This Laksa (AKA Malaysian Coconut Curry Noodle Soup) is better than any restaurant loaded with juicy chicken, shrimp and noodles in a warm, fragrant creamy coconut curry broth.
This from scratch Laksa recipe is one of my favorite soups IN THE WORLD. It is creamy, fresh and vibrant bursting with warm, comforting layers of flavors and textures. The aromatic coconut broth is infused with red curry, shallots, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, lime and Chili Sauce all topped with fresh sprouts, cilantro and lime. This Laksa also reheats and freezes beautifully for an easy dinner any night of the week.
What is Laksa?
It has been a long time since I begged you to make a recipe but can I please BEG you to make this Laksa?! It is one of the most dynamically flavorful soups I have ever had the pleasure of tasting or making. It reminds me of my Thai Chicken Noodle Soup but on steroids. Enough said.
If you have never tried Laksa before, it is a creamy, chicken (and often shrimp) rice noodle soup from Malaysia and other South Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.
There is also asam laksa which has a fish-based broth, but today, it is all about Curry Laksa. Curry laksa is the most popular type of laksa. When someone or a recipe doesn’t specify what kind of laksa, they are generally referring to curry laksa, like we are today.
Curry Laksa is characterized by:
- Laksa Paste: a pasta made up of shallots, garlic, turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, etc.,
- Coconut Broth: a spicy creamy coconut broth made with coconut milk, chicken broth and spiked with lime juice, soy sauce, and fish sauce.
- Chicken and shrimp: you can use chicken or shrimp – or both – in curry laksa.
- Noodles: the hot broth loaded with juicy chicken and shrimp gets poured over a bowl rice noodles.
- Garnishes: typically chili paste, bean sprouts, cilantro, crispy shallots and lime.
I will go into more of these elements in greater detail below, but just know Laksa is bursting with complex, bold flavors but is shockingly easy to make – even though it tastes like it’s been simmering for days.
The best way I can describe Laksa to someone is that it tastes like glorious Coconut Panang Curry but in Soup form – I can’t think of a higher compliment.
What is Laksa Paste?
The flavorful base of Laksa is called Laksa paste and it is very similar to red curry paste. You will be shocked at the flavor packed in one simple paste!
There are store bought Laksa pastes out there, but it is SO easy to make at home – literally less than 5 minutes – AND it does not require any trips to specialty stores.
How to Make Laksa Paste
Add the following to your food processor and pulse until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed:
- 6 oz. shallots, peeled and halved (3-4 medium shallots)
- 4-6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2-4 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 2 lemon grass stalks, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, roughly chopped
- 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
- 8 raw cashews or macadamia nuts (optional)
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- stems of one bunch of cilantro (save leaves for garnish)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Red Curry Paste: Some curry brands are spicier than others. If you are using a more mild brand like Thai Kitchen then I would start with 1/4 cup curry paste. If you are using a spicier brand like Mae Ploy, I would start with 2 tablespoons. You can always add additional Asian Chili paste later to spice up your Laksa Soup.
Lemongrass: If you aren’t familiar with lemongrass, it is a common ingredient used in Asian cuisine and I even have a Lemongrass Chicken dedicated to its pungent, and lemony splendor.
Lemongrass can be found at Asian markets and often in the produce section of your grocery store. If your grocery store doesn’t carry it, then specialty stores such as Sprouts and Whole Foods will carry it. If you don’t spot it right away, make sure you ask someone because it is fairly common and probably hiding somewhere.
Take care you peel off the outer dry, green layers of the Lemongrass. Only use the soft interior closest to the stem that cuts easily with a knife.
What do you Put in Laksa?
Laksa Paste: The Laksa paste ingredients are dump and blend so please don’t be intimidated by the somewhat lengthy list of ingredients. They are the key to authentic Laksa recipe – thus the name!
Coconut Milk: You want a creamy brand of coconut milk for this Laksa Soup recipe such as Chakoah Or Mae Ploy if possible so it not only adds tropical flavorful but tropical creaminess as well. I love Chakoah so much that when my local grocery store stopped carrying it, I started ordering it on Amazon.
Even with a creamy coconut milk, my authentically blasphemous key to gorgeously, thick, and creamy curry coconut broth is to whisk part of the coconut milk with cornstarch. I do this in my Red Curry Chicken and Yellow Curry Chicken for lusciously creamy sauce every time.
Chicken: Chicken thighs are more authentic than chicken breasts for this Laksa recipe, and they are inherently juicier and more flavorful. You can substitute the chicken thighs with chicken breasts, but slice them through the equator first so they are thinner. Chicken breasts will also require a longer simmering time, closer to 15-20 minutes before shredding.
