When days are less short but still chilly, a comforting bowl of soupy rice or noodles has to be one of our family favorites. If the warmth of hot soup is heightened with some extra heat from chillies, garlic & ginger, the comfort enhanced with a tin of creamy coconut milk and the mingling flavours lifted with fresh lime juice, chopped coriander & mint, the over all effect is hard to beat.
We can only be talking here about laksa.
With its origins in Indonesia, Malaysia & China, it can be hard to find an authentic tasting laksa that is not made with fermented fish of some description. Most commonly dried shrimp will be included in the paste ingredients and fish sauce will be added at the end, to tie all of the elements together in one delightful salty tang. But what to do if you or the people you are cooking for don’t eat fish?
Every week I provide vegan or vegetarian options within Seven Sisters’ Spices Friday lunch delivery menu, and my love of East Asian food has led to me often experimenting in the kitchen, searching for an appropriate vegan replacement to these fishy delicacies. I am so happy that Amanda inviting me to write for her blog is allowing me to share the product of these efforts here with you.
No need to go through the less successful trials and errors here. By far the most satisfying replacements I have found, and the ones to feature in the following recipe, are the savoury notes of red miso paste in place of the shrimp and salty, deep and richly flavoured coconut aminos instead of fish sauce. This second ingredient is one that I was lucky enough to be introduced to while food styling a chapter of Amelia Freer’s new book, Eat, Nourish, Glow http://ameliafreer.com Made from the tapped sap of coconut trees, which has been naturally aged and combined with sundried sea salt, coconut aminos is fast becoming a new buzz ingredient, however, it is still relatively hard to buy, the easiest way being to order it online. It is worth hunting down as it is a very delicious store cupboard ingredient to have. While doing so it is important to be mindful of the issues prevalent in coconut farming and to shop accordingly. Coconut grows in regions of the world where some elements of the international food industry are not renowned for their treatment of workers. To be confident that you are purchasing coconut products that are not damaging to the health or welfare of the people who farm them, always ensure that you are buying organic and Fair Trade Certified.
And so, here we have it, after much experimentation with a vegan laksa recipe, I am properly happy with this final manifestation of many trials; I hope that you enjoy it.
Roasted Root Laksa
Vegan & Gluten Free
For the Paste
2 shallots, roughly chopped
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
A thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, hard outer leaves removed and chopped
1 fresh red chilli, roughly chopped
2 dried Kashmiri chillies, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of red miso paste
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
For the Soup
700g of root vegetables – I used carrots, parsnips and butternut squash
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
1 red pepper, halved length ways, deseeded and sliced
1 tin coconut milk
500ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
small bunch coriander, chopped
handful of mint leaves, chopped
200g of spinach
200g of beansprouts
5 spring onions, sliced
1 fresh red chilli, thinly sliced
1 lime, quartered
200g rice noodles, cooked to packet instructions, drained and cooled under running water
ϖ Place all of the laksa paste ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
ϖ Peel and chop your root vegetables into equally sized chunks and place in a roasting tray with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a preheated oven at 200c and roast for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally.
ϖ Heat the oil in a large heavy based saucepan, add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes until starting to go golden on the edges. Add the sliced red pepper and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelise.
ϖ Add the laksa paste and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the paste becomes aromatic.
ϖ Pour the coconut milk and stock into the pan and bring to a gentle simmer.
ϖ Meanwhile the vegetables should be cooked. Check to make sure that they are tender and then add them to the broth in the pan.
ϖ Use a potato masher to gently break up the vegetables. You may choose to blend your soup smooth.
ϖ To finish, add the sugar, coconut aminos, and soy sauce, stir to combine.
ϖ Divide your cooked and cooled rice noodles between 4 bowls.
ϖ Scatter over a handful of spinach leaves, a handful of beansprouts, a sprinkling of chopped herbs, spring onions and chilli.
ϖ Ladle over the roasted root and coconut broth – this will heat through your noodles and gently wilt the spinach.
ϖ Finish with a squeeze of lime juice.
- many thanks to Chloe Edwards of Seven Sisters' Spice http://www.sevensistersspices.com