Peranakan recipes are known to be a labour of love due to their extensive preparation methods, but help comes in the form of modern technology. For example, using a food processor instead of a pestle and mortar to make rempah. However, a food processor’s motored blades tend to grind and cut unevenly. To get around this problem, Oon says it’s not advisable to throw all your ingredients into the food processor at the same time. They need to be separated according to their toughness, with hardy ingredients like galangal, turmeric root and lemongrass going in first with the candlenuts. The latter, secretes oil in the blending process and binds the flavours together. Softer spices, like garlic, shallots and belacan, are added later to smoothen out the paste. “I’ve never made a spice mix that wasn’t waterlogged. I realise now that the onions could be the cause, with their water content released too early on in the mix,” said Oon.
Prep time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook time 20 minutes
5 candlenuts, washed and drained
100g lengkuas (galangal or blue ginger), peeled
1 thumb length turmeric root, peeled
5 stalks lemongrass, bottom part only
25 dried chillies, soaked in hot water till softened
5 cloves garlic
200g shallots, peeled
1½ tbsp Penang belacan (shrimp paste)
3 tsp white pepper powder
300ml vegetable oil
200g dried prawns
800g medium sized prawns, peeled, washed and pat dry
5 tau pok (fried bean curd skin), sliced
3 fish cakes, thinly sliced
350g bean sprouts, roots plucked
750-800ml coconut milk
1kg fresh laksa noodles, lightly blanched
25g laksa leaves, picked from stalks and finely julienned
- Pound or process the candlenuts, lengkuas, turmeric root, lemongrass and dried chillies. When the mixture has reached a semi-rough consistency, remove half of the mixture and reserve. Add garlic, shallots and belachan and process to a fine paste. Return reserved spice mix and pepper to the processor and pulse to incorporate.
- Wash and soak dried prawns for 10 minutes till softened and grind till fine.
- Heat a wok or small saucepan. Add the oil and when hot, add the dried prawns and stir-fry till golden and crispy. Drain.
- Use the same oil to fry the spice mixture till fragrant. Add shrimps and sauté till nearly cooked. Add the fried dried prawns, tau pok, fish cakes and bean sprouts. Saute for a few seconds.
- Add the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil before adding the laksa noodles. Bring to a simmer and toss in fresh laksa noodles. Season to taste and toss with laksa leaves to serve.
Taken from Epicure Aug 2012 issue.