The heat is on. I believe they are going to be flirting with triple digits down on the flats (in Denver) soon. But it’s a dry heat. Whatever that means.
Actually, I know full well what it means. It means the difference between feeling hot and cranky (dry heat) and feeling homicidal (humid heat). There are places I have avoided visiting because everyone has warned me about the heat and humidity. Diane once told me that I should visit Vietnam. “Sounds great!” I said, “when are the cool months?” There was a long pause and Diane informed me that there aren’t any “cool” months, just hot and really hot months.
I am drawn to Southeast Asian food with its exotic ingredients, tropical influence, and spice. I love it. What intrigues me is how so many hot climate cuisines have so many spicy dishes. Sweat will pour from my brow when I indulge in a bowl of spicy noodles in winter. Imagine having a bowl of hot and spicy something or other in summer. That’s just Crazytown!
fish sauce, pepper, shallots, garlic, lemon grass, galangal, curry, turmeric, chiles
let’s get our spicy on
But you know what? It’s addictive. Spicy is addictive. Yes, even in summer. I’ll turn down a bowl of perfectly tender beef stew while we’re in the throes of summer, but I will crave curry laksa like nobody’s business. We used to enjoy a bowl of this spicy broth filled with noodles, shrimp, vegetables, and tofu puffs when we lived in Southern California and frequented wonderful ethnic restaurants. Which is why I had to learn to make my own now that we live in a bit of an Asian food vacuum. To quell the beast, you know. I am a noodle girl. In the past I would make laksa the cheater way. I would buy a jar of some spicy curry, add chicken broth, other ingredients, and call it good.
i like to add sprouts, tofu puffs, egg noodles, rice vermicelli, and shrimp
the spice paste in all its glory
But no longer! Making your own paste is so totally absolutely positively worth it. And it’s easy if you have something to blend the hell out of the spice paste ingredients. The tofu puffs are the shiznit and you really must include these. You can find them in Asian grocery stores – not the dense fried tofu cubes, but light and fluffy fried tofu puffs that squish like pillows. They soak up the liquid, full of savory goodness, and I dare say I love them as much as the noodles – maybe MORE? Intriguing!
pour coconut milk in with the paste
adding tofu puffs to the heady broth
I couldn’t recall if we ever had both egg and rice noodles in our laksa, but it turns out to be a terrific combination. And if you wanted to just use one kind of noodle, that’s perfectly fine too. Flexibility is key when the weather is hot. No one wants to overthink this. That’s why I omitted the chicken – too hot to deal with chicken and I wasn’t really in the mood for it. But shrimp? Gimme it.
yes, lovely shrimp, you are mine
ladle the broth and plenty of tofu puffs(!!)
Drizzle some coconut milk, garnish with lime and cilantro, and have a side of sambal (red chili paste) if you desire. It was plenty spicy for us without more chili paste. I was sweating bullets, but loving every moment of it. If you find the broth to be too spicy, you can dilute it with more chicken broth and/or coconut milk. Hi. My name is Jen. I am a spicy noodle soup addict. I live in Crazytown.
i can never say no to you!
from New Asian Cuisine (now defunct)
1 lb. boneless chicken breast or thigh (I omitted)
1/2 lb. oysters (I omitted)
1 lb. shrimp (was 1/2 lb, but I doubled it since I omitted the chicken)
10 dried red chilies (the little spicy kind)
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks lemongrass
2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp mild curry powder
1-inch piece of galangal
1 tbsp dried turmeric powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup canola oil for frying
2 cups coconut milk, reserve 1/2 cup for garnish
4 cups of chicken broth
1 cup of water
12 fried tofu puffs
salt to taste (at least a few pinchfuls of salt)
6 oz. egg noodles
6 oz. rice vermicelli
1 cup mung bean sprouts
2 hard boiled eggs, quartered (optional, I omitted)
cilantro for garnish
If serving with chicken, steam or boil the chicken until cooked and cut into thick slices. Drain the oysters and refrigerate. If serving with shrimp, blanch the shrimp in boiling water, drain and set aside. Place all of the spice paste ingredients except for the oil in a food processor or blender and grind until paste-like. In a large heavy stock pot, heat the oil over medium high heat until it is hot. Stir in the spice paste and cook (keep stirring) for about 8 to 10 minutes until a red oil begins to separate from the paste. Add coconut milk, chicken broth, water, and tofu puffs to the pot. Stir it together and let it come to a simmer. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Salt to taste. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil for blanching the noodles. Blanch the rice vermicelli until tender, then remove from the water (but keep the water so you can blanch the egg noodles!). Do the same with the egg noodles. Now you can ditch the water.
Place some rice vermicelli and egg noodles in each bowl. Top with bean sprouts, chicken (if using), oysters or shrimp, and egg (if using). Ladle the laksa broth over the goodies and drizzle some coconut milk over the top. Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.
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