After a long and lovely summer break, school has started again for the girls, as has for me the daily routine of writing, recipe testing and capturing the results. At the same time, hot summer weather is changing into a softer Indian summer, with intermittent sudden outbursts of pouring rain and chilly moments announcing the approach of autumn. It’s a period I love and I very much enjoy cooking with one foot in one season and one foot in the next. This golden laksa is exactly the kind of dish that’s perfect for both the hot and the cooler weather of this time of year.
Laksa is a Malaysian noodle soup that’s equally delicious for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Traditionally it’s a very meaty dish, based on a chicken, shrimp and fish sauce broth and topped with cockles and shrimps. These are not the only defining flavours, though. The signature base is coconut milk with a zesty and full-flavoured spice paste containing lemongrass, ginger, galangal and turmeric. When made with only plantbased ingredients and filled with crisp green veggies, this soup is a light and satisfying meal on hot days. At the same time, the warming capacity of the ginger, galangal and turmeric turn it into just the soothing, comforting dish you need after being soaked to the bone on your bicycle. So honestly, I could eat this all year long, regardless of outside conditions.
I subbed the traditional rice noodles with soba noodles, to increase nutrional value and because I simply love their buckwheat flavour. As for extra toppings and flavouring, you can customize the soup to your taste. Turn up the heat by adding more chillies to the spice paste, or by topping the finished soup with a spoonful of sambal. Add crunch with extra beansprouts, flavour with fresh herbs of your choice and protein with edamame beans on top of the fried tofu. I hope you’ll enjoy this laksa as much as we do!
Golden laksa with soba noodles and green veg – serves 4
for the rempah
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
- thumb-sized piece of galangal, peeled and chopped
- thumb-sized piece of turmeric, unpeeled, scrubbed and sliced (you can peel and chop it if you prefer, bur slicing it unpeeled saves you the trouble of walking around with yellow fingers for the rest of the week)
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, bottom 8 cm only, trimmed and chopped
- 1 green or red chilli (optional)
- 2 tbsp. coconut sugar
- 3 tbsp. reduced salt soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. sesame oil
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
for the soup
- 200 g green beans
- 200 g sugar snap peas
- 250 g soba noodles
- 3 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 200 g firm tofu, pressed and cubed
- 200 g shii take, sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 1 l vegetable stock, homemade or from stock cubes
- juice of 1 lime
- generous grating of black pepper
Plus: toppings of choice: fresh corander leaves, shredded laksa leaves (or, to substitute, a mixture of shredded mint and Thai basil), sliced spring onions, chopped chilli or a spoonful of sambal.
First, make the spice mixture. Put all the rempah ingredients in a food processor and whizz to a paste. Set aside.
Bring a large pan of water to a boil. When boiling, add the green beans and cook for 2 minutes until just tender. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, take out the beans and rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
Tip the snap peas into the boiling water and blanch them for about 15 seconds, until bright green and still crisp. Take them out, rinse them under cold water and set aside.
Add the soba noodles to the boiling water and cook them according to the instructions on the package. Tip them into a colander and rinse them under cold water. Drain well, then divide over 4 bowls.
In a frying pan, heat 1 tbsp. of oil. Add the tofu cubes and fry until golden brown all over. Take out of the pan and set aside.
Add the second tbsp. of oil. Tip in the shii take slices and fry until browned and caramelised on each side. Take out of the pan and set aside.
In a large soup pan, heat the last tbsp. of oil. Tip in the chopped onion and fry until translucent, then add the rempah. Stirring well, cook the rempah for a few minutes to let the flavours develop. Add the coconut milk and the stock. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer for a few minutes. To finish, stir in the lime juice and a generous dose of black pepper. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Divide the green beans, the snap peas, tofu and shii take slices over the four bowls. Pour over the soup.
Top the laksa bowls with the fresh herb leaves and other toppings of choice and enjoy!
Stored in an airtight container, the rempah and the soup without the pasta and veggies keep well in the fridge for about 3 days, or for up to three months in the freezer.