Laksa a pantry lifesaver

Laksa from South-East Asia. Picture: Salvelio Meyer

By Louise Liebenberg

EVERY once in a while a random SMS from a friend or colleague can really save your bacon.

In my case last week it was indeed somewhat of a  culinary lifeline, as I had guests coming over but zero inspiration for what to cook.

Then  came a text message from John Harvey, our news editor at Weekend Post.

“Just had the best soup I’ve ever tasted – try the laksa at Woolies,” it read.

So curry laksa it was, infinitely aided by a packet of laksa paste from the Asian shelf at Woolworths – although you should also be able to get this key ingredient from Eastern and speciality food stores.

Prepping was minimal and 20 minutes later the soup made with coconut milk, prawns and chicken fillet was ready – and so delicious and fragrant I suspect hubby Salvelio is going to be served it every week until he is heartily sick of it! A big plus is that the “curry” part is mild enough for most tastes; it’s really more aromatic than anything else.

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup of Chinese and Malay origins that is widely served in countries like Malaysia, Singapore and, to a lesser degree, Indonesia.

The variations are apparently endless and what especially appealed to me was that the dish reminded me so much of a soup that former Port Elizabeth restaurant owner Ying Wiseman, of Ying Thai, used to make.

We’d  order the soup as a takeaway by the bucketload and it saw me and my colleagues through many a Weekend Post deadline … until Ying left for Australia, that is.

Scroll down for the complete recipe, which really is a cinch to prepare and looks every bit as  fabulous as it tastes!

Curry Laksa – The recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pack (200g) rice noodles; 1 tin (400g) coconut milk; 80g (one sachet) laksa paste; about 500ml chicken stock (I made mine using two sachets of Ina Paarman’s new real concentrated chicken stock liquid); 2 chicken breasts (total about 200g); salt to taste; 200g cooked, peeled prawns (I used half of the 400g pack of frozen, “tail on” ones from Woolies and just thawed them out); small handful of mint, chopped; small handful of coriander, chopped. Optional: some bean sprouts and sliced, fresh red chilli for serving.

Method

First prepare the rice noodles, cooking them for 4 min in boiling, salted water (I’ve also made this dish with Japanese soba (buckwheat) noodles, which worked fine). Drain, rinse and set aside until needed (you can even place them into your four serving bowls, ready for topping up with hot soup).

Heat the coconut milk and bring it to the boil in a big saucepan.

Add the laksa paste and chicken stock, stirring through to combine it all.

Prepare your chicken by first beating it flat a little with tenderising hammer (this is my little trick to make the chicken extra tender), cutting into slices and seasoning with salt. Don’t go overboard on the salt as the chicken stock will also contain salt.

Bring the mixture on the stove back to the boil, adding the chicken and simmering for 5 to 7 minutes until cooked.

For the last 1 minute above you can add the prawns until they are heated through; if still slightly frozen the prawns may have to be heated through for a total of 2-3 minutes.

Ladle the hot soup over the noodles, adding the chopped mint and coriander when ready to serve, as well as the bean sprouts and chilli, if using.

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