Chicken and tofu laksa
What I love about food is that it can be adapted to suit taste, the seasons and even mood. So this is my take on Laksa, it may not be traditional but it is to my taste (and those lucky enough to have had it for lunch today!)
I have spoken many times about him before but whenever I make a curry paste, my thoughts escape to my sister’s boyfriend Kelly – his rituals, patience and understanding of Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese and Sri Lankan flavours.
While I haphazardly threw my curry paste ingredients into my tired, overworked blender I thought about the last curry we made with a rabbit kindly gifted to us by Tony – their entirely sustainable and often a little tipsy neighbour. We stood for hours in Kelly’s Croydon kitchen – feeling, smelling and discussing each ingredient, then chopping (with a meat cleaver the size of my head) and finally bashing and grinding the flavours together in the mortar and pestle. When I am in Kelly’s kitchen learning about Asian vegetables, tropical fruits and cooking techniques I get feelings of excitement and passion that you only get when you learn or cook something for the very first time. Every time I cook with Kelly I gain a little more insight into Asian cuisine – last time I learnt about fried lettuce, longons v.s. lychees, fresh snow pea leaves and the “fastest dinner in the world” (a Japanese-inspired omelette). And I learn valuable skills to make me cook more like a turtle rather than a hare.
Even though a blender was used to make this curry paste, it was still a beautiful dish with layers of flavour and texture and the right amount of warmth for this intensely foggy and cold June day.
2 chicken breasts
5 cups chicken stock
3 stems lemongrass
1 1/2 tsp fresh turmeric or 1 tsp ground turmeric
2 garlic cloves
3cm piece ginger
3cm piece galangal (I used frozen)
5 small chillis (I used birdseye)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500ml coconut milk
2 capsicums, finely sliced
1 cup snow peas, sliced and quickly blanched
1 cup mung beans
100g deep fried and chilled tofu – optional and available from most Asian supermarkets
200g rice noodles
1 lime, cut into wedges
Fried shallots to serve
Vietnamese mint and/or coriander to serve
1. To poach the chicken, in a sauce pan bring 2.5 cups chicken stock to the boil, reduce to a simmer and place in chicken breasts (the stock should just cover the chicken breasts so if its not, add a bit more). Simmer gently for 20 minutes, turning the breasts halfway through the cooking. Once the chicken is cooked, take the chicken out of the pot with tongs and place in another heatproof dish, pour the chicken stock back over the chicken and leave to cool. Cooling in the stock will prevent the chicken from drying out. Once it is cool, place in the refrigerator.
2. To make the laksa paste, chop the shallots, lemongrass, cloves, ginger, galangal and chillis roughly and add to a food processor. Blitz with the turmeric and vegetable oil until you have a smooth paste.
3. In a large fry pan or wok, fry the laksa paste for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
4. Add the coconut milk and cook until it reduces by half.
5. Add the rest of the chicken stock (2 1/2 cups) and simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Pour boiling water over the rice noodles and once they are soft enough, drain and rinse with cold water. Keep the rice noodles submerged in cold water and they will keep separated until you need to use them.
7. Slice the capsicums and snow peas and blanch the snow peas in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and rinse with cold water.
8. Slice the tofu in 0.5cm strips.
9. To assemble the laksa:
10. Remove the chicken from the stock and slice into 1cm strips (against the grain). Add these chicken pieces and the tofu strips to the simmering laksa broth and cook for 3-4 minutes.
11. Line up your serving bowls and to the centre of each, add a handful of the rice noodles, then a handful of mung beans on top.
12. With a slotted spoon or a spider spoon, remove the chicken and tofu from the broth and distribute evenly between the bowls.
13. Ladle the hot broth over the chicken, tofu, mung beans and rice noodles.
14. Top with sliced capsicum and blanched snow peas.
15. Garnish with fried shallots and herbs and served with lime wedges.