This makes a substantial, yet light and stimulating meal-in-a-bowl. I’ve chosen hot red chillies to balance the sweetness of the coconut base – add as much or as little as you like to each bowl.
500ml (about 17 fl oz) chicken stock
6 kaffir lime leaves, centre ribs removed, finely shredded
3 coriander (cilantro) roots, washed, scrubbed and roughly chopped
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and coarsely grated
500g (1 lb 1 oz) free-range skinned and boned chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry
150g (5 oz) rice noodles (rice sticks)
1 Tbsp light vegetable oil
2 Tbsp laksa paste
400ml (14 fl oz) can coconut cream
1–2 Tbsp fish sauce
¼ cup lime juice
Bunch slim spring onions (scallions), trimmed and finely sliced
1–2 cups chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
2 cups beansprouts, trimmed
½ cup Vietnamese mint (also known as laksa leaf) or mint leaves
2 hot red chillies, sliced
4 Tbsp crisp fried shallots (or to taste)
200g (7 oz) tofu, cubed and fried in a little hot oil until golden, optional
Lime wedges for serving
1 Put stock in a medium-sized saucepan with lime leaves, coriander roots and ginger. Bring to the point of bubbling, then turn heat to lowest setting and leave to infuse for 10 minutes; don’t let the stock continue to bubble or it will evaporate. Add chicken and poach for about 15 minutes or until nearly cooked through, turning once. Transfer chicken breasts to a board. Strain stock and set aside. Shred chicken.
2 Soak noodles in hot water for 5–10 minutes, or until just tender. Drain and refresh with cold water, then put them in a bowl and keep covered with cold water.
3 Heat vegetable oil in a roomy saucepan, add laksa paste and stir-fry for a few minutes until it separates. Pour in coconut cream, poaching stock, fish sauce and lime juice. Gently bubble for 10 minutes. Add chicken and half the spring onions and heat through for 1 minute. Swirl through half the coriander.
4 Drain noodles and divide among 4 bowls. Ladle over soup. Top with beansprouts, Vietnamese mint or mint, chillies, remaining spring onions and coriander, crisp shallots, and tofu, if using. Serve with lime wedges.
Just a word about beansprouts – buy them spanking fresh, and if you have the time, trim the ends. They are so much nicer than with daggy brown ends.
Photography Aaron McLean http://www.aaronmclean.com