You didn’t think we forgot about cooking, did you? We’ve eaten out a lot since we arrived here, but we’ve also been getting down with making our own food. Malaysian culinary delights are no less impressive than the Indonesian ones. We have loads of things to learn how to make, from Malay-inspired dishes like Asam Laksa and Nasi Kunyit to Chinese-inspired dishes like Char Kwey Teow, Bah Kut Teh and Mee Hokkien to Indian-inspired dishes like Roti Chanai, Idli, and Murtabak.
Here we give you Curry Laksa. That’s actually what people call it, not just an English gloss. It’s pretty much as close as you can get to a tri-cultural dish. It takes Chinese noodles, Malay ingredients, and Indian flavors and mixes them all up. It’s great. The noodles are the hardest thing to find. If you can’t find thick clear rice noodles (clear, not like Japanese udon), you can cheat and use spaghetti, either egg-based or semolina-based. We’ve had it like that here, and you don’t miss a thing.
5 cloves garlic
5 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. shrimp paste (optional)
1 cup water
5 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cinnamon sticks
10 curry leaves (dried are fine…available at Indian grocery stores)
1 lb. chicken thighs, cut up but with bones in
2 lemongrass stalks
4 cups water
1 tsp. palm sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
1 block tofu, cut into 16 squares
1/2 lb. green beans, sliced
oil for deep frying
Noodles and Garnishes
1 lb. laksa noodles (big, thick, clear rice noodles..try a Chinese grocery store)
3 cups bean sprouts
First, make the spice paste by grinding all the dry spice ingredients in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, then adding the water to make a runny paste Next, deep fry the tofu in oil until nice and brown, then set aside to drain.
Heat the veg. oil in a big wok. Add the curry leaves and cinnamon and fry for several seconds until you can smell them. Then add the spice paste (yes, with the water) and fry on low-medium heat for 15 minutes. The oil should start to separate near the end. Then add the chicken and the lemongrass and continue to fry until the meat firms up, about 15 minutes more. Add the water, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk, fried tofu, and green beans and simmer for 10 minutes more (gently, don’t just boil away!). Add more water if the soup starts to dry up.
Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water. Cook the noodles until just al dente, then drain and cool with running water. To serve, mix the sprouts and noodles and divide into four bowls. Ladle the soup mix on top of the noodles, arranging chicken, tofu, and beans on top. Sprinkle with fried shallots and garnish with quartered limes.