Singapore Katong Laksa (From Scratch) – Learn how to make Singapore Katong laksa from scratch without feeling intimidated. Homemade Laksa paste from scratch isn’t as hard as you think.
Laksa is a popular noodle soup from the Peranakan culture. Peranakan is a merger of Chinese and Malay cultures. There are many different kinds of laksa in Southeast Asia alone. Generally though, you’ll see the curry type with creamy broth that has coconut milk in it. Then there is also the tamarind based broth such as Asam laksa. Asam laksa alone has different varieties.
WHAT IS SINGAPORE KATONG LAKSA?
I’m by no means, an expert in Katong Laksa. I never grew up with one. It’s not something I got to eat in Indonesia. I grew up with Medan Asam Laksa. But, when I lived in Singapore, I got hooked with their popular Katong Laksa. The Katong area in Singapore was where it was originated. Singapore Katong laksa is one of the well-known dishes, and I’m not surprised why. You gotta taste it to believe it.
The broth is prepared with laksa paste made with a pretty long list of ingredients (but don’t get intimidated by that) and also shrimp stock and coconut milk. I love the addition of blood cockles in katong laksa. I couldn’t find fresh blood cockles and so I skipped that. Other toppings I like in katong laksa are tau pok (fried tofu puffs), fish balls, fried fish cakes, and shrimp. All these are served with thick and round rice noodles (Some call it laksa noodles), a spoonful of sambal and sprinkle of laksa leaves (Vietnamese coriander/ rau ram/ daun kesum).
WHAT MAKES GOOD SINGAPORE KATONG LAKSA
1. LAKSA PASTE
Nowadays, there are many ready-made laksa paste you can buy from the stores. Not all of them are good, but if you find good ones, they are actually pretty decent.
The laksa paste is made with aromatic spices, herbs and other ingredients that is ground into paste. Dried shrimp is one of the very important ingredients to get that laksa paste its amazing umami flavor among all the other aromatics.
2. LAKSA BROTH
The broth is made by simmering shrimp shells and heads. Another umami bomb right here!(Now you know why Katong laksa is good!). The broth is then made creamy by the addition of coconut milk! (Enough said?)
The sambal is made with chili, shrimp paste (belacan)-another umami bomb here, and shallots. They are ground and stir fried until fragrant
Though I can honestly tell you that if you just give me a bowl of the noodles with the laksa gravy without anything else, I can down that in a hearbeat. But, to make “proper” Singapore Katong laksa, here are few toppings that I must have: Fried tau pok (fried tofu puffs), shrimp, blood cockles (I couldn’t find any here), and bean sprouts
TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE SINGAPORE KATONG LAKSA WITHOUT FEELING OVERWHELEMED
Yes, the list of ingredients are long, but don’t get intimidated. There are things you can prepare few days before.
FEW DAYS BEFORE SERVING KATONG LAKSA
1. Make the laksa paste
In fact, double the recipe and you can freeze half of it for future use
2. Prepare shrimp stock
Peel the shrimp and then keep the heads and shells to make shrimp stock
These are the two major work in preparing katong laksa. Once you have this two, on the day of serving, it’s just little things you need to prepare to put everything together
3. Make the sambal
CAN I MAKE KATONG LAKSA NOT SPICY?
Yes. In fact, that’s what I did. I use dried guajillo chile. It’s large dried Mexican chile that still gives its vibrant red color without any heat. My kids can enjoy Katong laksa too.
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For baking/ kueh making: I highly encourage to weigh ingredients with a digital kitchen scale instead of using measuring cups as they are not very accurate especially when it comes to recipe that requires precision.GRAMS TO CUPS CONVERSION (UNSIFTED)
- 3 lbs thick rice noodles usually used for laksa
- 3 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt - (more to taste)
Laksa spice paste :
- 10 shallots - peeled
- 80 gr dried shrimp - soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
- 12 piece candlenuts
- 20 dried red chili - see notes, soaked in warm water until soft
- 1 inch ginger
- 2 thumbsize turmeric root - or use 5 Tbsp turmeric powder
- 2 inches galangal - or use 4 Tbsp galangal powder
- 4 stalks lemongrass - use the tender white part, cut into smaller pieces
- 1 handful laksa leaves / Vietnamese coriander/ rau ram
- 1 Tbsp coriander powder
- 1/3 cup oil
- 800 gr shrimp - keep the shells and head for stock
- 300 gr fish balls or fish cakes
- 500 gr fresh or frozen cockles - optional, thaw if frozen
- 10 -15 fried tau pok - cut into half or quarter with kitchen shears
- 300 gr beansprouts
- 1/3 cup laksa leaves / Vietnamese coriander/ rau ram - finely chopped
Sambal chili paste (grind into a smooth paste):
- 200 gr dried red chili - soaked in warm water until soft
- 1 Tbsp shrimp paste/ belacan
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- Salt to taste
THINGS YOU CAN PREPARE FEW DAYS AHEAD:
Preparing laksa paste:
- Place all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse a few times and then grind into a smooth paste. You may need to scrap the bowl a few times to make sure everything is ground finely. The oil should help things going in there
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and process into a fine paste. Pour this into a pan and stir fry until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a glass jar and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week and can be frozen for up to one month
Preparing laksa broth:
- Preheat a large heavy-bottom pot. Add cooking oil. Carefully add the shells and heads from the shrimp and stir fry until they turn orange in color. Add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to let it gently simmer for 30 minutes
- Strain the stock and discard the shells. You can store this in the refrigerator for up to 1 week
ON THE DAY OF SERVING SINGAPORE LAKSA:
Blanch the bean sprouts, shrimp, fish balls and cook blood cockles:
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Blanch the bean sprouts for about 10 seconds and then run through cold water quickly
- Discard the water and bring a fresh pot of water to a boil. Cook the shrimp until they turn pink and then refresh with cold water. Reheat the fish balls in the boiling water for 10-20 seconds. Set aside
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add blood cockles to a boiling water. Give it a stir and cook until you start seeing some shells have opened, probably at around 2-3 minutes mark or longer. Turn off the heat and drain off water. Remove the cockle meats and set aside
Putting laksa paste and laksa broth together:
- Preheat a large heavy-bottom pot. Add laksa paste (there's already oil in there). Stir fry until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Keep stirring to prevent the paste catching at the bottom of the pot. Pour in the shrimp stock. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to let it gently simmer for 15 minutes
- Stir in the coconut milk. and tau pok and let it gently simmer for 10 minutes to let them soak up the gravy. From this point on, you don't want to let it come to a hard boil or the coconut milk with turn frothy. Then have a taste and adjust by adding more salt and or sugar. Stir in the coconut cream. Turn off the heat. The residual heat will warm up the milk.
Cooking the noodles:
- I use dried thick rice noodles (similar to the ones used for Vietnamese Bun Bo Hue). Cook the noodles according to instruction
- Portion the rice noodles in a large bowl. Arrange fish balls/fish cakes, shrimp, cockles (if using), and bean sprouts on the noodles. Generously ladle the hot laksa broth over and sprinkle in more laksa leaves
- Serve with sambal on the side or on the laksa. Serve immediately