Recipe: Mum’s Singapore Laksa
I’m lucky enough to be back home in the gourmet arms of my mother, delicious smells brewing out of our open air kitchen at the back of our house every morning.
Here’s a collaboration with my friend Heidi @ Aromasnsabores. I cooked, she styled and shot!
The Nonya laksa is one of the popular dishes that many associated with Singapore food. My mother was raised in Peranakan Hokkien household and grew up in a Malay village, climbed coconut trees to get them fresh and as eldest daughter trained to cook, wash and feed her younger siblings. She also went to school with Auntie Poh whose parents used to run a laksa stall in Ang Mo Kio – this recipe is the best of her agak-agak (cooking with intuition) years of making this dish from scratch.
I remember my mother and grandmother always slaving over the stoves and grinding all sorts of spices in the motar. Our kitchens were always open air at the back of the house and the prawn stock was always cooked a night before, slow cooked over a charcoal stove – the same way how my mother made our double boiled soups, every. night. It’s the devotion of mother and housewife that don’t exist these days and I will always respect the way food was dealt with in our household. It’s very slow food in fact, my mother slaughtered chickens for chicken rice (we had chickens in our garden), we grew every possible local herb and spice and my dad has green fingers and tended to all those trees and herb bushes. Sundays to Chinatown’s wet market were regular weekly affairs to do the week’s marketing.
A good Singaporean friend of mine Goz also most recently published a +65 cookbook [http://plusixfive.com/about/] and you can find lots of amazing Singapore recipes.
Ingredients for Rempah (malay word for spice paste)
1 thumb size pieces of fresh turmeric peeled (use a teaspoon to scrape it, it’s the best tried and tested way to do it by grandmothers)
4-5 slices of galangal
10-15 pieces dried red chilies, soaked in water to soften
1 tablespoon of belachan
2 stalks of lemongrass just the white part chopped
2 teaspoon of ground coriander
150g of cooking oil
Salt to taste
100 gm of dried shrimps 虾米, soaked in water overnight then ground finely (use a mortar and pestle for this and set them aside for frying on its own later. In Cantonese we say 爆香 bao hiong meaning an explosion of aromas). This is one of the foundations of the flavours of the paste!
500g fresh prawns from the wet market
4 whole pieces of fishcake (sliced)
20 quail eggs (4 per person)
2 litres of prawn stock (make sure to remove the heads and flambé them for full flavours to come out before cooking your prawns – the short cut, old school way was to simmer overnight over charcoal fire. Bring the stock to a boil. Freeze to store)
700g bean sprouts (blanched in hot water for 1-2 mins, remove immediately.)
1kg rice noodles (laksa noodles)
a handful of Daun kesom laksa leaves, so fragrant you can smell them at the market! julienne for garnish
750ml of coconut milk – my mother makes this fresh with the bag, but we can use the can or package to substitute
Cooking Rempah – the spice paste
Grind all the ingredients for the Rempah first in a mortar, if possible use the one with the rough stone texture, unlike the Thai or Indonesian one with a smooth inner surface.
Heat up wok with some oil and fry the paste on low heat as the aromas fill the kitchen. Remove and cool after 15 mins, keep tossing it so it won’t burn.
Using the same wok – no need to wash, add in the ground dried shrimps, adding 1/2 cup of water when it starts to stick at high heat, let it simmer. Add the paste in and slowly add the prawn stock and coconut milk.
Prepare the noodles and garnish in a bowl and then ladle the gravy on to it, garnish with laksa leaves et viola. Bon appetit!