This is a recipe for a simple but authentic prawn laksa lemak is a lot easier than it looks. You could easily add chicken or other seafood to this recipe if you preferred.

Ingredients

1 kg raw, unpeeled large prawns

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ cup dried shrimp, soaked in hot water

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon fish sauce

2 x 425 ml tins coconut milk

250 g fried tofu puffs, halved

1 kg fresh Hokkien noodles

200 g dried rice vermicelli noodles

200 g fried fish cakes, sliced

300 g bean sprouts

8 eggs

1 cup loosely packed Vietnamese mint leaves, finely shredded to serve

1 Lebanese cucumber, shredded, to serve

Laksa paste (makes double)

15 dried chillies, seeded and soaked in hot water for around 20 minutes

4 large red chillies, seeded

1 tablespoon belacan (shrimp paste)

6 shallots, or 1 large brown onion, peeled and roughly chopped

10 garlic cloves, peeled

5 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled

5 cm piece of fresh galangal, peeled

5 cm piece of fresh turmeric, peeled

3 lemongrass stems, white part only

2 tablespoons ground coriander

6 candlenuts, or macadamia nuts

Chilli sambal

5 dried chillies, soaked

3 large red chillies

2 eschallots, or 1/2 small onion, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon belacan (shrimp paste)

½ cup peanut oil

a pinch of sugar

 

Method

Peel the prawns, leaving the tails on. Add two-thirds of the shells to the a pot with 2.5L of water and simmer for a 20 minutes. Stand for at least 10 minutes, then strain, discarding the shells and reserving the stock. Devein and butterfly the prawns and refrigerate. Grind the dried shrimp to a wet, coarse powder in a small blender, or pound using a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

Blend all the laksa rempah ingredients into a smooth paste.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the remaining prawn heads and shells until very fragrant, then remove the heads and shells leaving the oil in the pan. Add half the laksa rempah (refrigerate the rest for another laksa) and fry for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the oil separates from the paste. Add the reserved chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the dried shrimp and its soaking liquid, salt, sugar, fish sauce and coconut milk and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the tofu puffs and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Simmer the prawns in the soup for 3 minutes, or until just cooked, then remove and set aside. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as required.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the packet directions. Boil the fish cake for about 2 minutes, or until puffed, then drain. Blanch the bean sprouts for 30 seconds. Boil the eggs for 7 minutes, then refresh in a basin of iced water and peel. Halve the eggs.

For the chilli sambal, blend all the chillies together with the shallot and belacan. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat and fry the paste in the peanut oil for about 10 minutes, or until very fragrant, stirring frequently. Stir in the sugar and set aside for serving.

To assemble each laksa, warm a noodle bowl. Add some hokkien noodles, vermicelli, bean sprouts, egg, and prawn to the bowl. Ladle in some soup, then garnish with Vietnamese mint, cucumber and a big spoon of chilli sambal. Serve immediately.