“The star of this spectacular soup is laksa leaf, aka Vietnamese coriander, with its creamy, bright, lemony coriander flavour,” says food writer Mark Diacono.
“Mint and coriander in a 1:2 ratio works differently well. Don’t be put off by the lengthy list of ingredients: it is as simple in creation as it is delicious.”
3 tbsp sunflower
200ml coconut milk
30g tamarind paste
1 tsp shrimp paste (or use 1 tbsp fish sauce)
1 tbsp palm sugar (or use soft light brown sugar)
800ml chicken stock or water
100g chicken, diced pinch of salt
2 medium eggs, beaten
150g dried rice vermicelli or 2 portions of pre-cooked noodles
150g raw prawns
300g beansprouts, or cucumber cut into matchsticks
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
1 lime, ½ juiced and ½ cut into wedges
25g bunch of Vietnamese coriander
Sambal, chilli oil or sliced red chilli, to serve
For the paste:
1 large shallot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped
30g roasted peanuts or cashews
½ tsp sea salt
2 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground star anise
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamon
1. First make the paste. Blitz the shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, nuts, 100ml water, salt and the spices in a food processor until smooth (add an extra splash of water if needed).
2. Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large pan, add the paste and fry for five to 10 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated and the paste is starting to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan.
3. Stir the coconut milk, tamarind paste, shrimp paste or fish sauce, sugar and the stock into the paste, then bring to the boil. Add the chicken and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
4. While the chicken is cooking, add the salt to the eggs and fry in the remaining oil in a small frying pan to form a thin omelette. Flip and cook on the other side, then remove from the pan and allow to cool. Roll up the omelette into a cigar shape and cut into thin strips.
5. Cook or soak the noodles as per the packet instructions, drain and divide between four bowls.
6. Add the prawns to the laksa and simmer for around three minutes until just cooked through. Add the beansprouts, spring onions and lime juice. Top the noodles with the sliced omelette and a couple of ladles of laksa. Serve topped with roughly chopped coriander and a drizzle of the sambal or chilli oil, and lime wedges on the side.
‘Herb’ by Mark Diacono is published by Quadrille, £26. Photography by Mark Diacono. Available now.