In an attempt to channel the balmy evenings spent in Thailand on our honeymoon I recently made a prawn curry laksa that was extremely close to, if not on par with some of the best laksa we had whilst we were there. Whilst it is not the prettiest dish to look at, there is something about a good laksa that always transports me to a calmer, more relaxed place, like the slow paced holiday life of Thailand resorts. As the laksa lovers will agree, the experience of laksa is not just in the actual eating of this dish, it is in the aroma’s created by the spice mix whilst cooking it, in the art of fishing out the little parcels of deliciousness each time you dive your chop sticks into the sea of bright colours, it is in the kick of fire you get from the chilli followed by the smooth soothing sensation of the coconut cream and it is in the slurping of the last remaining mouthfuls of coconut soup from the bottom of the bowl when you have drained all the meat and vegies from the mix. Such an experience.
Whilst laksa is a sensational dish to devour any time of the year, I especially love a good laksa in winter as a way of firing up my internal heater and boosting my immunity, but too often I am left feeling very sluggish and over full after devouring a bowl of the traditional curry laksa you find at most local Thai restaurants or when making them at home with prepared kits due to the richness of the sauce, added nasties in the jarred pastes and the heaviness of the noodles that are added.
So instead, I have tweaked this dish to my liking. This recipe is a combination of traditional lip smacking laksa flavours, with some interesting substitutes to add to the nutritional content of the dish and make you feel invigorated and fresh rather than laden down and stodgy after you devour it. Instead of the traditional vermicelli rice noodles typically used in this dish I have substituted them with kelp noodles as they have only 6 calories per serve but they pack a serious nutrition punch with an abundance of quality minerals and nutrients in each serve. Or if you would prefer, you could add zucchini noodles instead for an extra serve of veg. Adding shredded cabbage to the mix ups the ante on the amount of vitamins in the dish and assists your digestion due to adding a nice little hit of fibre. And by creating your own spice mix, you are eliminating the nasties that come along with the most store brought jars of laksa sauce.
So what about the coconut cream? Isn’t that a key ingredient to a great laksa? And isn’t that high in fat and the culprit of weight gain and heart disease? Well yes, it is the key ingredient to making a great laksa and yes, it is high in saturated fat…..but more and more research is being conducted at present into the potential health benefits we can receive from adding more medium-chain fatty acids into our diets, such as those found in coconut cream, and provided we eat it in moderation, there is no need to be concerned with the impact on our weight or heart disease. Moderation, is the key. On another positive note coconut cream also contains lauric acid which can provide health benefits just as the lauric acid in breast milk does for bubs. It helps to improve our immune system and can help protect us against intrusive viruses and bacteria…..who doesn’t need an added line of protection at this time of year?
I employ you to use whatever vegies you have in your fridge for this mix. It doesn’t need to be prescriptive. The more veg you can pack into the mix the better the health benefits. And I also encourage you to use good quality coconut cream (check the ingredients to make sure it doesn’t contain any nasties – I like Honest to Goodness Organic Coconut Cream which contains nothing but the cream of a coconut!) and whip up your own spice mix from fresh chilli, tumeric, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass, rather than the store brought pre-prepared laksa pastes. Seriously it takes an extra 5 minutes to do it from scratch, that’s it, and makes an incredible difference on the health benefits you will receive from this dish.
So here you go….prawn laksa to warm your body and soul this winter….enjoy!
Prawn Laksa (serves 4)
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 50 grams red chillies, roughly chopped
- 2 lemongrass stalks, thinly sliced (white parts only)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 5 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
- 250 grams kelp noodles or zucchini noodles
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 x 400g cans of coconut cream
- ½ tsp tamarind paste
- 16 king prawns, peeled and deveined with tails intact
- 2 ½ tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 ½ tbsp. lime juice
- ¼ Wombok cabbage (finely shredded)
- 1 small handful of thai basil and coriander
- 2 limes, quartered
- To make the spice paste, process the garlic, chilli, lemongrass, turmeric, and lime leaves in a food processor or use a mortar and pestle until smooth.
- Place the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the spice paste and fry for 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the coconut milk and tamarind paste and bring to the boil.
- Add the prawns and bring back to the boil.
- Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 5 minute until the prawns are just cooked through.
- Add the fish sauce, lime and cabbage.
- Return the pan to medium heat and cook for 1 minute.