Here’s a quick word or two to help understand some of the ingredients that go in to making a good laksa. …
Chilli – It wasn’t until the 1500′s that South Asia was introduced to the chilli via trade with the plants native home South and Central America. And embrace it they did So much so that India is now the biggest producer of chilli in the world. Need big fresh banana chilli’s just to get that rich toxic red look happening, little fiery red ones can be added for taste later. Chilli (Capsicum annuum) belong to the Solanaceae family along with tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants.
I cannot find Chilli – use chilli from a jar, although not ideal, still will have decent results.
Galangal – Galangal also known as blue ginger or Thai Ginger, is a member of the ginger family and in many countries, is used as a substitute. It has a slightly more intense and flowery flavour than than ginger and appears in dishes from Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and especially in Thailand
I cannot find Galangal – try ginger instead
Garlic – Probably the worlds best known and most widely used herb this is found in just about every cultures recipes at some stage either standing out by itself or hidden away amongst other flavour’s. Add to that its apparently healthy for us as well, and don’t forget its must have item to keep vampires at bay, its no wonder that it is so popular.
I cannot find fresh Garlic – TRY AGAIN its out there
Lemongrass – Lemon grass is a native of India, it is used widely in both Thai and Vietnamese cooking. The fresh stalks and leaves have a lemon like odour, that is shared with lemon peel. Usually chopped into large pieces so that it can be removed from the dish before being served however for the laksa its going to be put into the paste never to be removed.
I cannot find fresh Lemongrass - try lemon zest instead (1 lemon = 2 stalks lemon grass)
Asian Shallots – Not quite an onion and not really garlic, that’s where you find the shallot. The shallot looks rather like a small, elongated onion with copper, reddish, or gray skin. Once you peel it, it divides into cloves like garlic, rather than one bulb with concentric layers like an onion.
I cannot find Asian Shallots – try red onion
Turmeric – Turmeric a native of South East Asia, for 4000yrs its been used as dye and a condiment. Still used in some religions from rituals to the dyeing of holy robes. When its used in the making of curry powders, it is more often than not the main ingredient, giving the curry the yellow colour, Also used as a mask for fish odours it has many and varied uses.
I cannot find fresh Turmeric – ground turmeric
Candlenuts – Candlenuts must be cooked before eating, since they’re highly toxic when raw, or you can buy the pre-roasted ones which takes just one more step out of the process. Look for them in Asian markets. They get their name form the fact that they contain so much oil you can string them together and use them as candles
I cannot find Candlenuts -try macadamia nuts
Coconut milk - is the sweet, milky white cooking base extracted from the meat of a ripe coconut, its not to be confused with coconut water which is the liquid found inside the coconut. Luckily we can find it in convenient to open cans in the supermarket.
I cannot find Coconut milk - try one cup milk plus ¼ teaspoon coconut extract
Shrimp Paste – This smelly and quite repulsive concoction is made from fermented shrimp. And by itself it can be very overpowering, however this is the secret to many a good thai curry and sauces.
I cannot find Shrimp paste - Anchovies or Anchovy paste
Chicken Stock - Used universally as a base to soups, casseroles and many many other things. This can be picked up from supermarkets in powdered or liquid form. Or if feeling adventurous try making your own.
I cannot find Chicken stock – try making your own
Noodles - This comes down to your own personal choice, seeing as there so many different types of noodles to choose from, i personally go for a wheat noodle something like the Hokkien, or Chow Mien. But rice noodles work just as well.
I cannot find fresh noodles – try uncooked dry noodles.
Vietnamese mint leaves - This herb is such an important part of the laksa, that it is also known as daun laksa (laksa leaf). It does not however belong to the mint family as the name suggests but is more closely related to buckwheat and rhubarb plants. It has a strong, minty, peppery flavor used in mainly salads and soups .
I cannot find fresh Vietnamese mint – use a mix of coriander + mint.
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