Shrimp: Shrimp is optional in this Laksa Soup recipe, but fabulous. You can add additional chicken or vegetables instead of the shrimp if you prefer. I like to use jumbo shrimp (21-24 count) because they stay wonderfully juicy, but if you already have smaller shrimp in your freezer, they would be perfectly fine to use. You will want raw, thawed, shelled, deveined shrimp with the tails on (you will remove the tails after cooking for more flavor). I purchase my shrimp at Costco because it comes shelled and deveined for an economical price. If you need to know how to safely thaw shrimp, then check out my Shrimp Fajitas recipe.
Take care not to purchase shrimp that have been treated with sodium tripolyphosphate, an additive that improves the shrimps’ appearance but also gives them an undesirable saltiness and unappealing texture. Check the label on the package or ask at the seafood counter.
Noodles: ¼” wide rice noodles are traditional for Laksa Noodle Soup. You can find rice noodles in the Asian section of your grocery store. Rice Noodles will sometimes be called rice vermicelli or rice sticks. You will know you are purchasing the right noodles because thy will have “rice” in the title and be about the same width as fettuccine.
Tofu or Tofu Puffs (optional): Tofu is optional – I haven not included it in this Laksa recipe but you are welcome to. You can use either one 14 oz. container of frim tofu or tofu puffs. For the container of tofu, drain and pat dry then add at the end of cooking and heat through. For tofu puffs (fried tofu found at Asian markets in the refrigerated section), add them to the broth right before serving just to heat through.
Fish Balls (optional): Fish Balls are also optional for Laksa Soup. They are available in the fresh or frozen section of the Asian Market. Fish balls are essentially white fish that have been minced with soy sauce, seasonings and cornstarch then shaped into a ball. Add fish balls to the Laksa soup at the end of cooking and heat through for 1-2 minutes.
Chilli Paste: Chili paste (like Sambal Oelek with the green lid) is essential to pump up the heat and flavor of this Laksa. I far prefer using chili paste in the Laksa Soup than red chilies in the Laksa Paste because then the heat is 100% customizable and everyone is happy!
One tablespoon Chili paste will be tossed with the shrimp and then you can add 1-3 (or more) additional tablespoons chili paste to the Laksa Soup to reach the desired spice level. You can also be conservative and use 2 tablespoons total and then serve the chili paste on the side so everyone can customize their own Laksa.
What Toppings go with Laksa Soup?
Laksa typically comes with bean sprouts but you can also top them with:
- Mint leaves
- Freshly squeezed lime juice/lime wedges
- Julienned cucumbers
- Hard boiled eggs, halved
- Fried shallots
- Chili paste
- Red chilies
How Do you Make Laksa Soup?
- Prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain and toss with a little oil to keep them from sticking. Set aside.
- Add Laksa Pasta ingredients to your food processor.
- Process until smooth, scraping sides down several times. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven/soup pot over medium-high heat. Add shrimp in a single layer and cook for 1-2 minutes until seared then flip over and cook until shrimp are cooked through. Remove tails and add shrimp to a bowl. Toss cooked shrimp with 1 tablespoon fish sauce and 1 tablespoon Asian chili paste. Set aside.
- Add Laska Paste and sauté for 2 minutes. Add chicken to pot followed by 3 cups chicken broth (eyeball it). Whisk remaining chicken broth with cornstarch and add to pot followed by coconut milk, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, basil, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 7-10 minutes, just until chicken is tender enough to easily shred.
- When chicken is tender, remove to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before shredding. Meanwhile, cover soup, and reduce to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir in shredded chicken and cooked shrimp followed by 1-3 tablespoons chili sauce to taste. Add additional lime juice to taste (or individuals can add to their own bowls). Add additional fish sauce to taste (1 teaspoon at a time) for saltier.
- Divide noodles between 4-6 bowls then spoon soup over noodles. Garnish individual bowls with desired toppings including freshly squeezed lime juice and Asian Chili Sauce to taste.
How Long Does Laksa Keep in the Refrigerator?
You can refrigerate Laksa in an airtight container in the refrigerator, separate from the noodles, for 3 to 4 days.
Can I freeze Laksa?
The Laksa coconut broth with chicken and shrimp freezes very well because it doesn’t not contain any dairy products. The noodles and toppings will not freeze well.
You can make the laksa paste and freeze it or double the laksa paste and use half now and freeze the second half for later.
Can I make low fat Laksa?
You can substitute chicken breasts for chicken thighs but take care to slice them through the equator. You will also have to simmer them for 15-20 minutes.
You could use low fat coconut milk, but the lower the fat content the less creamy the soup. Coconut milk with less fat also has a higher tendency to split – but I’d rather, you make less creamy, splitting Laksa than no Laksa at all! To make your lowfat coconut milk creamier, whisk in one tablespoon cornstarch to part of one of the cans.
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