Curry Noodle Soup with Oyster Mushrooms (Curry Laksa)
Makes 4 really big serving or 6 smaller ones
Tester note: I’ve been sick this week so expect more soups!
Re-laksa, this veggieful version of curry laksa, the famous Malaysian/Singaporean rice noodle soup can be tailored to fit your tastes: make it very rich or light, spicy or mellow, I love this version made with oyster mushrooms and a generous helping of greens. All versions of this soup should include a generous topping of fresh herbs and crunchy sprouts (or slivered daikon or shredded cabbage.)
It’s not the most traditional version, but I love customizing this soup as needed. Make with the addition of creamed coconut for a luxurious soup, or use light coconut milk and extra chiles for a spicy broth that’s exactly what you need when recovering from a winter cold. If you’re interested in trying out brown rice noodles, this soup is the ideal medium. For best results, have all the ingredients chopped and ready to go before frying the curry paste.
Regarding the spice level, the minimum amounts of cayenne pepper and Thai chiles make a fairly spicy broth. If you’re unsure about your heat tolerance reduce the amounts for those ingredients by half, but if you crave more increase as desired.
Tip: For a very smooth curry paste, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of coconut milk to the paste and pulse to get as smooth as possible.
Fried tofu puffs are light, golden, springy balls that can be found packaged and stored in the refrigerated section of many Asian markets. If you can’t find those, look for cutlets of spongy fried tofu and cut into 1 inch squares.
Two Southeast Asian ingredients that are somewhat difficult to find, but if you do consider including in this soup:
Galangal looks similar to ginger and has it’s own pungent, aromatic character. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of finely chopped fresh galangal in the curry paste.
Rau ram/rau rahm, also called Vietnamese coriander, is an herb often used in laksa. Try adding 3 tablespoons of finely chopped herb to the curry paste.
Make ahead tip: Blend the paste and store in a tightly covered container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Laksa Curry Paste
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 6 or more dried red Thai chiles
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1/2 cup sliced shallots
- 1/4 cup finely chopped lemongrass
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 tablespoons chopped unroasted cashews
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 3-6 or more fresh Thai chiles or green chile peppers
- 1 teaspoon salt
Noodles and Soup
- 10 ounce package rice noodles
- 10 ounces oyster mushrooms, ends trimmed and sliced into 1/2 wide pieces
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- One 14 ounce can coconut milk, full fat or reduced fat
- 6 cups vegetable or veggie chicken-flavored broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste (use less if the broth is very salty)
- One package fried tofu puffs or fried tofu cutlets, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 4 cups roughly chopped spinach or bok choy
- 3 cups bean sprouts or thinly sliced Napa cabbage
- 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped mint leaves
1. Make the curry paste first; in a small skillet over medium heat toast the coriander, fennel seeds and dried red Thai chiles (if using) until fragrant. Pour in a spice grinder, add the turmeric and pulse until finely ground. In a food processor pulse this spice mixture along with the rest of the curry paste ingredients into a smooth paste, stopping to scape the sides of the food processor bowl often.
2. Boil the rice noodles according to package direction, drain and rinse well with cold water. Set aside to drain. In a 3 quart soup pot heat the oil over medium heat, add the curry paste and fry, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, stir to coat with curry and fry for 3 minutes or until reduced in size and softened. Stir in the coconut milk, vegetable broth, and salt. Increase heat and bring mixture to a gently simmer, then reduce heat, partially cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. While soup is simmering distribute noodles into 4 large, deep one quart serving bowls (or 6 smaller but deep bowls). Arrange the tofu puffs on top of the noodles. Three minutes before the soup is done, stir in the spinach or bok choy into the broth and cook until just wilted, tender but still bright green. Ladle the hot soup on top of the noodles, being sure to include and even amount of mushrooms, greens and broth. Even distribute the sprouts, cilantro and mint on top of the soup and serve immediately with big spoons and chopsticks!
Variation, extra creamy Curry Laksa:
Place one 1/4 to 1/3 cup of creamed coconut in a mixing bowl and pour in 1/2 cup of hot curry broth. Stir to emulsify the creamed coconut into a smooth sauce, then stir into the soup before adding the greens and tofu puffs.
Creamed coconut is typically sold in packages (not cans); when cold it’s a hard solid block but gets melty when warmed. Be sure to purchased creamed coconut that’s 100% pure coconut without any dairy added.