The origins of Curry Laksa is lost in the midst of history. It is probably a fusion of Chinese noodles and Southeast Asian curries and many would agree this concoction is a “marrirage made in heaven”. As in all popular dishes, there are always partisan crowds who clearly believe their hometown version is the original and the very best. These would range from the mild “Chinese” type curries to the full blown spicy Chicken Curry.
In the northern part of the Malaysia, this dish is simple called curry mee to differentiate it from the spicy and tangy fish based Asam Laksa. On the island of Penang, there is a sub variety known as Siamese Laksa which is a delightful fusion of the two. It is a specialty of the Peranakan community there. In the Central Perak Region, the Cantonese and Hakka communities adapted Curry Laksa to suit their milder palates with yong tau foo (stuffed vegetables) as toppings. There are other regional versions in Malacca, Johor, Kelantan, and Sarawak.
The version of Curry Laksa also known as laksa lemak I am presenting today predominates in the Klang Valley. It is a thick and spicy coconut based curried noodle soup topped with shredded chicken, fried tofu, bean sprouts, and sambal. Home cooks usually include shrimps in the mix. In my family we also add julienned cucumber, mint leaves, and lime wedges as toppings. These ingredients are hallmarks of the central and southern Nyonya laksa culture.
The combination of spices used for the curry can vary according to personal and regional preferences. It may include red chilies, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, shallots, garlic, and belacan. I chose to use the easily available curry powder for this recipe out of convenience and ease of preparation.
- 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled, and halved
- 1 stalk lemon grass, slice bottom third into rings
- 1½ inch ginger, peeled and thickly sliced
- ½ cup (50g) curry powder
- ¼ cup (60ml) vegetable oil
- 4 chicken thighs, skin removed
- 3 pandan leaves, shredded and knotted
- 12 oz (340g) bean sprouts, trimmed
- 1 lb (450g) fresh yellow noodles
- 8 oz (225g) shrimps, peeled and deveined
- 1½ cups (360ml) coconut milk
- 12 small pieces of deep fried tofu, halved
- Salt to taste
- ½ cucumber, julienned
- 3 to 4 sprigs mint leaves, stems removed
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- 4 to 6 teaspoons sambal (optional)
Blend onions, garlic, lemongrass, and ginger with 2 tablespoons of water until fine. Pour mixture into a bowl. Mix in curry powder to form a thick paste.
Heat vegetable oil in a large pot. Stir fry spice paste over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and stir till chicken turns opaque, about 3 minutes.
Add pandan leaves and pour in 7 cups (1.7 liters) of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, fill a separate pot half full of water. Bring to a boil. Scald bean sprouts for about 20 seconds. Remove with a metal strainer.
Add noodles and cook according to packaging instructions. Remove with metal strainer.
Remove chicken with tongs. When cool enough to handle, shred meat and discard bones.
Lower shrimps into curry soup with a metal strainer. Allow shrimps to cook for 3 to 4 minutes until shrimps curl and turn pink. Remove and set aside.
Pour coconut milk into soup.
Add deep fried tofu and season with salt. Bring it up to a boil and allow coconut milk to be heated through. Turn off heat.
Place a portion of noodles and bean sprouts in a bowl. Pour curry soup over noodles and vegetables. Top with shredded chicken meat, shrimps, cucumber, mint leaves, and sambal. Squeeze some lime over noodles if desired.
For those who enjoy spicy foods, a dollop of sambal in the Curry Laksa is a must. Talk about international trade! The sambal seen here was purchased in an Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam during Our Week in Holland.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!