Prawn Laksa Lemak

Photo by avlxyz/flickr

Serves 6.


750 g/1 1/2 lb raw prawns
1 tablespoon peanut oil
salt to taste
750 g/1 1/2 lb fresh laksa noodles
or 375 g/12 oz rice vermicelli
250 g/8 oz fresh bean sprouts
2 small, seedless green cucumbers
small bunch fresh laksa leaves
Spices and soup
6 large, dried red chillies
4 tablespoons dried shrimp
2 teaspoons dried shrimp paste
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped galangal in brine
2 stems lemon grass, finely sliced
4 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground coriander
400 ml/14 fl oz can coconut milk
sambal ulek and fresh limes


Wash prawns and shell them, reserving heads and shells for stock. Devein the prawns.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan, add prawn shells and heads. Fry, stirring, until they turn red. Add 2 litres (4 pints/8 cups) water and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain stock and season to taste with salt. Discard shells and heads.

Pour hot water through fresh noodles or soak rice vermicelli in very hot water for 10 minutes, then drain. Pinch straggly tails off bean sprouts, wash and drain. Wash cucumbers but do not peel. Cut into matchstick strips. Shred laksa leaves finely.

Spices and soup: Remove stems from dry chillies and shake out seeds. Soak chillies in hot water for 10 minutes. In a blender process dried shrimp to a floss. Add chillies and a little soaking water, the shrimp paste, onions, galangal, lemon grass and blend to a purée.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy pan and fry purée, stirring constantly, until fragrant and browned. Add turmeric and coriander and stir for 1 minute longer. Add strained stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in coconut milk mixed with an equal amount of water. Add salt to taste. Just before serving, heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a wok and stir-fry prawns over high heat until they become pink and opaque. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Put a large handful of noodles into each bowl and top with bean sprouts, cucumber strips and a few prawns. Ladle hot soup over, and garnish with shreds of laksa leaf. Offer sambal ulek and wedges of lime.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)