Comfort food, for me personally, does not always fall into the usual British ‘stodge’ categories of mash potatoes, stews and pies etc. I love Asian and Oriental dishes like noodles and soups and stews and this week my recipe comes from the farthest reaches of Southeast Asia, brimming with goodness and totally satisfying to boot. For the lazy ones amongst you, this Laksa is one-pot-cooking at its very best, combining the signature kick of spicy food from this part of the world, with a wonderful creamy coconut finish. A fabulous dish to make when you have little time, but equally a great dish to make for friends and family too and of course, you can adapt the recipe and improvise using whatever meat, fish or vegetables you have lying around in the fridge. Whatever you do to it, this warming dish has masses of flavour and is great one to add to your repertoire, it is pure unadulterated ‘comfort in a bowl’.
2 medium sized chicken breasts (you can use prawns, pork, mushrooms or tofu instead)
1 can of coconut milk
150g uncooked rice noodles (the flat wide ones, not the thin vermicelli ones)
2 handfuls of mixed vegetables (I use the fresh & ready chopped ‘stir fry’ vegetable selection in a bag from all supermarkets)
4 spring onions
1 fat lemongrass stick
4 inches of grated fresh ginger
1 small onion, sliced into thin half moons
1 small green chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 heaped teaspoon of curry powder
½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
1 heaped dessert spoon of vegetable stock (I use Swiss Bouillon brand)
Handful of chopped coriander (optional)
Some oil for frying
Boiling water from the kettle
Preheat a large cooking pot over a medium heat. In a big bowl/pan, rinse your rice noodles well in cold water and drain. Then using water from a freshly boiled kettle, cover the noodles in hot water for approximately 8 minutes, then drain water and plunge into cold water.
Bash your lemongrass stick and remove the tough outer layer then finely chop it. Slice your spring onions diagonally lengthways and set aside. Pour a little oil into your pan and fry your onions and lemongrass together until the onions start to brown slightly. At this point, add your chopped chillies and ginger and stir for a couple of minutes. Then add your curry and turmeric powders and about a tablespoon of the coconut milk just to prevent the mix from drying out. Cook the turmeric and curry powder through for a few minutes and make sure it is well incorporated to the onions etc. Once done, add the rest of your coconut milk and your fish sauce and mix well, allowing the mixture to simmer for a couple of minutes.
Slice your chicken into thin strips about a centimetre thick and add them into the pot, along with your vegetable stock and about a pint of hot water from a boiling kettle. At this stage drain your rice noodles and add them to the pot along with your mixed vegetables and your sliced spring onions and stir the pot well. The chicken should take about 8-10 minutes to cook and you can test it by prodding it with a wooden spoon, feeling for ‘spring’ in the meat, which would indicate it needs a couple more minutes, otherwise, it is ready! Served in bowls with a generous serving of sauce… remembering this is essentially a soup-noodle style dish and enjoy.