Malaysian Laksa Lemak or Curry Laksa
Are you looking for a prawn and chicken laksa recipe that will walk you through the process of making this dish from start to finish? This post will teach you how to make curry prawn and chicken laksa from scratch. I loved eating laksa when I lived in Malaysia but I never made it after I moved to Europe because I thought it was too hard and time-consuming.
But this laksa curry recipe my mother taught me is straightforward and produces a balanced noodle dish that is not too spicy, a rich broth, and a depth of flavor that will knock your socks off.
Not only will I teach you how to make laksa but I’m going to walk you through these topics too:
Hold onto your keyboard because I’m about to take us on a journey through this extensive guide about prawn and chicken laksa. First on our trip, “What is laksa lemak?”
What Is Laksa Lemak?
Have you seen the Malay laksa Wikipedia list? It’s one heck of a long list and laksa lemak is on it. The word ‘laksa’ does not have a direct translation but instead is a variation on spicy noodle dishes that can be found throughout Southeast Asia.
The variations can be broth, noodles, and fillings. Most typically, you can find two kinds of broth: one with a rich coconut broth flavored with a spice paste or a stock that is seasoned with sour fruit like asam jawa (tamarind) asam gelugur.
‘Lemak’ directly translates to fat. Don’t go running just yet! Fat in this case relates to the fattiness or richness of the coconut milk or cream used in this Malaysian laksa. This prawn and chicken laksa is also known as curry laksa or laksa lemak.
It can be found in Selangor or Kuala Lumpur and the signature fillings include cockles, tauge (bean sprouts), and deep-fried tofu puffs. The noodles used for this dish vary from vermicelli noodles or yellow egg noodles. All of which I could not find in my Asian store this week. Go figure, huh?
Luckily, that wasn’t so important. What I did need, I had: belacan, dried shrimps, and fresh turmeric. Ingredients that are staples in my pantry but not common in European cooking. So, let’s talk about some of these three things.
Belacan, Dried Shrimps And Fresh Turmeric
Some of the ingredients for laksa might have you scratching your head. Or you might be cautious because the first two stink. If smell-O-vision was a thing, maybe I could convey what I mean by stank. But take my word for it and fear not. That stank is imperative and will help develop the flavor we’re looking for. Here’s a quick introduction to belacan, dried shrimps, and the most harmless ingredient- fresh turmeric.
An authentic prawn laksa recipe would not be complete without belacan, also known as terasi, is a fermented condiment made from finely ground shrimp or krill mixed with salt and left to ferment for weeks. It smells potent but tastes absolutely delicious, lends an umami flavor, and is an essential ingredient in a lot of Malaysian dishes, including this one. This paste can be found in a wet form or dried rectangular blocks.
The other stinker on our list is dried shrimps. These are basically small shrimps that have been dried in the sun. Before you start wondering why there are two forms of dried shrimps in this recipe. Let me clarify that dried shrimps and belacan have very different tastes.
Yes, they both impart an umami aspect to the broth but dried shrimps are sweeter and have a unique flavor compared to fresh shrimps or belacan. So, don’t skip out on these little guys.
Turmeric is a rhizome like ginger or galangal and grows in the ground. It can be found fresh or in powder form. Recently, fresh turmeric has become widely available in large supermarkets due to its growing popularity as a superfood.
Native to Asia, this humble vegetable has a golden hue that will stain anything yellow and for the base of this recipe, fresh turmeric is required as it lends a mustardy peppery note to the broth. It’s also what makes our laksa so yellow!
Now that we’ve covered the unfamiliar ingredients, let’s put the prawn in this prawn and chicken laksa by uncovering a dirty little secret. Next up on our list of topics is, “why you should clean your prawns.”
Why You Should Clean Your Prawns
This Malaysian laksa curry is swimming with shrimps, from dried shrimps to blocks of fermented shrimps and now, fresh prawns. Something that shocked the bejeezus out of me when I first realized it was how people don’t clean their shrimps in Europe.
What do I mean by ‘clean your prawns?’ I don’t mean washing or rinsing them, I mean removing the poop sack or vein running through shrimps. In Asia, we take time to make an incision through the shrimp to clean it, like so:
If you score the back of the shrimp, you will find a dark vein along the back of it. This is the poop sack and it’s also a filter for sand or grit. It’s not dangerous to eat because the cooking process kills any harmful bacteria but the thought of it isn’t very appetizing. And if you’re ever planning on joining Masterchef, this is the stuff that’ll get you kicked out.
Enough about poop sacks, let’s get into the good stuff and learn how to make each component for this prawn and chicken laksa recipe.
How To Make Prawn And Chicken Laksa
This prawn and chicken laksa have three components that make up the dish; a spice paste, chicken stock, and prawn stock. I’m going to walk you through each component and show you how to make prawn and chicken laksa from scratch.
The spice paste is the base of this dish and puts the curry in this prawn and chicken laksa curry. It is made from garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, fresh turmeric, and dried chilies. Start by soaking the dried chilies and dried shrimps in hot water for 10 minutes.
Add everything into a blender and mix until desired consistency.
Originally, this recipe included ingredients like shallots, coriander root, and candlenuts. But after almost 5 years of following a low fodmap diet, my bowels disagree with onions. Coriander root and candlenuts, on the other hand, are hard to get a hold of in the Netherlands but even without these ingredients, you can make an authentic laksa dish and this recipe is a testament to that.
On to the next component of this curry laksa recipe, the chicken stock (which will later be incorporated into the prawn broth).
