Our simple prawn laksa recipe brings this SE Asian classic dish right to your table. Enjoy the exotic flavors in this simple yet rich delicious noodle dish.
Laksa, I’m not sure there is a South East Asian meal I enjoy more than a good laksa. Exotic flavors, easy seafood (traditional) or chicken stock base, fresh herbs, vegetables and spices, the crunch of bean shoots and those great Asian greens on top. There’s much to like about laksa!
Many people shy away from making laksa as they see a long list of ingredients, some of which may not be that well known. Our simple prawn laksa recipe today is made from everyday ingredients. The key is the laksa paste.
Look in your local, Asian grocer for it. Laksa paste is now sold in many Australian, British and American supermarkets. Look for it in the Asian Section of better supermarkets or google where the nearest Asian supermarket is in your city. They are bound to have laksa paste. And, if not, there is a link below to a good laksa paste recipe.
Laksa is a famous dish from Penang, Malaysia. With influences from the cuisines from many of its nearby neighbors and trading partners, Penang Laksa is highly sought after throughout Penang and Malaysia, in general. Such a great dish also has its own, “local” versions throughout Malaysia. Some are thick, creamy curries and others tending towards a slightly sour soup.
In Penang, laksa is one of the more popular meals you can consume on the street by buying from one of the many mobile kitchens or “locals” restaurants. Read on to discover more about the history and different types of laksas you might enjoy.
First Memories of Laksa
The word laksa is derived from the Sanskrit word for ‘a lot’, referring to the number of ingredients that may be used in its preparation and the care that some people go to prepare the perfect laksa. But what is laksa and where did it originate?
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In general, in Malaysia, the home of laksa, there are two broadly different groups of laksa. Assam (or Asam) Laksa is a tangy soup and curry laksa, its thicker, creamier counterpart can almost be classified a curry. It is the curry laksa, many of us are familiar with outside of Malaysia. The coconut milk delivers a creamy toning down of some of the herbs and spices used in the dish.
Luckily for me, many Malaysian students attended universities throughout Melbourne, where I grew up, and there is no shortage of finding and enjoying, cheap to moderately priced laksa. You could enjoy Penang laksa, or perhaps chicken laksa or a simple prawn laksa recipe like this one.
I’ll never forget the great combination of coconut milk, the exotic taste of the herbs and spices, the crunch of the fresh bean shoots and Asian greens. Yum, luckily for me I first experienced laksa in my mid-twenties and have been hooked ever since!
For me a simple prawn laksa recipe or seafood laksa recipe is heaven. After all, the original laksas were all about the fish. Mackerel or prawns (shrimp) form the basis for the dish. You can make a simple prawn stock from the leftover shells in only 2 minutes and then it is just a matter of adding your favorite, aromatic herbs and spices. Laksa should always be accompanied by fresh garnishes, which always give an even further lift to the dish. (As if needs any more!)
The Street Food of Penang
One of the highlights for any visit to Penang is to experience the street food and enjoy some of the many neighborhood restaurants (where the locals eat). It is also easier on your pocket and cash is often the only form of payment.
Penang has a long history of street food, where you can enjoy a Penang Laksa or Char Kuey Teow, another famous noodle dish, this one with Chinese roots, may be enjoyed. Or, maybe you are looking for something a little more substantial such as Chicken Kapitan, Malay-style chicken at its best or Chicken Vindaloo, a Portuguese/Indian-inspired dish with quite a kick.
The bottom line is there are a host of local delicacies prepared, cooked and sold out on the street in mobile kitchens. Even Penang’s very cool outdoor art scene showing famous Penang scenes pays homage to the mobile kitchen. You can expect to pay 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of the same meal prepared in restaurants.
Local restaurants, where the locals go, and feature fans for air conditioning, concrete for a floor, cheap beer, small tables and chairs and a slightly chaotic ambience, can be found everywhere throughout Penang. Head to the tourist office where you will find details of where to enjoy street food throughout the city.
The Importance of Trade for Spreading Food
Thinking about the food of Penang here in Malaysia, there is one word that screams at you – diversity! There is food on offer here from a diverse range of cultures. It makes for a much more interesting dining scene and, a greater diversity in the diet and it is easy to find an inter-mixing in the foods to create exciting new dishes.
