Laksa – the iconic Malaysian spicy coconut noodle soup! An incredibly rich, fragrant, complex flavoured broth loaded with all the essential classic Laksa toppings. This is an easy Laksa recipe because it’s made with a store bought Laksa paste which is spruced up to make a restaurant quality Laksa.
You can’t just dump laksa paste into coconut milk!!
I am obsessed with Laksa.
My Japanese mother will disown me for saying this, but I am pretty sure that Laksa would be my Last Meal.
She will also be able to attest to my obsession with Laksa. Because approximately once a month, I trek wide and far as required to get my Laksa fix. I have been known to drive an hour to a place called Temasek in Parramatta which I think has one the best Laksas in Sydney
Let me put that another way. I drive a 2 hour round trip for a bowl of Laksa that takes 15 minutes to consume and I’m booted out of my seat the minute I finish slurping the soup. This place is in hot demand!
What is Laksa?
Laksa is a spicy noodle soup from Malaysia, also found in other South East Asian counties including Singapore and Indonesia.
Laksa as we know it here in Australia is made with a coconut broth that is spicy and fragrant. However, there are actually quite a few different types of Laksas and those who travel to Malaysia are often surprised to learn that the most popular Laksa has a much stronger curry flavour and is not made with a coconut broth.
So the coconut broth Laksa that is so wildly popular here in Australia is actually not widely available in Malaysia. Nevertheless – doesn’t it look ridiculously delicious??
If the jar instructions says to dump paste into coconut milk – ignore it. Follow my recipe!
Making a Laksa from scratch requires speciality ingredients such as dried shrimp, dried shrimp paste, candlenuts and galangal. I’ve only made it a handful of times. And it’s always a big occasion when I do – I make a big deal of it. “I made that from scratch”, I’ll say smugly, repeatedly.
How to make Laksa
Today, I’m sharing a Laksa recipe that starts with a store bought Laksa paste. If you’ve ever tried to make laksa at home using a store bought paste and just added that to coconut milk like it says to do on the jar, you’ve probably been sorely disappointed with the outcome.
That’s because like all curries (red curry, green curry), Laksa paste benefits greatly from some freshening up. Just a bit of garlic, ginger, lemongrass and chilli sautéed before adding the store bought paste will take this Laksa from meh to mind blowingly delicious!
Best Laksa pasta
- The best (Asian stores only) – Por Kwan Laksa Paste (A$2.80). At the time of writing, is still only sold at Asian grocery stores. It has more depth of flavour than other brands, the proper Malaysian “funk” that is so addictive about Laksa.
- Very good (supermarkets) – Ayam Laksa Paste (Woolworths, Coles ). It’s actually quite good nowadays. I’d happily use it for a Laksa fix if I can’t get to an Asian store.
- Avoid – Valcom, the other mainstream brand sold in supermarkets. Remains a no-go zone for me (way, WAY too sweet and westernised)
What’s in Laksa?
For me, the crowning glory of Laksa is the spicy coconut broth. I want it on tap. I could happily drink it every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Here’s what you need for the Laksa broth. What we’re doing here is making a semi-homemade chicken broth by cooking drumsticks (or other bone in, skin on chicken) in chicken broth/stock to inject extra flavour and richness.
Laksa paste – see above for my recommended brands.
And here’s what goes ON and IN Laksa. Just a note on a couple of things:
- Noodles – The common noodles found in Laksa is vermicelli noodles (thin white noodles). However, “serious” laksa joints serve laksa with both vermicelli and Hokkien Noodles. Hokkien Noodles are optional – I only use it when making laksa for company.
- Fried Tofu Puffs – these are fried tofu pieces. They’re spongey, don’t taste of much and they look weird, but they’re an essential part of the Laksa eating experience!
It’s not the end of the world if you can’t find them….but you’ll miss that glorious moment when you bite into a tofu puff and the laksa soup squirts into your mouth ***and her knees go weak at the thought….***
- Crispy Fried Shallots – crunchy, salty, oily bits of fried shallots, a common garnish in dishes across South East Asia.
Nowadays found in large supermarkets, but cheaper in Asian stores. It makes an appearance regularly around here eg Chinese Chicken Salad, Nasi Goreng, Chinese Ham Bone Rice Soup, Asian Slaw, Amazing Easy Thai Coconut Soup – to name a few!
And lastly, but certainly not least is the Chilli Paste that is always served on the side (at good Laksa joints!) so you can add more flavour and heat into your Laksa.
The Chilli Paste is made with more than just chilli and I’ve never come across a recipe for it so I made my own up. This stuff is gold, and a little dab of this added into the coconut broth is one of my secrets.
Phew! Who knew that I would be able to write almost 1,000 words about a humble noodle soup without pausing for a breath??
But honestly, if there is one soup to write an essay about, it’s got to be Laksa.
Big punchy flavours. Fragrant, rich and spicy.
This soup is me in a bowl. – Nagi x
More Asian Soups You’ll Love!
- Ham Bone Congee (Chinese Rice Soup)
- Wonton Soup
- Chinese Corn Soup
- Chinese Noodle Soup
- Amazing Easy Thai Coconut Soup
- See all Asian Recipes
Watch how to make it
Laksa Noodle Soup
Recipe video above. This is a recipe for a real Malaysian restaurant quality laksa made by sprucing up store bought laksa paste! You can’t just dump store bought laksa paste into coconut broth! The key is to freshen up the paste by sautéing it with garlic, ginger, chilli and lemongrass. Makes a world of difference! This makes 2 large bowls. Because large is the only way to go with Laksa!
