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Laksa Lemak | Seafood Laksa from Malaysia

With cooler weather heading our way, a nice spicy and rich seafood soup is just what we need to warm our bellies and comfort our souls.

Laksa is synonymous with Malaysian cuisine.

Few dishes are more popular in both Malaysia and Singapore and you'd be hard-pressed finding a menu in restaurants or hawker centers (similar to neighborhood food courts) that don't specialize in Laksa. Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup from Peranakan culture, which is a fusion of Chinese and Malaysian culture and elements from Malaysia and Singapore.

There are two types of laksa: curry laksa (curry mee) and assam laksa. The curry laksa has coconut milk in it's soup base while Assam laksa is a hot and sour soup base akin to Tom Yum in Thai cuisine.

An already spicy and rich soup is made even more so by a serving of hot sambal (chili paste) on the side. In traditional Laksa, the soup is quite thick with the proportion of coconut milk exceeding the quantity of stock, 2-3 times.

Of all the Laksa variations out there, my favorite is the the Nonya classic, Laksa Lemak, which we are preparing here. It is a seafood laksa also in a coconut milk broth but to me breathtakingly fragrant and exquisitely delicious with homemade Laksa Spicy Paste.

Nonya refers to the cultural fusion that occurred when the Chinese settled in Malaysia and married the local Malays. As of all dishes in this region, the dishes blend elements of Chinese, Malay and Indian cuisines making it a cuisine unique and entirely its own.

This dish begin with a grocery shop at an Asian market near you!



Recipe for

Laksa Lemak | Seafood Laksa is a Nyonya Classic from Malaysia

Shopping list:

Spice Paste:

*Use half of the paste for this recipe, refrigerate remainder for up to 6 months for future use 10 Brazil nuts or candle nuts

3 tbsp. frozen chopped lemongrass (store-bought) or 4 stalks fresh lemongrass

1-1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh garlic

2 tbsp. shrimp paste in bean oil (store-bought)

2 inch piece fresh galangal (use ginger if galangal is unavailable)

4 fresh Thai red chilies (more or less depending on tolerance to heat)

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 tbsp. canola oil


1/2 lb shrimp, shelled and de-veined with tails on

1 lb mussels

3/4 lb white fish fillets (like Tilapia or Grouper) 

2 cans Asian coconut milk

4 cups chicken stock

1 stalk lemon grass cut into 2-3 pieces

12 oz (1 packet) fresh noodles - egg or flour noodles

3 oz (1/2 packet) mung bean/cellophane  noodles

6 oz deep fried tofu (store bought)

1/3 cup canola oil

boiling hot water as needed

To serve

fresh mint leaves or Asian basil leaves

fresh bean sprouts

fresh lime wedges


Spice paste: Must use a Bullet or similar to make a fine paste.

Galangal: Peel and set aside. Galangal is incredibly hard so don't try chopping, just peel with a vegetable peeler. To the food processor, first add the galangal. Finely chop.

Now add all the other ingredients including the oil. Process till all the ingredients are finely chopped. Stir to include all the ingredients stuck to side of the bowl and process 2-3 times so the paste is as fine as possible.

Cook's Note: The laksa paste will be finely chopped but not a smooth paste like a Thai curry paste or pesto.

Fish fillets: Cut into 1-1/2" pieces and set aside.

Fried tofu: Slice into 1/4" thick slices and set aside.


Bring a pot of water to boil. There should be enough water in the pot to soak all the noodles.

Once the water is boiling, add the mung bean/cellophane noodles and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the other noodles and remove the pot from heat. Use a fork to separate the noodles.

Leave in the boiling water until the noodles are soft. Sieve until ready to use discarding the water.

In a large sauce pan or wok with a lid, heat the oil until very hot over medium heat.

Add half the laksa paste as directed above and saute for about 2-3 minutes until the mixture is aromatic.

Add the chicken stock, lemongrass stalks and coconut milk. Allow to heat through and come to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes so all the flavors have meld together.

Add the fried tofu, fish, mussels and prawns to the pan and cook, covered for about 5 minutes or so until the mussels open. Discard any unopened mussels.

Cook's Note: Leave a small gap between the lid and pot allowing the steam to escape otherwise the soup will overflow making one heck of a mess!

Divide approx. 2 cups noodles per serving in bowls and ladle the hot laksa soup & seafood over the noodles. You can also serve each bowl with the noodles and serve the laksa soup in a large tureen allowing folks to serve themselves at the table.

Serve immediately. Pass around a platter of bean sprouts, mint leaves and lemon wedges at the table.



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