WHY I WON'T GIVE YOU A RECIPE FOR LAKSA
Laksa is a soup, containing broad or thick rice stick noodles, coconut milk (santen), ground coriander (bidji ketumbar), turmeric (kunyit), lemon grass (sereh, sae) and galangal (lengkuas), various fragrant leaves such as basil, kaffir lime, and salam, plus ground dried shrimp. Plus a little tamarind for tangy, and if you lived in holland ground peanuts (in lieu of kemiri).
The spices are added while frying shallots, plus fish paste or fish sauce, kemiri or ground peanuts, then stock and coconut milk are poured in and it is left to simmer for a while. Before dishing it up, shredded chicken, or fish balls (or both), and fried tofu chunks are added, and the noodles.
Minced herbs (cilantro, scallion, parsley) and crispy fried shallot (bawang goreng) on top, as well as a sliced hardboiled egg.
Like with Phở, beansprouts are often thrown in just before eating.
This is 100% the original laksa.
It is also NOT the original.
Almost every place has their own version than which there is none finer. Some variations only use fish and seafood products, in Central Java there will frequently be additions of a fermented mashed soybean product plus a decisive statement with fishpaste and palmsugar, and elsewhere the combination is rice noodles with chicken and prawns. And so forth.
Everybody uses unacceptable shortcuts whenever possible.
So do I, as I know the flavour I am aiming for.
I like cilantro and a squeeze of lime.
Important flavour aides.
Break the noodles before cooking, so that you can eat it all with a spoon.
My version is a laksa lemak, meaning literally "greasy noodles", because it is more or less a coconut curry soup with noodles. In Penang they make laksa with tamarind broth instead, and really only add seafood, not chicken, egg, and tofu. In various parts of Indonesia some very odd stuff is included, in Holland the chicken stock is made with celery & carrot, often no ground dry shrimp and fish-paste is used at all, and the noodles might be wheat instead of rice. Whether there is chili among the spices or in the spice-paste is also variable. Again, you know what flavour you are aiming for.
If you cook Indonesian, you already know what the proportions are of the various ingredients. There is a predictable joy to it, you've seen the same spice-relationships before. And you will increase or decrease as needed, and in the case of several items, on availability.
And, heresy of heresies, you might decide to dump a large handful of crumbled potato chips on top as a crunchy garnish.
Instead of emping.
What makes it real, probably, is the attitude. Wife beater shirt, jam-pants, flip-flops, and a trashy drama on the teevee which no one is watching.
Rain outside. Strong coffee and something to smoke afterwards.
We almost never get warm rain in California.
It is a very great pity.
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