Your taste buds will be dancing with the exciting flavours of a Shrimp Laksa. This fantastic Thai soup is creamy and light, savoury and fresh. The luscious broth is loaded with umami flavour and a variety of textures from crispy water chestnuts to tender shrimp. Plus it's on the table in under 20 minutes! Wowza! (Skip to recipe.)
Oh, how I'd love to be over in some warm, colourful Asian country right about now, far away from our melting drifts of snow. I'd hop on my magic carpet and soar over the azure blue ocean. I'd swirl and swoop across terraced fields of lush emerald crops dotted with the shiny turtle-green leaves of banana palms. Smiling kids playing near thatched cottages would jump up and down and wave at me. I'd lean over the edge of my carpet and wave back, then with a little buckle and a kick, my carpet would pick up speed and I'd whoosh over the hills to the vibrant cacophony of a bustling city. My nose would start to pick up exotic scents curling in the breeze and I'd eagerly scan the streets below me for the tell-tale kaleidoscope of a bustling marketplace.
As my magic carpet slowed its crazy ride and started to flutter gently above the colourful patchwork below, I'd inhale greedily. The mounds of fresh spices piled everywhere would beckon like bins of bright sweets in a candy shop, their heady aroma threatening to blissfully intoxicate. My carpet would shimmy to a stop in front of a friendly-faced grandma, letting me dismount so I could hop over and shove my face into the spice baskets, inhaling deeply. I'd dig my hands into the sun-warmed piles, ruffling my fingers through the shifting sands of spicy cloves and sweet cardamom pods. I'd stroke knobby roots of ginger and galangal; I'd poke at shriveled little dried peppers and crumble shards of cinnamon bark.
Vendors would shout and bicycles would careen crazily through the stalls. The smiley little grandma would beckon. She'd hand me a steaming bowl of soup. I'd take a spoonful, and the buzzing marketplace around me would fade into hazy oblivion as I sipped the nectar from the bowl cradled in my hands. The world would come to a stop. Just for a moment.
I'd open my eyes. I'd smile at the grandma. She'd nod and we'd know our hearts were connected. We spoke without speaking.
This shrimp laksa would do that.
Okay, so it wouldn't actually produce a little Thai grandma to cook your heart's desire for you - but it would make the world stop for just a few moments as you sipped its heady blend of flavours. That flavourful creamy broth that manages to be somehow light and rich at the same time, liquid velvet encompassing crunchy little bits of water chestnuts, bright red peppers, and tender succulent shrimp. The warming ginger and sweet brightness of Thai basil combine to produce the exotic jolt of flavour that makes this soup so special.
Come join me this month as we visit our next stop on our journey to Eat the World. I've joined a group of bloggers who plan to taste a little bit of every country in the world, stopping at a new one every month. This month we journey to beautiful Thailand, land of exotic temples and stunning scenery. I am excited to share with you this unforgettable Shrimp Laksa. It is a soup common to the southern tip of Thailand, where fresh seafood is abundant.
If you'd like to see a few photos of Thailand, visit my post for an authentic recipe for Pad Thai.
Come have a bowl of Shrimp Laksa and join me on my journey. Let's be kitchen chair travelers together.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: Fresh or frozen shrimp add the best flavour to this soup, but you can also use previously cooked shrimp. Just add them add them 1 to 2 minutes before your soup is done and let them just heat through. If you use raw shrimp, leave the shells on (for added flavour) and serve the soup with lots of napkins for wiping fingers and bowls for the shells. The soup tastes even better when you can smack your lips and lick your fingers.
I use a purchased red curry paste (by Thai Kitchen), but you can also make your own.
Thai basil has a unique taste; sweet with slight licorice overtones. If you don't care for licorice, don't worry - the flavour disappears when cooked, and just adds a mysterious and delightful depth to the soup.
See below for a substitute, if you can't find Thai basil.
Shrimp Laksa (Khung)
~a light creamy Thai soup loaded with flavour~
adapted from 'Thai Cooking, The Food and the Lifestyle'
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 can (225gms/8oz) water chestnuts
- 2-inch (5cm) piece fresh ginger root
- 3 green onions/scallions
- 6 sprigs (50gms) fresh Thai basil (*see substitution below)
- 1 can (400gm/14oz) coconut milk (premium, full-fat)
- 1½ cups (360ml) vegetable stock
- 1¾ oz/50gms vermicelli rice noodles (one handful)
- 1 tablespoon red curry paste
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
- 12 large or jumbo shrimp (180 grams), shell on (fresh or frozen)
If using frozen shrimp, set them in a bowl and cover them with cold water, swishing them around occasionally. They'll be defrosted by the time you need to add them to the soup.
