How to Make Laksa Nyonya in 15 Minutes

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There’s a lot of confusion about what Laksa Nyonya is – and this is actually quite understandable in view of the fact that Penang’s famous laksa – the sour, non-coconut milk version aka Asam (Assam) laksa is also Nyonya-influenced.

For the record, my Laksa Nyonya refers to the laksa inspired by Melaka’s nyonya culture. There are, broadly, (I’m emphasizing this word to pre-empt complaints that I’ve missed out on mentioning the pockets of Nyonya populations in other parts of Malaysia/Indonesia/Thailand/Singapore with their own culinary nuances – yes, I’m aware of that) two concentrations of Nyonya settlements in the peninsula – in Melaka and Penang.

Sarah Flanagan and Sean O'Reilly from Boom, the team behind the shoot.

Sarah Flanagan and Sean O’Reilly from Boom, the team behind the shoot.

For the uninitiated, Nyonya/Baba/Peranakan are terms used to refer to Chinese settlers in the Malay straits between the 15th and 17th centuries; as most of these early immigrants were male, they intermarried with local women, resulting in (among other things) a cuisine that reflects this kind of fusion of flavours.

Generally, the southern (Melaka-Singapore) Nyonya food tends to employ a lot of creamy coconut flavours, whereas up north in Penang, the influence of Thailand is evident through the sour notes in its dishes (hence Asam Laksa).

My laksa nyonya - quick and easy!

My laksa nyonya – quick and easy!

For the record, the highlight of my laksa adventure in Penang was in fact something called Siamese laksa (which despite its name does not taste like the typical laksa you might find in Thailand) – this was something akin to a combination of Asam Laksa and Laksa Lemak – ie. it’s sour but also quite rich and coconut-y. I’m told this is also sometimes referred to as Asam Laksa Lemak – which makes sense. Quite delicious – I stumbled upon the place at the bottom of Kek Lok Si Temple – and the operator is actually a Thai lady married to a local man.

#babyNoah is never too far away and that day, he was hanging out in a portable cot just out of camera view all day - and it was a bitingly cold and windy day too.

#babyNoah is never too far away and that day, he was hanging out in a portable cot just out of camera view all day – and it was a bitingly cold and windy day too. This is one reason why I don’t take glib criticism of my videos as well as you’d expect – there’s a lot happening behind the scenes in all my activities, not the least of which is taking care of a disabled baby in between takes.

Anyway, extended preamble aside, here’s the recipe for my Laksa Nyonya – and it’s my own twist on a dish that is generally seen to be a time-consuming exercise if made from scratch. I employ a lot of hacks in my cooking thanks to years of running my now-defunct restaurant – something borne out of necessity because labour was and continues to be an ongoing problem in my business.

Laksa Nyonya in 15 Minutes

Click to watch on YouTube >>

Ingredients for laksa paste –

• 1 cup fried shallots

• ¼ cup minced garlic

• 1/2 Tbsp galangal powder

• 1 tsp turmeric powder

• 1 Tbsp belacan powder

• ¼ cup minced dried shrimp

• 2 ½ Tbsp minced lemongrass

• ½ – ¾ cup chilli paste (from soaked, blended dried chillies)

• 3 Tbsp sugar

• 4 Tbsp chicken stock granules

• 200 ml vegetable oil

For the soup –

1/2 cup laksa paste

250 ml coconut cream
3 cups water
5 Tofu puffs, halved

500 g noodles, blanched
1/2 Lebanese cucumber, cut into thin strips
100 g Beansprouts
2 sprigs laksa leaves, aka Vietnamese mint, optional
Poached seafood or chicken slices as desired.
1 boiled egg, peeled and halved

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