- 2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock / broth
- 1 cup (250 ml) water
- 3 chicken drumsticks ((Note 1))
- 1 1/2 tbsp oil
- 2 garlic cloves (, minced)
- 2 cm / 4/5″ piece of ginger (, finely grated)
- 1 lemongrass (, white part grated, (Note 2))
- 2 birds eye chillis (, finely chopped (Note 3))
- 1/2 cup / 175g laksa paste ((Note 4))
- 400 g / 14 oz can coconut milk ((Note 5))
- 2 tsp fish sauce ((sub soy))
Noodles + Toppings
- 50g / 1.5 oz vermicelli noodles (, dried)
- 100g / 3.5oz hokkien noodles ((optional, Note 6))
- 80g / 2.5 oz bean sprouts
- 80g / 2.5 oz tofu puffs (, cut in half (Note 7))
Laksa Chilli Sauce (Note 8)
- 1/2 tsp sugar (, white)
- 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce (, light or all purpose)
- 1/2 garlic clove (, minced)
- 1 1/2 tsp Laksa paste ((Note 4))
- 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce (, or other chilli sauce)
- 1 tbsp chilli paste from jar (, or more Sriracha)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil ((any plain oil))
- Fresh coriander / cilantro ((recommended))
- Lime wedges ((recommended))
- Crispy fried shallots (, optional (Note 8))
- Finely sliced red chilli (, optional )
Place Chicken Stock ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to simmer, then reduce to medium high.
Cook for 25 minutes or until chicken flesh is falling off the bone and liquid is reduced to approx 2 cups.
Discard skin, pull flesh off the bone and place in bowl, discard bone. Set broth aside.
Laksa Chilli Sauce
Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan or small pot over medium low heat. Add garlic and ginger, sauté for 20 seconds, then add lemongrass and chillis. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add laksa paste. Turn heat up to medium and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, or until fragrant.
Add chicken stock, coconut milk, fish sauce and 2 tsp of Laksa Chilli Sauce. Place lid on and simmer on for 10 minutes.
Adjust to taste using lime juice (for sour) and fish sauce (for saltiness). Add tofu puffs. Leave on turned off stove with lid on for 5 minutes.
Divide noodles between 2 bowls. Top with shredded chicken.
Pour broth over chicken. Top with beansprouts. Sprinkle with Garnishes you choose to use. Serve with Laksa Chilli Sauce on the side.
1. Chicken – I love making this with drumsticks or bone in skin on thighs because the flesh that falls off the bone looks and tastes like the chicken in Laksa that is served at proper Malaysian joints. Also the chicken skin adds richness to the broth. It can be made with chicken breast and boneless thigh, poached per recipe and sliced, but the broth flavour isn’t quite as good.
2. Lemongrass – peel the outer layer off then use just the juicy white bit on the bottom, usually around 3-4cm / 1.5″. Don’t use the green reedy parts. Can sub with 1 tbsp lemongrass paste.
3. Chilli – Birds eye chillies are small red chillis that are commonly found in Australia. Around 3cm long, they are spicy! Deseed them to reduce hear – I leave the seeds in. Feel free to substitute with any spicy chilli you have.
4. Laksa Paste -My preferred Laksa Paste is called Por Kwan (see photo in post) which is available at most Asian stores. Best supermarket brand is Ayam Laksa paste available at Woolworths and Coles in Australia, but it is a bit sweeter than Por Kwan – balance it out with a bit more fish sauce or a squeeze of lime juice. Avoid Valcom – far too sweet and westernised.
The amount of laksa paste required will depend on the brand you use – some have more intense flavours than others. Start with 1/2 cup for sautéing, then after you add the coconut milk, have a taste test and if you want a stronger flavour, add more laksa paste to taste. Also add fish sauce for saltiness.
5. Coconut milk – My preferred is full fat coconut milk. If I’m desperate and trying to be healthy, I will use low fat. I find coconut cream too rich for me.
6. Noodles – The “best” serious Laksa joints in Sydney serve laksa with both vermicelli and hokkien noodles. However, most laksa places only use vermicelli. So Hokkien is optional – add more vermicelli.
7. Tofu puffs are essential for a true laksa experience! They are deep fried tofu that are “sponge-like”. They soak up the broth so when you bite into them, the broth squirts out in your mouth. They are sold at Asian stores and at Harris Farm Markets in Sydney, in the fridge section with the noodles.
They don’t need cooking, they just need to be plonked in the soup to heat up as they soak up the broth.
If you really can’t find it, the laksa will still be gorgeous. Tofu puffs are more about the laksa experience rather than flavour.
8. Laksa Chilli Sauce – Part of the laksa experience in Sydney includes the chilli sauce that is served on the side of the Laksa which I always dollop generously onto my Laksa.
It is not just plain chilli, it has much more flavour. I’ve never found a recipe for it so have created my own. Some of it is used to add more punch to the laksa broth, and the rest is used to serve on the side.
9. Crispy fried shallots can be purchased at Coles/Woolworths in Australia and Asian grocery stores. They are crispy salt fried shallots pieces that are used to garnish laksa.
10. Nutrition per giant bowl. Worth every single calorie, I swear! If you use light coconut milk, it reduces to 516 calories per serving with 34.3g fat.
Originally published September 2016. Updated with new photos, new writing, brand new video. No change to recipe – I wouldn’t dare touch it!
Life of Dozer
I’m sure onlookers were thoroughly unimpressed at the sight of his dusty paws on the park bench that people sit on to watch the sun set over Pittwater…… (I think he jumped up so he could see over the shrubs to watch the pelicans frolicking on the sand flats!)
And from when I first published this Laksa recipe….
Spotted FOOD in the water….(i.e. fish!)