Prepare the vegetables: Seed the red pepper and cut into thin lengthwise strips, then stack the strips and cut them in half. Drain the water chestnuts, and if they are whole, slice each chestnut crosswise into 3 or 4 disks. Peel the piece of ginger root and slice it crosswise into disks as thin as you can. Thinly slice the green onions. Remove the leaves from the Thai basil sprigs and discard the stems.
Pour the coconut milk and vegetable stock into a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the prepared vegetables and the remaining ingredients except the shrimp. Let the soup simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, until the noodles are cooked.
Add the shrimp and let simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes if using raw shrimp or 1-2 minutes if using cooked shrimp, just until they are heated through.
Serve the laksa immediately, dividing the shrimp equally among the bowls. If you leave the soup sit too long, the noodles will swell up and absorb all the liquid. (You won't be able to wait anyway; this soup tastes so fantastic.) Serve with napkins and a bowl for the discarded shrimp shells.
* Thai basil isn't always readily available if you don't have access to an Asian market. (I grow it in my garden.) If you don't have Thai basil, add a star anise pod to the coconut milk and stock at the beginning of the soup making. Then add a large handful of regular sweet basil leaves to the shrimp laksa just before serving.
Check out all the wonderful Thai dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!
Camilla: Thai One On
Amy: Chicken Satay
Evelyne: Thai Steamed Fish Recipe with Lime and Garlic Sauce
Wendy: Gai Pad Gratiem Prik Thai
Loreto and Nicoletta: Thai Noodle Shrimp Spicy Salad
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Check out some of my other ‘Eat the World’ Recipe Challenge posts:
(in alphabetical order)
- Argentina: Red Chimichurri Sauce
- Australia: Anzac Biscuits (Crispy Oatmeal Cookies)
- Bangladesh: Chingri Masala (Shrimp Curry)
- Bulgaria: Patatnik (Savoury Potato and Cheese Pie)
- Cambodia: Noum Kong (Cambodian Rice Flour Doughnuts)
- China: Kung Pao Chicken
- Colombia: Pan de Yuca (Warm Cheese Buns)
- Egypt: Fava Beans and Feta
- England: Gluten Free Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas
- Ethiopia: Four Ethiopian Recipes for a Fantastic Feast
- Fiji: Spiced Sweet Potato and Banana Salad
- Finland: Lohikeitto (Creamy Salmon, Potato, and Dill Soup)
- France: Axoa d’Espelette (A Simple Stew from the Basque Country)
- Georgia: Charkhlis Chogi (Beets with Sour Cherry Sauce)
- Greece: Moussaka
- Guyana: Fried Tilapia in Oil & Vinegar Sauce (fish dish)
- Hungary: Túrós Csusza (Pasta Scraps with Cottage Cheese)
- India: Kerala Upma (Fluffy, Kerala Style Breakfast Upma Recipe)
- Iraq: Tepsi Baytinijan (Eggplant & Meatball Casserole)
- Ireland: Dublin Coddle (A tasty Sausage and Potato Stew)
- Israel: Cucumber, Feta, and Watermelon Salad
- Jamaica: Rice and Peas (Coconut Rice and Red Beans)
- Japan: Chawanmushi (Steamed Savoury Egg Custard)
- Kenya: Maharagwe with Ugali (Red Beans with Cornmeal Slice)
- Laos: Ping Gai (Lao Grilled Chicken Wings)
- Lesotho: Chakalaka & Pap (Veggie & Bean Stew with Cornmeal Polenta)
- Luxembourg: Stäerzelen (Buckwheat Dumplings)
- Mexico: Cochinita Pibil Tacos (Pit Barbecued Pig to Make in Your Oven)
- Netherlands: Boerenkool Stamppot (Kale-Potato Mash with Sausages & Pears)
- New Zealand: Classic Pavlova
- Poland: Polish Honey Cake
- Portugal: Tuna and Sardine Pâtés
- Puerto Rico: Piña Colada Cocktail
- Scotland: Cranachan (Raspberry, Whisky & Oat Cream Parfaits)
- Senegal: Mafé (Beef and Peanut Stew)
- Sudan: Peanut Butter Creamed Spinach & Peanut Meringue Cookies
- Sweden: Swedish Meatballs with Cream Gravy
- Switzerland (Christmas): Basler Leckerli Cookies
- Thailand: Shrimp Laksa (Khung)
- Trinidad & Tobago: Peanut Butter Prunes
- Ukraine: Buckwheat Kasha with Beef
- United States (Soul Food): Smothered Pork Chops
- Uruguay: Torta de Fiambre (Baked Ham & Cheese Sandwiches)
- Vietnam: Caramelized Pork Rice Bowls