Pardon my absence from the blogosphere last week, I've been so busy with Chinese New Year
preparation gorging that blogging wasn't on my mind. From pineapple tarts to kueh lapis to bak kwa to abalone etc, my waistline is definitely on the route of no return (horrors!)
But today, this post is not going to be about me or what other food I feasted on - it's going to be about a beloved fellow foodie whom I've known for 3 years - Bobbi from Bam's Kitchen! We know each other through the blogosphere (I can't remember who stumbled upon who first haha) and even though we have never met, I have always felt like we have known each other for a long time. I was really excited when I was able to meet her in real life, together with Jean from Bento Days! (Bobbi, I wished that I had more time to bring you around and to sample all the local Singapore food - there are just so many dishes I want you to try!)
In case you don't know Bobbi, she was working in America before moving to Asia in 2008 with her husband and her 2 hungry teenagers. (We wanted to see how her boys look like but her phone was too full with food photos haha!) She blogs about healthy international cuisine, specializing in recipes that are cardiac friendly, gluten-free, diabetic friendly or lactose free etc. I especially love her Asian dishes - her radish cake, shrimp and wild rice stem stir fry and my current favourites!
Today, Bobbi is here to share with us a local Singapore delight - I have always wanted to try making this from scratch but she beats me to it! Read on to find out what she has for us and don't forget to follow her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram!
The rich laksa broth is made from a delicious mix of dried shrimp, chillies, shallots, garlic, coriander, curry is mixed in a rich coconut broth and filled with rice noodles, shrimp and topped with hard-boiled eggs, coriander and bean sprouts and drizzled with a little fresh lime juice.
Hello to all The Foodie Baker readers! I am Bobbi (BAM) from Bam's Kitchen and I am delighted to be guest hosting today on The Foodie Baker today. I have known Jasline for about three years now and have always loved her recipes and travel stories on her blog and always hoped that one day I could experience Singapore too.
I always say that the world is a very small place as just this last weekend I was able to visit with Jasline in Singapore and even had a whirlwind tour with her as the tour guide. She greeted me with a big warm smile and a hug and it seemed like a dream come true to finally be able to meet in person. When she asked me if I would like to guest post on her blog, I was very honoured.
During my very short visit in Singapore, I was surrounded with food and shopping. Any of my good friends know, that I am not much a shopper so my visit was all around visiting friends and of course, "the food".
Singapore is clean, friendly and has great hawker stands almost everywhere you look. Hawker stands are scored with A through D grade to notify the public of their grades they received for cleanliness and hygiene in their cooked food stalls. The food stalls are required to display their scores in the window. There were so many to choose from but as I say when you are in Rome...or Singapore... I needed to try the Coconut Curry Laksa. You can just smell that amazing aroma and you know you have to try it.
Sublime is the only word I can use to describe this delicious Coconut Curry Laksa also known as "Curry Mee". I just love the rich coconut broth and the delicious noodles. I was praying that I would never be able to find the end of my bowl as it really is a bowl of comfort. I was trying to think of a recipe that Jasline did not have on her website and noted that she did not have laksa in her recipe collection. Did you know that Coconut Curry Laksa was noted as one of the top dishes in to eat in Singapore?
Much like Thai dishes, coconut curry laksa has the balance of spicy from the chillies, sweet from the palm sugar, sour from the lime and salty from the dried shrimp to tantalize your senses. There are essentially 3 different types of laksa in Singapore such as curry laksa, asam laksa and Sarawak laksa. However, I like coconut curry laksa the most as it has the flavor combinations from both the Chinese and Malay together. This recipe is a little different from one vendor to another. I also have my spin on this dish as I wanted to make this dish gluten-free too.
Do not worry if you notice that this recipe has a long list of ingredients as many of them are optional so keep on reading... If I did not have to worry about the gluten-free diet, I would just have used one of the delicious Malaysian Laksa (rempah) paste on the shelves of your Asian grocery market. (What other person that you know has only 2 days in Singapore (SG) spends part of her day in the wet market? Ok, I guess now you know I am a true foodie)
I wanted to remove the obstacle of the gluten-free factor so I made my own rempah paste from scratch. I used a mortar and pestle to blend the ingredients but you could also use a food processor. I added shallots, loads of garlic, bird chillies, dried chillies, dried shrimp that I had soaked and drained, macadamia nuts (as I could not find candlenuts at the market) curry powder (or can use fresh curry leaves) and fresh coriander roots (or can use coriander powder) , brown sugar (as I could not find palm sugar at the market today) and salt to help with the mixing process. I skipped the shrimp paste as I could not be certain, it was gluten-free. However, shrimp paste does add a deep earthy flavour to the paste. The beauty of making your own laksa paste is that you can adjust the heat, salty and the sweet in the dish to your liking. I love spicy food but sometimes it does not like me so I made my laksa very mild. You can skip this whole step and save time, if you find a Malaysian laksa (rempah) paste pre-made at the market.