The Chicken Stock
The chicken stock does two things; it cooks the shredded chicken that tops our noodle dish and it creates a laksa chicken broth that will add more flavor. To make this, you simply need to add the chicken breasts in a saucepan with 2.5 liters of cold or room temperature water and boil for 15-20 minutes.
During this time, it is important to remove any impurities from the broth. After it has finished boiling, take the chicken breasts out and shred them into pieces like this with a fork:
You can also use this low fodmap chicken broth recipe or any store-bought stock for this chicken laksa recipe. Once it’s done, set it aside and make the prawn stock.
Making Prawn Stock
This prawn laksa is jam-packed with shrimpy goodness because of this stock. It is the ultimate prawn stock and to make it, you need the shells and heads of the shrimps. To make this prawn laksa recipe, start by adding 3 tablespoons of oil into a large pot. Add the prawn shells and saute for 5 minutes on medium heat. While the shells are sauteing, make sure to squish the shrimp heads like so:
This is an odd step but I really recommend doing this because it releases all of the flavors from the shrimps and will give our broth a depth that would otherwise be missing. After sauteing, it should look like this:
Add the chicken stock to this pot and simmer for 15 minutes to extract all that flavor and enrichen the stock. The last step is to strain the mixture and discard the shells. A telltale sign of a good laksa lemak is the red sheen of oil from the prawn broth.
After you’ve made all three components, it’s finally time to bring them together to make a big bowl of laksa soup that will embrace you like a warm hug on a cold winter day.
Bringing Everything Together
What do you get when you put together a spice paste, chicken and prawn stock, and coconut milk together? Chicken and prawn laksa!
To make this laksa soup recipe, start by adding 3 tablespoons of oil to a large pot. Saute the spice paste for 10 minutes on medium-low heat. This may seem like a lot of time but caramelizing the spice paste like this will only enhance the flavors of the laksa.
After 10 minutes, add the prawn stock and coconut milk into the pot and let everything simmer for 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the oil floats to the top like this:
You can add your shrimps at the end of the cooking process and cook them for about 2-3 minutes. This is also a good time to add any of your other fillings. Below, we cover filling and topping options.
Laksa Fillings And Toppings
This recipe for laksa calls for fillings like shrimp but usually, I also add fried-tofu puffs and fish balls into the stock. You can add any other seafood like cockles or more modern European filling like fish, squid, or even mussels.
As for toppings, the world is literally your oyster. I’ve topped my bowl of laksa with shredded chicken, a quick 6 minute boiled egg, sambal olek, coriander, coriander, and a lime wedge.
You can add just about anything (within reason) to your prawn and chicken laksa and I guarantee you it’ll be absolutely scrumptious. Have you ever had Malaysian laksa lemak before? What are your favorite fillings and toppings? Share it in the comments below! If you’re looking for more noodle recipes, why not try making these dishes:
Prawn And Chicken Laksa (Laksa Lemak)
Dive into a bowl of Malaysian laksa lemak (curry laksa): an aromatic spice blend cooked in a deeply savory and rich coconut shrimp broth, topped with shredded chicken and the perfect 6-minute egg.
- Laksa noodles
- Optional for topping: lime wedges, sambal olek, tofu puffs, boiled egg, coriander/cilantro leaves
- Laksa Paste:
- 5 dried chilies (soaked)
- 25g ginger
- 25g galangal
- 10g turmeric
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 10g or 1 tbsp dried shrimps (soaked)
- 1 tsp belacan or terasi
- 5 tbsp water (reserved from chili water)
- Prawn Stock:
- 2.5L water (or chicken stock)
- 2 chicken breasts
- 6 tbsp oil (3 tbsp for sauteing paste + 3 tbsp for prawn stock)
- 600g prawns (with shells =very important)
- 500ml coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
For the paste:
Add hot water to dried chilies and dried prawns. Cover with a lid and allow them to soak for 10 minutes.
Place the galangal, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, belacan, soaked chilies, and prawns into the blender and mix until it forms a paste. Set this aside for later.
In a pot, add the chicken breasts and 2.5L of cold or room temperature water. Bring this to a boil on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Scoop away impurities that rise to the top. Remove the chicken from the stock and shred the meat. Reserve the shredded chicken for serving.
Peel your prawns and set aside the shells.
Devein your prawns by scoring the back lightly and removing the poop sack. Give them a good rinse and set them aside for later use.
In a large pot, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the prawn shells and saute for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Make sure to press on the shells to release as much flavor as possible.
After 5 minutes of sauteing, their shells should be red. Add 2.5L of chicken stock and boil for 15 minutes.
When the shells have imparted their flavor into the broth, strain the liquid.
In a pot, add 3 tablespoons of oil and saute the paste for 10 minutes on medium-low heat. It should be brown and caramelized.
Add the coconut milk and chicken stock to the pan and boil for 15 minutes.
After that, add in the cleaned fresh prawns and boil for an additional 3 minutes.
Season with sugar and salt.
Boil noodles according to package. We used egg noodles and cooked them for 4 minutes in boiling water.
In a pot of boiling water, add eggs and cook for precisely 6 minutes. Once done, remove from water and place in ice-cold water to cool.
Place noodles in a bowl, ladle on the laksa broth, top with shredded chicken, boiled egg, coriander, sambal olek, or any other condiment of your choice.
- You can use store-bought chicken stock, simply boil your chicken in that instead of water.
- Prawn shells are necessary for this recipe and give the stock that glossy red oil sheen that curry laksa is famous for. Try and get whole prawns -head and all- for the best results.