Noodles in coconut milk soup

Noodles in coconut milk soup

Laksa lemak

South East Asian Food

Laksa lemak has its origins in Malacca and is a very rich dish of noodles combined with coconut milk, Malay curry spices and prawns or chicken. It is famous as a mid-morning snack in Singapore, southern Malaysia and Sarawak. Smooth and spicy, Laksa lemak is quite different from the sour Penang asam laksa of the north. It is particularly good as a pick-me-up on a morning after the night before.


Quantity Ingredient
750g raw prawns in their shells
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
750g fresh thick, round, rice noodles
or 1 packet dried coarse rice vermicelli
6 cups quite thin coconut milk, (second or third squeeze)
1 cup thick coconut milk, from 1 1⁄2 grated coconuts, (first squeeze)
250g cuttlefish balls, (available in Asian food stores) deep-fried until brown then sliced, (optional)
salt, to taste
crushed fresh chilli or sambal ulek

Paste spices

Quantity Ingredient
8-15 dried chillies, seeded, soaked in warm water until soft and then squeezed dry, according to taste
2 stalks lemongrass, finely sliced
2.5cm piece galangal, chopped
3cm piece turmeric root, chopped
or 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
4 candlenuts, smashed
3cm slice shrimp paste
1 medium-sized garlic cloves
15 shallots, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds, freshly ground


Quantity Ingredient
4 pieces deep-fried beancurd, sliced
250g beansprouts, washed and trimmed
1 small or lebanese cucumber, cut in 4 lengthwise then sliced across
leaves of 8 sprigs knotweed or vietnamese mint, or coriander leaf, or purple mint, roughly sliced, or chopped spring onions
fried onion flakes


  1. Put the garnishing ingredients into separate bowls and place on the table with serving spoons alongside. Pound the spices to a paste. Wash the prawns, leave a large one for each serve in its shell, trimming off the feelers only and removing the black vein. Shell and devein the remainder. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok, add the prawns in their shells and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes until cooked. Leaving the oil in the wok, lift out the prawns in their shells and keep aside.
  2. Prepare the noodles. If you are using fresh noodles, rinse under cold water to separate. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Dip the noodles into the water briefly to scald them and heat them through. Drain, rinse to separate and place in a large bowl. If using dried coarse vermicelli, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Put the noodles in and bring the water back to the boil. Take the saucepan off the heat, put on a lid and leave to stand for 8 minutes or more until the noodles are soft enough. Drain, rinse in cold water and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add the rest of the oil to the wok and when it is hot fry the spice paste until it is cooked and fragrant. Stir in the thin coconut milk and bring quickly to the boil. Put in the sliced cuttlefish balls if you are using them, add the peeled prawns and bring back to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer until the prawns are cooked. Add the thick coconut milk, bring back to boiling point, stirring all the time, and take to the table while still very hot, together with the bowl of noodles and the garnishes.
  4. Using a deep Chinese soup bowl for each person, put a good serve of noodles in the bottom. Place a selection of garnishing ingredients and a prawn in its shell on top and pour lots of hot prawn gravy over to create a thick soup. Serve with a side dish of crushed fresh red chilli or Sambal ulek to which guests help themselves if they need more heat.
  5. I have had Laksa lemak with baby clams in their shells or a few small shelled raw oysters added with the garnishing ingredients before the gravy (which in this case must be still boiling) is poured over.
  6. For a laksa made with chicken meat, first poach skinned chicken breasts in 2–3 cups water until cooked. Remove the meat, shred it and keep aside. Make the spiced gravy with half the coconut milk (second squeeze) but without the fish or prawns, adding the chicken stock. Put in the chicken meat and stir to mix, then add the thick coconut milk and proceed as above.
  7. I have had chicken laksa also with a few baby clams or small prawns added at the end.
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