Laksa (vegetarian or not!)

I’ve been loving laksa for decades.  Chicken laksa, seafood laksa, vegetable laksa, you name it, That’s the great thing about this Malaysian soup, it’s so adaptable to different tastes.  Even the base paste recipe lends itself to variations – although Malaysian cooks may shudder at the thought 🙂


Traditionally, the paste that defines this dish is made with dried shrimp or fish sauce – also tamarind paste is in some recipes for a more sour taste.

I wanted to make a vegetarian paste to which I could add roasted wild salmon for our non-vegetarian guests.  I marinated four wild salmon fillets (3 hours) in a mix of tamari, water, chopped ginger, 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice, sesame oil, then roasted them, wrapped in baking paper, at the same time I roasted the butternut squash.

If you don’t have an oven just add the cubed root vegetables to the pot first – that delicious roasted layer of flavour won’t be there, but plenty of others will.

So this dish can be anything you want.  Vegetables only, or you can grill, roast or gently fry some tofu or fish, prawns, chicken, or all of the above and just add it at the end to your soup bowl.

Voila, you have a selection of laksa to choose from!

Serves 4

Ingredients for the paste

3 cloves garlic, chopped
5 cm ginger, chopped
5 dried kaffir leaves, ribstem removed
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp chopped coriander stalks from the bunchmentioned in the soup
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves ”
1 heaped tsp organic almond or peanut butter
1 fresh finely chopped chilli – IF you are fine with a bit of heat
2 stalks lemon grass (bottom tender part only; then crush with the flat of a knife, then chop)
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp tamari sauce
juice of 1-2 limes
optional 1 tbsp water if your paste is too gluggy to handle!

The laksa soup

1 litre broth, or water with 1 heaped tbsp Marigold broth powder
2 thick slices butternut squash, to roast (or sweet potato, carrot…your choice)
200g broccoli spears
100g chopped spinach or kale or other greens you love
100g spring greens
2 large bok chop (halved or quartered)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
1 400 ml can of coconut milk
4 spring onions, chopped (for topping)
2 limes, halved

optional extra: 4 fillets of wild salmon


Roast the cubed butternut squash.  If you’re having a non-veg version add your marinated salmon to the oven as well (see first paras for marinade recipe).

Blitz all the paste ingredients together.  The taste will be intense, but don’t ‘tweak’ until later, when added to the coconut soup.

Boil your broth/water then simmer, adding the blitzed paste and the coconut milk.  Taste test!  At this point decide whether you like it as is.  Or add whatever your individual taste buds may be missing – more lime or tamari or fish sauce (if non-veg) or sesame oil?
Now add  3/4 of the chopped coriander and your greens.  Start with the tougher-leaf ones and leave the bok choy till last so it has some ‘snap’ left in it.
When ready to serve, remember to add your roasted butternut to the mix and let it warm through.

Portion the soup into four large bowls.  Add the salmon, if you’re serving a non-veg laksa.  Top it all with chopped spring onions and the remaining chopped coriander.  A wedge of lime on the side.

Ta da, your delicious laksa is served!



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