Laksa Lemak, also known as nyonya laksa, is a type of laksa with a rich coconut gravy. Lemak is a culinary description in the Malay language which specifically refers to the presence of coconut milk which adds a distinctive richness to a dish. As the name implies, it is made with a rich, slightly sweet and strongly spiced coconut gravy. Laksa lemak is usually made with a fish-based gravy (with vegetarian food stalls omitting fish) and is heavily influenced by Thai laksa (Malay: Laksa Thai), perhaps to the point that one could say they are one and the same.
Laksa Lemak recipe
For the spice paste
- 8 red chillies
- 10 shallots
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 3 cm piece galangal
- ½ cm length of fresh turmeric (or ½ teaspoon turmeric powder)
- ½ teaspoon dried shrimp paste (belachan)
For the Laksa
- 6 sprigs laksa leaves (Vietnamese mint)
- 1½ litres water
- 360 ml thick coconut milk
- 1 heaped tablespoon palm sugar
- salt, to taste
- 500 g fresh yellow noodles (or dried rice vermicelli, cooked and drained)
- 150 g beansprouts, root ends removed, blanched for 1 minute in boiling water
- 1 chicken breast, steamed to cook, and shredded
- 100 g peeled prawns, steamed to cook
- 3 sprigs laksa leaves, shredded
- 1 cucumber shredded
- 3 eggs, cooked as a thin omelette, folded over and shredded
- 2 red chillies, thinly sliced into rings
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced into rings
- 6 tablespoons sambal belacan
- 6 lime wedges
- Begin with the spice paste. Combine the red chillies, shallots, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric and shrimp paste in a food processor.
- Pulse to chop then blend to a paste (add oil as necessary).
- Heat a little oil in your wok, add the spice pasta and fry gently for about 10 minutes, stirring gently from time to time.
- Add the laksa leaves and water and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Stir in the coconut milk, palm sugar and season to taste.
- Bring back to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook gently, uncovered, for about 12 minutes.
- Divide the cooked noodles, beansprouts and shredded chicken between six deep serving bowls.
- Top with the shredded laksa leaves then ladle over the soup mixture.
- Garnish with the cucumber, omelette strips, chilli rings and spring onions.
- Serve accompanied by the sambal belacan and the lime wedges.
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