Since I have been blabbering about vegan Asam laksa non-stop for about a month straight, I thought it would be appropriate to provide you with a vegetarian Asam laksa recipe at long last. Asam laksa is a mix of Malay and Chinese cuisine, a noodle soup that is traditionally made with fish. It is widely available in Malaysia, Singapore and in some parts of Indonesia.
I have sampled several variations on the laksa recipe, most of them made with a creamy coconut broth, but my favourite was the sour broth variant we found on Penang Island: the Penang Asam Laksa, a unique and complex blend of spicy, sweet and sour flavours. And so the hunt for a vegetarian Asam Laksa recipe began.
One ingredient that is, in my view, absolutely essential to any Penang Laksa is a very aromatic and little known herb called Vietnamese coriander, Vietnamese mint, laksa herb, persicaria odorata or, my favourite designation, daun kesum. This is the best herb in life, I am not kidding. Its distinctive flavour could be described as citrus-y (it vaguely reminds me of yuzu in how it is both citrus-y and floral), with a similar pungency to cilantro and a taste that could be akin to mint, cilantro and perhaps tarragon all wrapped up together. It’s a uniquely fragrant herb that’s very hard to describe and oh-so delicious.
If you cannot find it in your local Asian market when preparing your vegan grocery list, I would replace it with equal parts mint and cilantro, and perhaps a wee bit of lemon zest (or yuzu if you can find it!). You can also order seeds online and grow your own. I know I will when I get home!
- FOR THE LAKSA PASTE
- 4 fresh chillies
- 10 shallots
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 small piece turmeric (or 1 tsp. powdered turmeric)
- 1 small piece fresh peeled galangal (or ginger)
- 1 tablespoon vegan shrimp paste (or miso)
- FOR THE BROTH
- 6 cups of water
- 2 tbsp. cooking oil
- Golf ball size fermented tamarind paste (asam) (also used in my jamu recipe – it has to be the sour variety)
- OR ½ cup lemon or lime juice (subtract this from the water)
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- Daun kesum leaves or a mix of mint, cilantro and citrus zest
- A little mint if you are using daun kesum
- Chopped pineapple chunks to taste
- Finely diced red onion to taste
- Finely shredded kale or any green leafy vegetable (traditionally, lettuce is used)
- Shredded vegan fish (I used a premade packaged one (it’s basically just textured soy protein). Alternatively, you could use shredded tofu puff (widely available in Asian supermarkets or omit this altogether if you are not into this type of rather quite processed stuff).
- A spoon of yellow bean paste (Just omit if you don’t have any, not a big deal)
- Few slices of thinly sliced chilli
1. Process all the laksa paste ingredients in a food processor until smooth. You can also grind it with a pestle and mortar to be more traditional, but, in my case, ain’t nobody got time for that.
2. Heat up the oil in a large nonstick pot on medium heat.
3. Add the laksa paste and sauté for 8-10 minutes.
4. Add all the broth ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
5. Add the shredded fish/tofu puff and pineapple for the last 5 minutes of cooking and make sure whatever noodles you are using are cooked according to package instructions at around this time as well.
6. Adjust seasoning to taste, adding more tamarind, sugar or soy sauce if you would like a more sour, sweet or salty broth.
7. To serve, ladle the broth over a big bowl of noodle sprinkled with kale, laksa herb, red onion and serve with a spoonful of vegan shrimp paste to stir in and chopsticks.
Enjoy! Menikmati hidangan anda!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 801Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 3189mgCarbohydrates: 127gFiber: 13gSugar: 71gProtein: 37g