It’s easy to make the connection between dietary diversity and trade. Penang was a major trading port in South East Asia, going back to colonial times and provided much employment and opportunities for people from China, India and other nearby countries. However, there was also influence from some of the colonial powers which has made its way into the local, mainstream diet.
The Malay diet itself contains many influences from Indonesia, India, Thailand, as well as Arabian and Chinese cooking styles, have created a cuisine which is truly a melting pot. Think Beef Rendang, Nasi Lemak, the National Dish of Malaysia, Satay, or a simple prawn laksa dish like this one.
Chinese cuisine is popular throughout Malaysia. Cantonese, Szechuan, Hokkien and Hainanese influences are strong. Some popular picks include Char Kuay Teow, Curry Mee, Hainanese Chicken Rice and Claypot Rice.
Indian influence on Malaysian cuisine is strong with many ingrained over centuries of trading between India and the Malay Archipeligo. Many robust, Indian spices can also be found in Malay cooking. Roti Canai for breakfast, Chicken Tandoori, Mee Goreng and Teh (Tea) Tarik, all have their roots in India.
This fusion of influences on the cuisine of Malaysia, has led to the birth of a new race and who cook what is colloquially known as Nyonya dishes, with influences from all over. Curry Chicken Kapitan and Deep Fried Chicken Wings (Enche Kabin) are example dishes.
So, given the pot-pourri of influences in Malaysia, enjoy this simple prawn laksa recipe. Your family and friends will all enjoy this. It is comfort food, Penang and Malaysian-Style.
Simple Prawn Laksa Recipe
It’s not difficult to make this simple prawn laksa recipe, especially if you have good access to an Asian grocer. And, even if you cannot source the laksa paste, you can go here for a good recipe for the laksa spice.
I always like to have all my ingredients prepared and ready to use before I start cooking.
The traditional stock for a laksa is not chicken stock but shrimp (prawn) stock. As an alternative to using chicken stock you can very quickly make your own prawn stock in less than 5 minutes from the “trimmings” of the green (raw) prawns. Green prawns are sold with the shell on in most countries. I remove the head and shells from the prawns, place them in a saucepan with a quart of water, bring the water to the boil and 2 minutes later you have prawn-flavored stock. Use a sieve to remove the shell from the stock.
If you prefer more heat you may not wish to de-seed the red chili.
|Servings||Prep Time||Cook Time|
- 4 eggs hard boiled, then halved
- 1 red chili, long Asian style deseeded, thinly sliced
- 3 onions, green (spring) diagonally sliced
- 2 limes halved
- 16 mint, fresh, leaves only
- 1/4 cup coconut oil or olive oil
- 1 lb chicken, fillets thickly sliced
- 12 medium shrimp (prawns) shelled, intestinal track removed, tail intact
- 1 sachet laksa paste
- 1 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
- 1 lb rice noodles
- 4 cups bean sprouts (shoots)
- 2 pints chicken stock or use prawn stock**
- Prepare the garnish ingredients. Start by hard boiling the eggs.
- In a wok, heat half the oil over a high heat, and quickly stir fry the chicken for a few minutes, until just cooked. Remove chicken from the pan and reserve. Add the shrimp to the pan and half cook, about 30 seconds. Remove the shrimp from the pan and reserve.
- Add remaining oil, and now over a moderate heat add the laksa paste. Stir fry for 3 minutes. Add the stock and palm sugar. Bring to a boil, add the bean sprouts and simmer for a few minutes.
- Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain well. Divide the noodles, chicken, shrimp and laksa mixture among the bowls. Top with the garnish ingredients.
** The traditional stock for a laksa is not chicken stock but shrimp (prawn) stock. As an alternative to using chicken stock you can very quickly make your own prawn stock in less than 5 minutes from the “trimmings” of the green (raw) prawns. Green prawns are sold with the shell on in most countries. I remove the head and shells from the prawns, place them in a saucepan with a quart of water, bring the water to the boil and 2 minutes later you have prawn-flavored stock. Use a sieve to remove the shell from the stock.
Go here for instructions on how to make prawn stock.