I also used a fresh Tom Yum pack that is available in our local Park n Shops here in Hong Kong and it includes fresh lemon grass, chillies, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, fresh limes and shallots. However, I know that these items will be very difficult to come by if you are not in Asia. I just love the aroma from the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves but it you cannot get it where you live just omit this from the recipe. As bare minimum, you need to have the following items and these are rempah paste, coconut milk, brown sugar, limes, rice noodles, shrimp and some fresh toppings like cilantro and bean sprouts.
Laksa is also made with different starter broths and we will never be able to get the secret to the broth from the vendors as this is the secret to their success. You can use canned or boxed chicken broth, vegetarian broth or even fish broth as your starter broth and you can have this dish on your table in less than 30 minutes.
If you are a little more adventurous, you can make your own shrimp broth. I always buy my shrimp fresh from the wet market and they come with the heads on and all of their original equipment. I start my broth with a little canola oil in my pot and add some shallots and lemongrass. Then I add the shrimp heads and shells to the pot and then I simmer for about 10 minutes. I add water and bring to a boil and then to a simmer for about 40 minutes and skim along the way. I remove the shrimp heads, shells and lemongrass and season with a little salt to taste and you have a beautiful shrimp broth.
In Singapore, they used these really thick and delicious laksa noodles. It is very difficult to find these laksa noodles elsewhere so I just exchanged with dried pad Thai gluten-free rice noodles or you could even use rice vermicelli. The trick of making this delicious laksa soup with noodles is not to over cook the noodles. I love when my noodles are a little aldente. I place my dried in a bowl and add boiling water and soak for about 5 minutes or just until softened but not all the way cooked and then drain them and set aside. Do not add them to the soups broth to cook or otherwise the noodles will soak up all the delicious broth. It is best not to cook the noodles all the way as when you pour the delicious hot steaming broth over the noodles it will cook them in your bowl while you are adding the garnishes.
Now for the fun toppings... I love something crunchy on the top and bean sprouts (mung beans) are delicious. They traditionally serve deep-fried tofu squares but I wanted a healthier version so I just used firm plain tofu sliced into squares. Coriander (cilantro) leaves is a great substitute for the Vietnamese coriander called daun kesum. Slices of fish sticks, cockles and other goodies can be found at the hawker stations. Hard boiled eggs a big favourite as well as shrimp, limes and a side of chili sambal to taste.
What are your favourite toppings for your laksa?
Gluten-Free Coconut Curry Laksa
Rempah Paste (Laksa Paste)- or skip this step and buy your favourite Malaysian Curry Laksa paste
- 2 bird chillies, more or less as desired for heat level
- 2 dried chili peppers, more or less as desired for heat level
- 10 shallots, peeled and chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 inches galangal, peeled (substitute with fresh ginger)
- 2 inches turmeric, peeled (substitute with 1 teaspoon ground)
- 2 stalks lemongrass, white section only chopped
- 3 tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked and drained
- 2 teaspoons curry powder, or 4 fresh curry leaves
- 1 tablespoon coriander root, or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 6 to 8 macadamia nuts, or candlenuts
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste (palm sugar would even be better if you can get there where you live) (sugar substitute as needed)
- 150 grams rice noodles, soaked for 5 minutes in hot water
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 3 cups chicken broth, can use vegetable broth, shrimp broth
- 270 ml coconut milk, 1 can, or about one cup
- 3 stalks lemongrass, beaten and chopped in half so that they release flavour (optional)
- 2 to 3 kaffir lime leaves, remove the stem to release flavour (optional)
- 6 to 8 large shrimp, or can exchange with chicken or skip if vegan
- 4 ounces firm tofu, cut into large squares
- 2 quartered limes, I used key limes – optional
- 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced in half – optional
- Handful mung beans, bean sprouts, cut in half – optional
- Handful cilantro, coriander or Vietnamese coriander called daun kesum – optional
- Chili sambal sauce-as desired – optional
- Skip to step 2, if you have purchased pre-made rempah paste. If you are making your own rempah past, place your bird chillies, dried chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, dried shrimp, curry powder, coriander, macadamia nuts, salt and brown sugar to you mortar and pestle or food processor and process until a smooth paste. If you need to get the food processor moving, add a little of canola oil.
- Soak your dried pad Thai noodles in hot water for about 5 minutes and then drain, rinse and set a side. You want your noodles to be aldente and not cooked all the way as they will continue to cook when you put a ladle of hot broth over the noodles during the serving process. Do not cook your noodles in the broth or they will soak up all of the lovely coconut broth.
- Place one tablespoon of oil into your soup pot and add 2 tablespoons of your prepared rempah past into soup pot and cook until you can smell the aromatics, 2 minutes. Add your chicken broth or broth of choice in the soup pot, coconut milk, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves and bring to a boil and then reduce down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1-2 minutes or until they turn pink. Add the fresh tofu squares. Turn off the burner.
- Divide the softened rice pad Thai noodles amongst 2 bowls. Ladle several scoops of the delicious coconut broth over the rice noodles. Garnish with limes, hardboiled eggs, bean sprouts, fresh cilantro and chili sambal as desired. Enjoy!