Recipe: how to make the creamy, chili-spiked laksa soup from Hawker Bar on Ossington
PREP TIME: 1 hour
COOK TIME: 40 minutes
8 Thai red chilies, seeded
1 tsp each cinnamon and coriander seeds
1 star anise
½ tsp white pepper
1 bunch cilantro
150 g each fresh ginger and galangal, peeled and finely chopped
80 g fresh turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
8 kaffir lime leaves
6 shallots, chopped
3 lemon grass stalks, trimmed
1 tbsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 560-mL can each coconut cream and coconut milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 ½ tbsp each Squid Brand fish sauce and shaved palm sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1 454-g package rice vermicelli noodles
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small red pepper, julienned
1 cooked chicken breast, sliced
½ lb fresh tiger shrimp, halved
½ 227-g can bamboo shoot strips
½ 227-g can sliced water chestnuts
1 cup each snow peas and thinly sliced green onions
1. To prepare paste, soak chilies in boiling water for 20 minutes. Grind cinnamon, coriander seed, star anise and pepper in coffee grounder until powdery. Cut and wash 5 root ends from cilantro bunch. Whirl cilantro roots and remaining paste ingredients except ground spices in food processor until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Add ground spices and shrimp paste and whirl the mixture into a thick paste.
2. To prepare broth, heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add 100 mL of coconut cream. Heat for 2 minutes until oils and solids begin to separate. Stir in laksa paste. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir regularly for 20 minutes until soft and fragrant. Slowly stir in remaining coconut cream, coconut milk and chicken broth. Bring to a gentle simmer. Pour soup through a fine sieve into another large pot. Add fish sauce, palm sugar and lime juice. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust flavours as needed.
3. Prepare noodles following package directions. Coat a medium frying pan with oil. Set over medium heat. Add red pepper and shrimp to pan. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes until pepper is cooked and shrimp turns pink.
4. Chop 1 cup cilantro leaves. Divide noodles, chicken, shrimp, red pepper, bamboo shoots and water chestnuts among bowls. Pour hot broth overtop. Garnish soups with cilantro, snow peas and green onions. Serve immediately.
This recipe requires a bit of grocery hunting. You should have good luck finding most of the ingredients at T&T Supermarket near Polson Pier. 222 Cherry St., 416-463-8113.
Alec Martin owes his job to laksa. Last year, the Australian-born chef was having drinks with restaurateur brothers Nicholas and Frederic Laliberté, who were pining for the curry soups they’d eaten on a trip to Singapore. When Martin mentioned he loves to make laksa—he honed his recipe for the soup at a restaurant called Gingerboy in Melbourne—the brothers decided to open a Singapore-style snack bar on Ossington with Martin as head chef. His laksa builds on an earthy curry base (the key ingredient is galangal, a gnarled, pungent ginger relative) topped with a creamy coconut broth, chicken, shrimp and vegetables. In summer, the soup is light, fresh and smooth; come winter, it’s a core-warming comfort.