A couple years ago, there used to be a restaurant on Duluth street in Montreal called Cash & Curry. Part art gallery, part restaurant, C&C packed a lot of punch despite its minuteness. Its warm and homey atmosphere reflected the cooking that came out of Nantha’s kitchen. Deciding to venture away from the all too familiar pad thai, I opted for the restaurant’s specialty: laksa soup. Not having remembered the name, I believed the soup I came to love and crave was called Tom Yum. Only recently was I informed of the difference, to my great relief. How can one recreate a favorite dish without knowing its true name or origin? So frustrating.
Malaysian laksa is a spicy noodle soup made with coconut cream, among many other ingredients. Tom Yum, is a noodle soup from Laos or Thailand that is made with clear broth and much fewer ingredients. Grocery list in hand, I confronted the cold rain and ventured into Chinatown to find the special ingredients that would bring this dish to spicy gloriousness!
This recipe, which has been adapted from australian.food.com, has many steps and many ingredients, but is well worth the energy. Sorakan!
Yield: 4 large bowls
Spice level: Medium
5 shallots, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp ginger, peeled and chopped
1 fresh red chile, with seeds for extra spice
1 tbsp dried shrimp (found refrigerated at any asian grocery store)
1/2 cup water
Shrimp Flavoured Oil
4 tbsp vegetable oil
12 shrimp, cleaned and de-shelled (keep tails)
200 g package Laksa paste (found next to the broth cubes or pastes)
1.5 liter chicken stock or veggie stock
200 ml or half a can of coconut cream (original recipe called for a whole can, which I felt was too much)
320 g fried tofu puffs, halved (if dehydrated, soak in warm water until soft)
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce
Salt, to taste
Juice of one lime
160 g vermicelli
350 g egg noodles
1 chicken breast, sliced thin and cooked
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
2 green onions, diced
2 red chiles, sliced lengthwise
4 tbsp coriander leaves
2 tbsp pan fried, diced shallots
4 fresh lime wedges
- Prep all the fresh toppings and set aside.
- Make Spice Paste by combining all Spice Paste ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth and set aside.
- In a hot pan, pour 4 tbsp of veggie oil and fry the 12 shrimp tails for a minute. Remove shrimp tails and transfer oil to a large pot.
- To make the Laksa Broth, heat the shrimp flavored oil in the large pot and add the Spice Paste. Stir and cook in hot oil for a minute.
- Stir in laksa paste and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add chicken or vegetable broth to the mixture and bring to a boil.
- Add coconut cream, tofu puffs, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice.
- Bring a separate pot of water to a boil. Add vermicelli noodles and cook until soft. Drain vermicelli, keeping the hot water, and divide into serving bowls.
- Add egg noodles to the vermicelli water and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Drain egg noodles, keeping the hot water, and add to serving bowls.
- Re-using the vermicelli water once again, cook the shrimp until pink and transfer into serving bowls.
- To finish plating, pour soup and tofu puffs into each bowl and top with, chicken, mushrooms, bean sprouts, fried shallots, green onions, red chili pepper, coriander and lime wedge.