Laksa lemak

Laksa lemak

Mixed seafood soup

The Complete Asian Cookbook
Alan Benson

Laksa is a one-dish meal of rice noodles and seafood in a spicy soup. The Singapore version is rich with coconut milk, while in the Penang-style version they omit the coconut milk for a piquant flavour. The former, also known as laksa lemak, is the most popular.

Prawn stock


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon oil
500g raw prawns, shells and heads only
2 teaspoons salt

For the soup

Quantity Ingredient
375g rice vermicelli
6 large dried red chillies, stems removed
2 tablespoons dried shrimp
or 2 teaspoons dried shrimp paste
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons fresh galangal, grated
or 2 teaspoons laos powder
6 candlenuts or brazil nuts
2 stems lemongrass, thinly sliced, white part only
or 1 strip lemon zest
80ml peanut oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1.5 litres coconut milk
500g chinese-style fish cakes, sliced
175g crab meat, (optional)
500g raw prawns, peeled and deveined
230g fresh bean sprouts, trimmed, to serve
1 telegraph cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced, to serve
1 large handful vietnamese mint leaves, to serve
Sambal ulek, to serve
or Sambal bajak, to serve
fresh lime or lemon wedges, to serve (optional)


  1. To make the prawn stock, heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the prawn shells and heads and cook, stirring constantly, until they turn pink. Add 2.5 litres water and the salt, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until reduced by a third. Strain the stock, discarding the shells and heads. Set aside.
  2. Soak the vermicelli in hot water for 10 minutes, then drain.
  3. Soak the chillies and dried shrimp in hot water for at least 10 minutes, then drain well, reserving the soaking liquid. Place in a food processor with the onion, galangal, candlenuts and lemongrass and process to a purée, adding a little of the soaking water if needed.
  4. Heat 60 ml of the peanut oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the chilli mixture, stirring to prevent burning, until it darkens and becomes fragrant. Add the turmeric and coriander and stir-fry for 1 minute longer, then add the prawn stock and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  5. Add the coconut milk to the soup, then taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Add the fish cake and crab meat and bring to simmering point. Add the rice vermicelli, stir to combine and heat through.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the prawns and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes, adding a little salt to taste. Remove from the heat.
  7. Serve the laksa in large bowls, topping each bowl with a few prawns, some of the bean sprouts, cucumber and Vietnamese mint. Serve the sambal ulek separately for intrepid chilli eaters and lime or lemon wedges for those who prefer a more piquant flavour.
The Complete Asian Cookbook
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