Monday, January 24, 2011

Recipe: Prawn Laksa

It has been a while since I cooked anything that I thought worthy of including on Bon Appetit - not that I've been making disastrous meals, just nothing very 'wow'! That was until I made this fabulous prawn laksa the other day; Simon and I both agreed this was one to write about. Prawn laksa is a complete meal in a bowl but since it's also a sort of soup, it can be a bit messy with noodles and sauce splashing around so I recommend wearing a bib to eat it!

I have to be honest that it did take quite a bit of preparation and from starting to get it ready to sitting down to eat it took a full hour. However, it would work well for a dinner party because it could all be prepared in advance and the putting it together and cooking it part only takes 10 minutes. That is definitely what I'll do next time so I don't feel that I've been stood up chopping and stirring forever when I finally sit down. Also, my blender is one of those very small ones that don't click closed so as I started to blend the ingredients the lid came off and sprayed me, the work top and the floor!! If anyone knows how to get turmeric stains out of my white apron I would love to hear it please!

This is a Thai recipe so it uses fish sauce but I have realised that I really don't like fish sauce since the taste seems to linger in my mouth for ages afterwards. In the Thai cooking class I did last year at the ICCA we were told that fish sauce is the Thai salt - if a dish doesn't have enough salt, fish sauce is added and if it's too salty then coconut milk is added. Since soya sauce does the same thing in Japanese cooking, I will personally use soya sauce instead of fish sauce in the future.

Ingredients - it looks like a lot but it's not that much!
1.5 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin (I used 0.5 teaspoon curry powder instead as I don't like cumin)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 x 3 cm piece fresh ginger, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves (I left these out since I can't eat garlic)
3 lemongrass stems, bottom part only, sliced
6 macadamia nuts (I couldn't find these so used cashews instead - I put in a liberal handful)
4-6 small red chillies (I always worry about the potential heat of chillies so I used half a teaspoon of chilli sauce from a bottle)
2-3 teaspoons shrimp paste (I couldn't find this either so just left it out)
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (I only used about 750ml stock because I didn't want a huge amount of sauce)
3 tablespoons oil
4 kaffir lime (makrut) leaves
2.5 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
750ml coconut milk (I actually just put in one 400ml tin of coconut milk, it depends how much soup / sauce you want)
2 tablespoons soft brown sugar
750g raw prawns, peeled and cleaned (you can keep the tails on for presentation but I always find that a pain when I'm trying to eat so I removed the tails before cooking)
250g dried rice vermicelli
90g bean sprouts
4 fried tofu puffs, thinly sliced (Simon doesn't like tofu so I didn't include this)
3 tablespoons mint, roughly chopped
2 large handfuls coriander (cilantro) leaves

Not actually part of the recipe but I thinly sliced mangetout (snow peas), courgette, baby corn and bok choy to give a bit more vegetables to the dish.

1. Place all spices, onion, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, nuts, chillies and shrimp paste in blender. Add 125ml of stock and blend to a paste.
2. Heat the oil over a low heat, add the paste and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Add the remaining stock, bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes until slightly reduced.
You could stop here and finish the cooking just before you're ready to eat.
4. Heat a small amount of oil in a pan and add the mangetout, baby corn and other vegetables - they will take about 5 minutes to cook. Add a little water as the steam will help the cooking.
5. Place the vermicelli in a large pan and cover with boiling water, put a lid on the pan and leave for 5-7 minutes then drain. The pan doesn't need to be on the heat, the boiling water from the kettle is enough to cook the noodles.
6. Add the lime leaves, lime juice, fish sauce, coconut milk and sugar to the laksa and simmer (don't boil) for 5 minutes. Do not cover or the coconut milk will curdle.
7. Add the bean sprouts and prawns - cook until they are pink (only takes about 2 minutes). Do not overcook the prawns or they will be chewy.
8. Put the dish together: place noodles in the bottom of a bowl, lay the vegetables on top and then ladle the prawn laksa over everything, top it off with the tofu, mint and coriander leaves.

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