Homemade Laksa Is Easy To Make With Store-Bought Chili Paste

Many longstanding traditional recipes started with labor-intensive techniques, requiring chefs to make the ingredients from scratch before adding them to the final dish. From Thailand's panang curry to Mexican mole, elaborate stews and sauces took hours, if not days, to prepare, starting with building a paste or spice mixture. Laksa, the national dish of Singapore and Malaysia, is a deliciously complex coconut curry noodle soup defined by a multi-ingredient chili paste as its key flavoring agent.

While many ambitious chefs or traditional cooks still pride themselves on making spice pastes from scratch to honor the authenticity of a dish, modern culinary practices, and globalization have streamlined this laborious process with the help of bottled curry and chili pastes. Laksa chili pastes come bottled and ready to stir into a homemade laksa recipe, reducing your effort and cooking time without sacrificing authentic flavors. While laksa paste isn't as prevalent as Thai curry pastes, they are available online and in Asian specialty grocery stores.

Laksa chili paste is a convenient alternative to scratch-made pastes that you can augment with fresh ingredients for a more authentic homemade broth. If you cannot find laksa paste, red curry paste has many overlapping ingredients, making it the best store-bought substitute. 

More shortcuts and tips for homemade laksa

As the national dish in two different countries and a popular dish in Indonesia, laksa has countless variations. Some have a coconut milk base, while others have a sour broth base, not to mention the diversity of meat, fish, tofu, and even the type of noodles you'll add to the broth. That said, they all contain a spicy chili and fermented shrimp-infused curry paste base.

The chili paste itself varies from country to country and regionally, with some chili pastes being heavy on turmeric, coriander, and cumin while others use candlenuts, cinnamon, and star anise. Consequently, a store-bought chili paste is a jumping-off point for homemade laksa that you can doctor with fresh or dried ingredients to achieve the regional variation you have in mind. If you want to up the spice level, you can fry dried curry powder and chili powder or cayenne before adding laksa paste. Even though laksa paste will have garlic and ginger as fundamental ingredients, frying minced fresh garlic and ginger will enhance the aroma of the soup.

The broth consists of coconut milk and often shrimp or chicken stock. Shrimp stock takes a mere five minutes to prepare; You can fry and simmer the shrimp shells you discard from the shrimp you'll add to your laksa. However, another way to streamline laksa is to use store-bought chicken broth. Tamarind paste is another common ingredient in laksa broth you can substitute with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.