Recipe: Paleo Thais chicken & prawn laksa
If you had to pick your ‘last meal’ what would it be? For me, Laksa would have to be in the top five. If you haven’t heard of or tried Laksa before, it’s a coconut-based curry soup from Malaysia which fuses Malay, Thai and Chinese flavours and ingredients. Very common and popular in Australia, the dish features a handful of noodles, tofu puffs, bean sprouts, crispy vegetables and a selection of meats or seafood served in the most glorious, fragrant, spicy coconut soup.
I seriously want to sing Hallelujah when I sip a good Laksa broth. I love its rich flavours and the warmth you get from all the spices and chili. Some of my friends (*cough* I may be talking about myself *cough*) will travel far and beyond in search of the perfect Laksa. That ‘perfect’ characteristic really does depend on your taste buds and notions of authenticity as Laksa comes in many varieties and even the most typical Laksa Lemak can be cooked in many different ways.
What I’m trying to get to is that Laksa can be a perfect Paleo dish! Ditch the noodles and tofu, add extra veggies, a mix of good protein and et voilà – you have a delicious meal with the desired ratio of proteins, carbs and fats. Sure, it’s much easier to go and get a bowl of Laksa in Chinatown or from your local Thai take away shop, but there is something super cool about making it from scratch. And you know what? It’s actually very easy if you give yourself enough time and you can get the right ingredients. For those who don’t have much time or can’t find things like galangal or turmeric roots, I’ve provided a few tips and alternatives. Another quick note, I did use a little bit of palm sugar to balance out salty and sour flavours – I just couldn’t butcher the authenticity of this dish. There is a great write up on using a little bit of certain sugars while eating Paleo on this blog. By all means, leave the sugar out if you want and it will still taste pretty damn good.
The foundation of any Laksa soup is a Laksa curry paste, which I made from scratch and you can find the recipe here. You can also use a store bought Laksa paste or something like red curry paste. I would say it’s probably somewhere between red and green curry paste really. You will need a large saucepan to fit all of the soup plus meat and veggies. I used chicken and prawns in this recipe but you can easily replace those with beef, scallops and fish. The reason I use salt reduced chicken stock is because I like to control how much and what type of salt I add to the dish. Prepackaged stocks have so much sodium and it is often disguised by sugar and other things, I would rather use more fish sauce for both saltiness and flavour. Ok, let’s get started!
- 5 tbsp Laksa paste, see recipe here
- 1 fresh lime
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp grated palm sugar (yeah, not really Paleo but won’t kill you in small dozes, leave it out if you want)
- 400gm peeled prawns, tail on
- 1 1/2 chicken breast, sliced into 4-5 chunks
- 500ml salt reduced chicken stock
- 400gm full fat coconut milk
- 100gm coconut cream
- Coconut oil
- 5 stalks & leaves of Chinese broccoli (Kai-lan)
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 1 zucchini
- Half of broccoli head
- 1 Lebanese cucumber
- Fresh coriander, fried shallots & diced red chili for garnish
- Heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a large saucepan. Cook Laksa paste for 3 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent sticking. This process toasts the spices and releases all those beautiful flavours and aromas. Add more coconut oil if the mix dries up.
- Pour stock, add fish sauce, sugar and juice from 1 whole lime. Bring to boil.
- Add chicken chunks and cook for 1-2 minutes on medium heat. Remove meat and rest on a chopping board. Once cooled down a little, slice the chicken into strips. It will still be a little raw in the middle but that’s ok as it’s going back in the pot in a short while.
- After a few minutes, turn the heat to low and add coconut milk. Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes.
- You can prepare vegetables and garnishes while the broth is cooking away. Cut broccoli into small florets and break Chinese broccoli into smaller stalks and leaves. Using a peeler, slice carrot thinly going length way. This will give us nice thin orange strips/ribbons. Slice zucchini very thinly as well and then cut into thin noodle like strips. Have a few thin slices of chili and fresh coriander leaves ready for service.
- It’s time to finish off the cooking. Add our precooked chicken, kai-lan, broccoli and carrots. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add prawns and zucchini last as they require minimal cooking, about 2 minutes. A good way to tell if the prawns are cooked (besides actually tasting one) is to look for when they start to curl and change to white/pinkish colour. Stir in the coconut cream last minute.
- Serve a mix of meats and vegetables with a couple of ladles of soup and some garnish on top.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: about 35 minutes
Number of servings: 4-5
Notes: My featured Laksa paste is not as spicy as some of the imported varieties so 5 tablespoons of serious red curry paste might blow your head off. Start with 3 if you’re not sure and always have a little taste of the paste itself.
I hope the whole process doesn’t scare you too much. It really is a lot of fun to make your own Laksa and you should get your family and friends involved in the kitchen. To use the paste in a curry, simply add coconut milk or cream with just a little bit of stock for a rich, thick gravy. I’ll have to post a recipe for my favourite Chicken Panang Curry.
On another note, check out my Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook for more delicious paleo recipes, introduction to paleo nutrition and philosophy and a handy inventory of foods to focus on and avoid. Available on my website.