In the hierarchy of steaming hot bowls of magical broth and noodles, laksa is at the absolute top. The best. The most delicious. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner—it will cure what ails you.
I’m not saying this is the greatest laksa recipe in the world. It surely isn’t. But I’m hoping it will give you an idea of how good laksa CAN be.
I’m a firm believer in the notion that a bowl of spicy noodles is a portal to perfect happiness. Many of my happiest moments these days seem to center on sitting on a low plastic stool, somewhere in Asia, eating chili-jacked noodles in broth. Malaysian laksas are as good as noodles can be. There is an incredibly delicious Penang version, with a tamarind and fish-based broth, chunks of mackerel and pineapple bobbing within—and while both styles have fervent adherents, the Kuching version is my favorite.
I like it spicy, so feel free to adjust with the addition of chili paste or peppers. Ideally you should, in my view, have worked up a solid sweat by the time you hit the bottom of the bowl.
The laksa paste mixture’s flavors develop better with time, so it’s worth making the paste a few days before you make and serve your laksa.
2 quarts stock
1 large chicken breast, bone in, skin removed and discarded
¾ cup Sarawak Laksa Paste
16 to 20 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact, shells reserved for stock
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces rice vermicelli
¾ cup coconut milk
Approximately 2 cups mung bean sprouts
Fresh cilantro leaves or small fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish
Fresh sliced red chili peppers, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish
Sambal belacan (a chili pepper-shrimp condiment, available in Asian markets, well-stocked health food stores, or online) to taste
In a large, heavy-bottom pot with a lid, bring the stock to a boil. Add the chicken, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let sit for another 12 to 15 minutes, until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the stock. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the bones, and use two forks to shred the meat. Set aside until ready to serve the soup.
Return the stock to the heat and add the laksa paste and shrimp shells. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
While the stock simmers, whisk together the eggs and soy sauce in a mixing bowl. In a frying pan, preferably cast-iron, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the egg mixture and let cook for 2 minutes, then flip with a spatula and cook for another 90 seconds. Remove the egg from the pan and let cool, then cut into strips and set aside.
Fill a medium, heavy-bottom pot with water and bring to a boil. Place the vermicelli in a large mixing bowl. Once the water boils, remove it from the heat and pour it over the noodles so that they are completely submerged. Agitate them slightly to keep them from sticking together, then let sit for about 5 minutes. Test one noodle for doneness; once tender, drain the water and set the noodles aside, perhaps tossed with a few drops of oil if they seem to be sticking together.
Strain the hot stock mixture through the sieve, then return it to a high simmer and add the shrimp. Let them just cook through—about 30 seconds—then remove and set aside. Add the coconut milk, bring just to a boil, then remove from the heat and prepare to serve the soup.
Divide the vermicelli, chicken, shrimp, and sprouts among four serving bowls and top with the hot broth. Serve with the cilantro, chili peppers, lime wedges, and sambal belacan alongside.
Originally published in Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever