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Tag: Adam Liaw

Adam Liaw’s Laksa Lemak – From Scratch, In the Thermomix

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Or not.

Vaguely Asian Stock and What I plan to Do With It

I’ve been flicking through Adam Liaw’s Masterchef prize, Two Asian Kitchens, and what a pleasure it is. Completely unlike Gordon Ramsay’s cookbook whose only point seems to be “I’ve got blue eyes!”. Adam’s cookbook is thorough, not too fussily photographed and accessible, which is really saying something as he doesn’t dumb down those Asian classics at all. You really feel like you could whip up Gong Bao chicken, if only you’d bought Chianking vinegar at the Asian grocery shop you were last at rather than Zhen Jiang. Pea brain.

I’d been paying particular attention to the stock discussion. I’ve been a bit bored with the chicken stock I usually produce, I feel like the flavours aren’t right for an Asian dish. Adam discusses two stocks, a general purpose one and a master stock. I first heard of master stocks on the the first season of Masterchef, but they never really went in to what they were. What they are is just a stock that you reuse. Back in the olden days you’d have a pot on the fire all the time which you’d keep topped up with water and you’d chuck stuff in, vegetables and herbs and bits of meat, and you’d fish stuff out and you’d never empty the pot. That’s the principle of a master stock, but in this age of Dettol everyone finds that idea a bit erky, not to mention perky. There are modern ways of doing it, but that’s not what I was planning to chat about.

Adam’s everyday stock was based on chicken bones, which I had, and pork bones which I happened to spot at the local IGA. There was also those little dried fish in the recipe, but I couldn’t come at that, so I left them out. I also didn’t bother with kombu. You put the pork bones in a large stock pot. You cover them with plenty of cold water. You bring it to the boil. You forget about it briefly because the dog has his foot caught in his ear again. You are a bit horrified at the amount of brown scum bubbling on the surface, so you tip the water and scum into the sink, retrieve the pork bones and give the pot a bit of a rinse. Put the bones back in the pot. Add the chicken bones (they’d already been cooked), two thick slices of ginger, five unpeeled cloves of garlic, six chopped green onions, a small, unpeeled brown onion. I also put in a whole lot of celery tops, because I happened to have them and I like the flavour of celery in stock. Cover with water, this is going to make a lot of stock.

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Adam says you have to watch it so it never boils, just gently simmers, otherwise it will become cloudy. Well, I can live with cloudy, so it may have come to the boil a few times for the couple of hours I had it going for. Let it cool a bit while you go and pick up the Moose from debating, then strain it into your most giant metal bowl. You don’t want to put that straight in the fridge, it will heat everything up, so gently place it in the sink and surround it with some cool water. It will drop to tepid in less than the time it takes a Horror from Outer Space to perform his choir warmup song for you, with repeats. Put it in the fridge.

Next day you can scoop off the fat on the surface with a slotted spoon, or, in my case, a perforated pasta strainer. The stock has more of a meaty flavour than my usual chicken stock but is a lot more neutral. The first thing I’m planning to do with it is to flavour a couple of cups with black rice vinegar and five spice, maybe some dark soy sauce and boil some rice noodles in it for dinner tonight. They’ll be served topped with some Chinese BBQ pork I picked up today from Burwood and some choy sum and fresh shiitake mushrooms stir fried with chillies and maybe some sesame oil. Obviously a non kid dinner. I am going to make them sample the BBQ pork, one of the great joys of life.

Of the remaining stock, I’ll freeze some as it is, and some I’ll reduce down for a concentrate. I wonder if that will work. That will be to flavour dishes, rather than to make a soup or stew. I have vague thoughts of making a master stock with some of it, but I can’t see myself using it much until the kids are a bit more adventurous with their eating. I do like the sound of the aromatics he suggests putting in the master stock, cinnamon quills, star anise, Sichuan peppers, fennel, cloves, so I may just make that and call it flavoursome stock rather than master stock and only use it once. Nobody need ever know.