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Photograph: ClerkenwellboyEC1
Photograph: ClerkenwellboyEC1

Make Sambol Shiok’s comforting king prawn nyonya curry laksa this weekend

Try this perfect lockdown weekend cooking project

By
Kate Lloyd
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Mandy Yin, the owner of legendary Malaysian joint Sambal Shiok Laksa Bar on Holloway Road says that her king prawn nyonya curry laksa is a perfect lockdown weekend cooking project. We tend to save cooking laksa for special occasions due to its time-consuming method and lengthy ingredient list, especially if cooking the chicken stock from scratch, she says. The vast majority of the preparation can be done a day or two in advance, for example cooking the chicken stock, blitzing and cooking the spice paste, prawns, eggs, blanching beansprouts and green beans. Her top tip? The broth develops flavour if left overnight. The recipe serves six. 

King prawn nyonya curry laksa 

What you’ll need

For the spice paste 

200g vegetable oil
One medium onion (300g), peeled and roughly chopped
3 inches ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves, peeled
Three fresh red chillies, stalks removed then roughly chopped
15 dried chillies, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes before using and then drained
1.5 tbs cumin powder
1.5 tbs turmeric powder
3 tbs coriander powder
3 tbs chilli powder
50g shrimp paste (Malaysian/Indonesian blocks of shrimp paste are best, otherwise use Thai gapi shrimp paste. If you don’t have shrimp paste, use fish sauce as a substitute)

For the laksa broth
1.5 litres chicken stock (Note: It is perfectly acceptable to use a chicken stock cube for this. If making your own chicken stock, make it a day or two in advance to save on the amount of work on the same day. Put 2 litres water into a large pot with a chicken carcass or 1kg chicken wings, 1 star anise, 2 inches of ginger peeled and sliced lengthways, three spring onions, one small onion chopped into quarters and two cloves of garlic. Bring to boil, skimming off residue, and then simmer on low heat for 90 minutes.)
Two 400g cans coconut milk
90g dark brown sugar
2 tbs salt (or less to taste)
3 tbs tamarind paste (or substitute with Lea & Perrins’s Worcestershire sauce or brown sauce)
50g bunch of coriander (optional)
Two lemongrass stems, pounded with a pestle to release juices (optional)

Toppings
24 raw king prawns deshelled and deveined
12 deep-fried tofu puffs, cut into half
120g green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
120g beansprouts
400g rice vermicelli
Six soft-boiled medium-sized eggs cooked by simmering for 6 minutes 25 seconds before being shocked in ice water to stop the cooking, peeled and sliced in half
50g coriander or mint finely sliced for garnish

What you need to do

1. Blend all of the spice paste ingredients in a food processor until it achieves the consistency of a smooth fine paste. In a large non-stick frying pan, over a medium/low heat, cook the spice paste, continuously stirring for 20 minutes. Do this until it gets a rich dark red-brown colour and the oil separates from the paste. Ideally, leave the fried paste for at least 24 hours in the fridge to develop maximum flavour before using it to make the broth.

2. Add the laksa broth ingredients to another large saucepan with the fried spice paste. Bring to the boil then simmer gently for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, then remove the coriander and lemongrass, and adjust seasoning (salt/sugar) to taste. Then add the tofu puffs to the broth so that they soak up the flavour for 10 minutes.

3. Whilst the laksa broth is simmering, deal with the noodles and toppings. Steep the rice vermicelli in water that has just boiled for 10 minutes, then drain. Blanch the following in boiling water one after the other: beansprouts for 10 seconds, green beans for three minutes, prawns for 90 seconds. Refresh them in cold water immediately after taking out of the boiling water to stop them cooking in residual heat and then drain.

4. Portion the noodles, beansprouts, green beans and prawns out into bowls ready for serving. Pour the hot laksa broth into each of the bowls with four halved tofu puffs per serving. Place in the soft-boiled egg halves and finish with sliced coriander or mint.

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