A Laksa is a Malaysian stew of fish, poultry, meat or vegetables with noodles. Authentic laksas are often very hot, and cooled by the coconut milk and the noodles. If you would prefer a spicy version, add a little chili powder instead of some of the paprika.

  • 3 medium-hot fresh red chilies, seeded
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 5 ml / 1 tsp mild paprika
  • 10 ml / 2 tsp fermented shrimp paste
  • 25 ml / 1½ tbsp chopped fresh root ginger or galangal
  • 250 g / 9 oz small red shallots
  • 25 g / 1 oz fresh coriander (cilantro), preferably with roots
  • 45 ml / 3 tbsp ground nut (peanut) oil
  • 5 ml / 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 fennel bulbs, cut into thin wedges
  • 600 ml / 1 pint / 2½ cups fish stock
  • 300 g / 11 oz thin vermicelli rice noodles
  • 450 ml / ¾ pint / scant 2 cups coconut milk
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • 30-45 ml / 2-3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 450 g / 1 lb firm white fish fillet, such as monkfish, halibut, or snapper
  • 450 g / 1 lb large raw prawns (shrimp) (about 20), peeled and deveined
  • small bunch of fresh holy basil or ordinary basil
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
  1. Put the chilies, garlic, paprika, shrimp paste, ginger or galangal, and 2 shallots in a food processor, blender, or spice grinder and process to a paste. Remove the roots and stems from the coriander and add them to the paste; chop and reserve the coriander leaves. Add 15 ml / 1 tbsp of the oil to the paste and process again until fairly smooth.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a large pan. Add the remaining shallots, the fennel seeds and fennel wedges. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, then add 45 ml / 3 tbsp of the spice paste and stir-fry for about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the fish stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the vermicelli rice noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and set aside.
  4. Add the coconut milk and the juice of 1 lime to the pan of shallots. Stir in 30 ml / 2 tbsp of the fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and taste, adding a little more spice paste, lime juice or fish sauce as necessary.
  5. Cut the fish into chunks and add to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the prawns and cook until they turn pink. Chop most of the basil and add to the pan with the reserved coriander.
  6. Divide the noodles among wide bowls, then ladle in the soup. Sprinkle with spring onions and the remaining whole basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Seafood Laksa