Chicken laksa

It's well worth making laksa paste from scratch.
It's well worth making laksa paste from scratch. Photo: Murdoch Books

Laksa spice pastes are available from supermarkets and Asian food stores, but a home-made paste is superior in flavour and gives you more control over the seasoning, especially the heat. If you like your laksa really hot, add more dried chillies to the paste, or more red chilli at the end.

Ingredients

1.8 kg whole chicken

4cm piece ginger, sliced

4 garlic cloves

1 brown onion, halved

60ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil

400ml tin coconut milk

60ml (¼ cup) fish sauce

3 tsp grated palm sugar (jaggery)

220g dried flat rice noodles

150g bean sprouts

1 lebanese cucumber, halved, seeded and diagonally sliced

3 spring onions, diagonally sliced

20g (¼ cup) crispy fried shallots

¼ cup mint leaves

¼ cup coriander leaves

lime wedges and sliced fresh red chilli, to serve

Spice paste

10g (1½ tbsp) dried shrimp

5 dried small red chillies, seeded and chopped

2 tsp shrimp paste

1 lemongrass stem, pale part only, chopped

30g macadamia nuts

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 French shallots, chopped

2 tsp coriander seeds

60ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil

Method

1. Wash the chicken briefly under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Half-fill a large stockpot with water, add the ginger, garlic, onion and one teaspoon salt and bring to the boil.

2. Lower the chicken into the pot and add more water to cover the chicken if necessary. Poach gently for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and stand for 45 minutes. Remove chicken.

3. Transfer the stock to a bowl or jug, cover and refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Use a spoon to skim off the fat, then put in a large saucepan, bring to the boil and boil for one hour or until reduced to 1.5 litres. Strain through a fine sieve; discard solids.

4. Meanwhile, to make the spice paste, soak the dried shrimp and chillies in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain and process in a small food processor with the remaining ingredients to a smooth paste.

5. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the spice paste, stirring, for three minutes. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and palm sugar. Simmer over medium heat for five minutes. Add more sugar and/or salt to taste.

6. Put the noodles in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and set aside for three to four minutes, until tender. Drain.

7. Meanwhile, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and shred the flesh. Add to the soup and heat through.

8. Divide the noodles among six deep bowls and ladle over the soup. Top with the bean sprouts, cucumber, spring onions, fried shallots and herbs. Serve with lime wedges and sliced chilli.