Is laksa the ultimate spicy noodle soup?

30 October, 2020

And what are the essential elements for an amazing laksa

A steaming bowl of hot and spicy coconut broth, plenty of noodles, tofu puffs, bean sprouts and maybe chicken or prawns is a thing of beauty for many diners. Yep, we’re talking about laksa, the spicy noodle soup that is found across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other South East Asian countries.

Element one: The spice base

The foundation of a laksa that you’ll be dreaming about for days to come is the spice paste. This is what gives the base of flavour that will permeate the broth. If you’re wanting to make your own spice paste, there’s as many variations in the recipe as there are bowls of laksa, but some of the most common elements include:

  • Dried shrimp including shrimp paste
  • Chillies
  • Galangal
  • Lemongrass
  • Turmeric
  • Candlenuts (these can be hard to find in Australia, so macadamia nuts are considered a good substitute)

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with buying a ready-made jar of laksa paste too! You can buy a range at Asian grocers like Asian City, or for a readily available supermarket brand, Ayam is a great choice you can pick up at Woolworths. It’s important to fry the paste off to release all the flavours, so don’t scrimp on this step! Adding some extra flavour at this point (especially if you’re using a jarred paste), like more ginger, garlic and chilli will only add to the deliciousness.

Element two: The soup

Once the paste is fried off and smelling incredible, it’s time to add the liquid. Coconut milk is essential, as is some kind of stock. Chicken stock or prawn stock are two of the most common choices. If you’re making prawn laksa, prawn stock is a great option (you can make your own by simmering the prawn shells with some aromatics like lemongrass for half an hour).

It’s a good idea to let the broth simmer for half an hour or so to let the flavours combine. Check the seasoning and if it needs a bit more saltiness, add a bit of fish sauce. Add just a little bit at a time until it’s just right.

Element three: The noodles

The most common noodle option is the rice-based vermicelli. Some recipes also use Hokkein noodles – yes, two types of noodles! How decadent! This is the kind of indulgence we can get behind.

Cook the noodles separately according to packet directions before placing in your serving bowls ready to be topped with the broth.

Element four: The toppings

When making your own laksa, you can play around with your preferred toppings. Here’s some of our favourites:

  • Chicken or prawn meat
  • Fried tofu puffs – great for soaking up the coconut broth
  • Bean sprouts
  • More chilli – both fresh slices and as chilli paste
  • Fresh herbs – the classic is laksa leaf (also known as Vietnamese mint), but it can be hard to find, so coriander is a good option
  • Lime wedges
  • Crispy fried shallots

Your toppings are a great way to add texture and different flavours to your bowl of laksa.

Where to find Chatswood’s best laksa

Chatswood is blessed with plenty of Malaysian food restaurants and each one has their dedicated fans who are convinced their favourite serves the best laksa. Well, our favourite is undeniably Ya Malaysia with generous and deeply satisfying bowls of just-the-right-amount-of- spiciness laksa. Get to District Dining to try it for yourself!