of fresh spinach
  • 2 tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
  • 100g thin, dried rice noodles
  • a large handful of coriander and mint leaves

Make paste:

  1. Chop the chillies, peel the garlic, peel and roughly chop the ginger and put them all into the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Peel away and discard any tough outer leaves from the lemon grass and roughly chop the tender leaves inside.
  3. Scrub the coriander roots and cut them off, putting them with the chillies along with half the coriander leaves and stems.
  4. Blitz them with the chillies then add the turmeric, adding oil a drop at the time if the mixture needs it to help it go round.
  5. Once smooth, it can go to the fridge until needed, well tightly covered with transparent foil

Make soup:

  1. Get spinach and sprouts ready  i.e. clean and broken into smaller pieces if required.
  2. If bean sprouts or broccoli need blanching, prepare pots and adequate amount of hot water. Mind you will need some boiling water and a large vessel for rice noodles..
  3. Place a fairly deep pan over a moderate heat, add half the spice paste (keep the other half in the fridge for tomorrow, covered tightly with foil) and fry it for a minute or two, moving it round the pan so it does not scorch.
  4. Add the tamarind paste, pour in the stock and coconut milk and bring it to the boil.

While the soup is heating up, get the noodles ready.  Usually it means to soak them in boiling water for some minutes. You may consider braking them into manageable shorter length, for easier ‘fishing” with the spoon. Otherwise you make have to supply chops sticks or forks..

When the soup is boiling,

  1. Add spinach with the drained broccoli, to the soup.
  2. Season with fish sauce to taste.
  3. Chop the remaining coriander leaves and the mint, and stir them into the laksa together with the drained noodles.
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