Monday, 18 July 2011

Thai Laksa - 20 minute meal series

When your starving hungry and you've come home and it's a dark and cold winter night and you need to eat right now, then this is the quickest meal to prepare. Thai Laksa, cooked all in one pot in 15 - 20mins, quicker if I'm really hungry! It's a bit of a staple at my house through the winter over the last few years. After a long day at work, all I would want to do is cook something quick and tasty, especially after cooking all day at work. I must admit I do cheat here
a little but we all need some short cuts from time to time. I buy a Thai paste (vegan – no shrimp paste or fish stock) in fact I have five different types of Thai pastes in my fridge to keep life interesting. I have Red, Yellow and Green paste as well as Panang and Matsaman curry paste.

I add all my fresh veggies and coconut milk along with some fresh classic 'Thai' ingredients. Sometimes I add fresh ginger or turmeric, fresh coriander, thai basil or kefir lime leaves. You can add more fresh chilli although most of the paste's usually have a kick in them already. Try spring onions finely sliced, a splash of toasted sesame oil at the end of cooking or the juice of some fresh limes. This all helps to create that 'fresh' Thai flavour and helps me to feel not so much like a 'cheat'.

For Two

1 400gm tin coconut cream/milk
125gms mung bean noodles ('Glass noodles' or Bean thread noodles they are also known as)
1-2 dsp thai paste (Cock Brand is the one I use) Tip: you can always add more but you can't take it away! Start small and add more later.
2 tsp good salt
tamari, splash to taste

¼ small pumpkin, just a wedge, diced into medium chunks
1 small carrot, cut into batons
a small handful of beans, topped, and cut in half
a small handful of snow peas, topped
1 bunch of Tatsoi or any asian greens you like best, cut the bottom off and wash dirt off stems
1-2 limes (depends how sour and tangy you like it)
5 kefir lime leaves
1 bunch coriander, chopped finely

Simply bring an inch of water to the boil in a medium size saucepan (approximately 20cm in diameter) and add a dessert spoon of any Thai paste you like. While the water is boiling cut up any 'asian' vegetables you like. I use any combination of the following, depending on what is in my fridge at the time: green beans, snow peas, asian greens like bok choi, pak choi or tatsoi, carrots, pumpkin, zucchini or broccoli even cauliflower goes quite lovely in Thai Laksa's.

The trick for me is to keep that crunchy vegetable texture that I love about good Thai food. So cook the vegetables in order of 'hardness' for example, first I would put the carrot or pumpkin in as they are more 'hard' than asian greens or zucchini. Just pop them in first for a minute or two (the pumpkin a little longer then the carrots) and add the vegetables in in order of hardness. I give each vegetable a minute or two depending on how cooked I want it. Make sure it's on a medium to low heat.

Once all the vegetables but the asian greens and coriander are in, add the noodles to soak up the last of the spicy water and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes with the lid on. Then I add the asian greens and coriander at the end, pop the lid on and allow the green to gently wilt and the coriander to infuse. Once the noodles have soften and become translucent, add the coconut cream and stir it in.

This will slow down the cooking of the vegetables so once the coconut cream is warm and has mixed in with all the flavours, add your seasonings, salt, tamari and finally lime juice. The final taste is up to you but I love that strong sour taste of the limes, the salty taste of the tamari (and salt) and the spicy flavours of the thai paste, all in equal measure of prominence. When you are happy with it, serve in a deep bowl and garnish with some extra chopped coriander.

Note: Remember that for each vegetable that goes in, the first vegetables will be in for the longest time so keep an eye on the timing of each vegetable. You want them all to be the desired texture at the same time, at the end. You want the pumpkin soft and cooked, the carrot perhaps a little crunchy, and so to for most of the other vegetables. All of this cooking of the vegetables could take around 10 minutes so it's quick.
You'll get the hang of it.

For a variation to any of the five Thai style pastes I've mentioned above, try this Creamy Peanut Malaysian style curry. 

Add 2 star anise and a cinnamon stick to the boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes until those two spices have infused their warm spiciness. Then stir in some peanut butter (2-3 tbs – depends how 'peanuty' you like it) just before you add the coconut cream.  You can 'dissolve' it first in a little warm water so it disperses quickly. A yellow thai paste or Matsman curry paste works well with these flavours.

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