Sunday, December 8, 2013

Shrimp Laksa

We just had a fantastic week with good friends visiting from Melbourne, soaking up the Sydney sun on various beaches and eating and drinking a little too much at some of our favorite spots. Tonight called for a bit of a detox, something light but vegetable-heavy. I thumbed through some cookbooks and came across a bookmarked recipe in The Best of Bill Granger for Light Laksa. I've been meaning to try it, and the hubs agreed this was just the kind of thing we were after. We changed up the recipe to suit what we had on hand and our preferences, and the result was delicious. Best of all, it came together in about 30 minutes flat.
Shrimp laksa, infused with red curry, coconut, and ginger 
This Malaysian-style soup is not too spicy at all, it's filling and hydrating, and it's chock-full of veggies and protein-rich shrimp. It's the kind of soup that requires a spoon and a fork (or chopsticks). First date food it is not... we'll be washing the placemats tomorrow, and I had to give the table a pretty thorough wipe-down after we splattered soup all over ourselves and the surrounding perimeter of our bowls.
Shrimp laksa full of vegetables: bok choy, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and eggplant
with ginger and mukrat lime leaves
You could easily leave the shrimp out if you're looking for a vegetarian version, or try subbing cubes of firm tofu. Makrut lime leaves are easy to come by in Sydney at our local fruit and veg shop. I'm not sure how accessible they are elsewhere, but ask your grocer if they stock them, as they really are key in bringing all the flavors together. This laksa would be welcome during the icy weather up in the northern half of the world at this time of year, and perfect anytime down in the south. I leave you with warm wishes and the rosy pink tulips our friends left us with before they returned to Melbourne yesterday...
Christmas time = tulip season in Australia

Shrimp Laksa
inspired by The Best of Bill Granger
serves 4

2 cups chopped eggplant
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 teaspoon rice bran oil (or other vegetable oil; divided use)
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
4 cups reduced sodium vegetable broth
2/3 cup coconut milk 
6 makrut lime leaves (3 whole leaves, and 3 leaves thinly sliced for garnish)
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 bunches baby bok choy
2 cups bean sprouts
2 cups prepared thin rice noodles (vermicelli noodles)

To serve:
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
lime slices
3 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
fish sauce (optional)

Heat a wide sauté pan over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with 1 teaspoon oil, and add the eggplant and mushrooms. Sauté until softened and eggplant is cooked through, about 6-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium-low heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Add the red curry paste, and stir around with a spatula until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth, coconut milk, ginger, and the three whole lime leaves. Turn the heat up to high, and bring the broth mixture to a slow simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 3-4 minutes to let the flavors infuse.

Add the shrimp and the cooked eggplant and mushrooms to the broth mixture. Continue to simmer until the shrimp turn pink, about 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the baby bok choy and bean sprouts, stirring carefully until the bok choy leaves begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes.

Distribute the prepared rice noodles into four bowls, and ladle the laksa over the noodles. Serve immediately with bowls of brown sugar, lime slices, thinly sliced lime leaves, and fish sauce, allowing everyone to season their laksa to taste. (We found that about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar was plenty; add a couple drops of fish sauce if you think it needs to be saltier; the sliced lime leaves are a must!)

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