I went on too many quests today and now I feel like my left leg has come loose. You know, the leg that is currently supporting my whole weight at the moment because I’m on crutches? Yes. But I think it’s all going to be worth it because my main quest was to gather the ingredients to make Adam Liaw’s laksa, and he doesn’t do bought pastes.
I have only myself to blame. I’ve been making Exciting Dinner on Wednesdays because the kids have sushi and soccer training and tennis and orchestra in various combinations. I asked my dear husband what he’d really like me to make. “Laksa.” he replied without any hesitation. I’ve been flicking through Adam Liaw’s Two Asian Kitchens but been too terrified to try anything except the stock, so this was a challenge.
The big problem was to gather the ingredients. I would imagine most of you would have no problem knocking up a European recipe, having the requisite pantry items, but when someone like me goes Asian we have to start from scratch. And that includes where you shop, because this laksa paste requires fresh ingredients.
The ingredients are dried 10 red chillies, 2 tablespoons dried shrimp, 4 fresh chillies (sorted, I have a plant), 1 tablespoon dried shrimp paste, 2 brown onions (no problem), 5 candle nuts (wouldn’t even know where to start, but fortunately macadamias can and will be substituted), 2 garlic cloves (run out), 2 thick slices ginger (ditto), 2 stalks lemon grass, 5 leaves Vietnamese mint, dried coriander (we’ll be using fresh, because I need some for a tomato salsa I’m making tomorrow), fresh turmeric (three teaspoons grated, but Thermomixers don’t grate) and 60 mls of peanut oil. The method is simple, soak the dried shrimp and dried chillies in boiling water, bung them and all the other ingredients in the Thermomix then zap. This makes about two cups, you need a quarter of a cup for two people.
See, I did get all the ingredients. I decided to venture into Ashfield Mall, it really isn’t that far. There is actually an Asian supermarket nestled conveniently in the car park, the Tong Li supermarket and gosh that was exciting. I had to go up and down the aisles three times to drink it all in. If it can be dried or pickled or cryovacked, they stock it. I am puzzled as to why you’d tin quail eggs, pickle lettuce, be bothered preserving turnips or eat Spam with real bacon. I was very fascinated by the snack foods, strips of dried fish, chicken flavoured peanuts (what’s wrong with peanut flavoured peanuts?), desiccated eel. I was awfully tempted by the frozen roast eel in the Japanese section. I’ll have to go back when I’m on two legs. I got dried chillies, dried shrimp and fried tofu puffs for the soup, but that’s all. Oh no, actually, also a bunch of fresh coriander (59 cents for a bunch!!!) I couldn’t find the shrimp paste and I certainly wasn’t going to ask, you know me. I didn’t get peanut oil because I didn’t really want five litres of it, and I couldn’t carry it anyway. I also managed to ignore the siren song of the jar of laksa paste, only two dollars.
I then went through the mall and out the other side to the Asian Greengrocer, where I was accosted by a tiny Asian woman who grabbed me by the arm and pointed at the mushrooms. “Mushroom!” she exclaimed, showing me both her teeth. I agreed, got her a bag and moved on. I found what I’m pretty sure was Vietnamese mint, garlic, some very fresh looking ginger, really cheap lemon grass and some bok choy to veggie it up.
I knew Norton Street Grocer stocked fresh turmeric, and I needed about a kilo of jelly for another quest, so Ho for Coles, curse them. They actually had shrimp paste, wonders will never cease. Also a small bottle of peanut oil that is currently sitting in my sink leaking from a spot I can’t locate. The grocer did have turmeric, so I had a full hand.
So I’ve made the paste and frozen most of it in convenient quarter cup portions. I have defrosted two cups of the basic stock made, blogged about and frozen some time ago. I have poached a sliced chicken thigh in it in the Thermomix. I heated the stock plus a couple of teaspoons of fish sauce to one hundred degrees, added the thickly sliced chicken and put it on reverse gentle stir at one hundred degrees for five minutes. Perfect. Removed the chicken. I then put 70 grams of bean sprouts (had to send the Muffet into the Stanmore IGA for those, completely forgot about them) in the steamer basket over the hot stock while I chopped six fried tofu puffs into quarters and chopped the bok choy up. Then transferred the stock to another bowl. Put a quarter of a cup of laksa paste in the Thermomix with a splash of peanut oil and set it to a hundred degrees and seven minutes. I tried five, but it wasn’t long enough. Added the stock back in, speed two, one hundred degrees for another two minutes, added a 270ml tin of coconut milk for a further two minutes. Tasted it, added the juice of half a lime and about two teaspoons of brown sugar because I can’t find my palm sugar. Maybe three.
Added in eight frozen prawns from the packet Daniela made me buy and the chopped tofu puffs and cooked (reverse, gentle, one hundred degrees), then shredded the chicken and chucked that and the bok choy in for another minute.
Meanwhile I’ve had an eighty gram lot of bean thread noodles soaking in boiling water and just added some random rice noodles I found at the bottom of the crisper. Now I’m going to put the noodles in bowls and pour the soup over then garnish with bean shoots and sprig of coriander.
Adam’s right, making the paste makes a huge difference. And now I’ve made it, laksa will be vurrah easy. Complex, full bodied, really really good. It doesn’t have that off putting red layer of oil on top. Husband thinks it could stand more chillies, but is as good as a bought one. I think this might be three servings, which means I get some for lunch tomorrow.