With the new series of Mad Men just beginning, it seems like an excellent time to tell you about a recipe book I’ve inherited from my maternal grandmother. Published in 1951, the YWCA Cookery Book of Malaya is an amazing insight into advertising during that period. I often wonder if any of the shops listed are still in there in Singapore.
Anyway, since visiting Tampopo restaurant I’ve wanted to learn how to make my own laksa, a kind of curry spiced soup with noodles. Laksa originally refers to the noodles used, but over time has come to mean the soup. I took this recipe from the book, although I’ve tweaked it a fair bit; firstly the asian ingredients were listed with their malaysian names and it calls for “5 cents worth of shrimp paste” and a tahil (a chinese measurement) of beansprouts. It’s still fabulously tasty but just modernised a little.
For the paste
- 20g peanuts
- 1tbsp shrimp paste
- 1tsp turmeric
- 10 thai shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3tsp dried chillies
- 1inch galangal
- 2 sticks fresh lemongrass
- 4tbsp oil
For the soup
- 200g king prawns
- 800ml coconut milk
- 40g beansprouts
- 60g medium egg noodles
- 1 large red chilli
- A small handful of mint leaves
- ½ cucumber
- ½ lime
- Finely chop all the paste ingredients (apart from the oil!). I use one of these classic choppers and it reduces chopping time to just a few minutes.
- Take the cucumber and chop in half width ways, then cut into thin batons. Top and tail the fresh chilli and cut into rings.
- Heat the oil in a wok until very hot, then fry the paste ingredients for 3-4 minutes, then stir in the coconut milk. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
- While the laksa is cooking, cook the noodles in a separate pan according to the instructions.
- When the laksa is done, add in the noodles, prawns and beansprouts and cook for a further 3 minutes.
- Add in the cucumber and fresh chilli, then serve. Shred a little mint onto the top, but not too much, then add a squeeze of lime juice.