The first hopeful spring days have arrived here in Frankfurt. After what seems like an endlessly long and dark winter, the sun has finally got its act together and made a very welcome appearance the past few days. Although winter is my favourite season (I love getting cosy under a blanket and hunkering down for a bit), I’m looking forward to spending more time outside in the sun than sitting in my house. As one last winter hurrah, I decided to make a warming, spicy, hug-in-a-bowl kind of soup that I’ve always been intrigued about – the Southeast Asian, laksa.
When I was searching for a recipe it seems that there are no two ways to make this aromatic, coconutty soup. The basics that most agree on are the coconut base, lemongrass notes, a hefty amount of spice, and fish (usually prawns) or meat. I was searching for a vegetarian version however, and although I would have loved to have tried an authentic version as this was my first time trying the soup, I ultimately ended up following a recipe from a man I can trust – Yottam Ottolenghi. How traditional it is I don’t know, but I was sure it would be delicious.
The one thing I knew about the laksa was that it was supposed to be a bit punchy: layers of spices and fragrant lemongrass that will cure all your ailments. The spiced paste I made that would bring this fiery flavour had bags of ginger and garlic as you’d expect, but also dried chillis and the umami sambal oelek chilli paste. It smelled incredible, but I knew it was going to pack a punch when my eyes were watering during the twenty minutes I lovingly cooked and stirred it, making sure it didn’t catch. At this point I was a bit worried it was going to blow my socks off, but as soon as I added the gentle coconut milk, everything mellowed out. It was still punchy, but it was also like receiving a warm hug at the same time. I added some rice noodles, and some tofu puffs – a new, but welcome discovery for me – and couldn’t wait to dive straight into this bright and flavourful broth.
The laksa was so tasty I greedily slurped up every last drop. It’s definitely not a subtle flavour, but I love that all the ingredients work in harmony, dancing around your mouth as you take a sip. The tofu puffs were a necessity and a revelation – these air-filled fried tofu blocks soaked up the powerful broth like a sponge and took on its beautiful flavour. I can only describe biting into one as a wet sponge, but a million more times more pleasant than that description implies.
I loved this dish so much, my only regret is not making it earlier in winter. It made me secretly hope that there might be a few more cold days where I can whip up some of the delicious broth.