Make a special trip to an Asian grocer to get the ingredients for this heart- and limb-warming soup. If you can't get tofu puffs, cut firm tofu into big chunks, coat generously in cornflour and deep-fry. Thai basil and mint would make a welcome addition at the end.
100g peeled baby shallots
8 garlic cloves
25g peeled ginger, sliced
15g lemongrass (soft white stem only), sliced
2 tsp ground coriander
3 large dried red chillies
2 tbsp sambal oelek (or other savoury chilli paste)
4 tbsp vegetable oil
50g fresh coriander
1¼ litres vegetable stock
3 branches laksa leaves (aka kesum leaves), or curry leaves, or both
2 tsp curry powder
1½ tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
400ml coconut milk
100g rice vermicelli noodles
300g bean sprouts
150g french beans, trimmed and halved
250g fried tofu puffs (optional)
4 limes, halved
- Put the first seven ingredients in a small food processor bowl. Add half the oil, and the roots and stems of the fresh coriander, and process to a semi-smooth paste.
- Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and fry the spice paste on medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring all the time – you want to cook it slowly without burning. Add the stock, laksa branches, curry powder, salt, sugar and coconut milk, simmer gently for 30 minutes, then taste and add more salt if necessary.
- Once the broth is done, steep the rice noodles in boiling water for three minutes and drain. Throw the bean sprouts into a pan of boiling water, drain at once and refresh. Cook the beans in boiling water for three minutes, drain and refresh.
- Just before serving, remove and discard the laksa branches (the leaves can stay in the soup). Add the beans, noodles and half the sprouts, ladle into large bowls and top with the remaining sprouts, tofu puffs and shredded coriander leaves. Squeeze lime juice on top and throw one half of squeezed lime into each bowl.
- Total time: 1hr
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