“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 sunflower200ml (7fl oz) coconut milk30g (1oz) tamarind paste1 tsp shrimp paste (or use 1 tbsp fish sauce)1 tbsp palm sugar (or use soft light brown sugar)800ml (1½ pints) chicken stock or water100g (3½oz) chicken, diced pinch of salt2 medium eggs, beaten150g (5oz) dried rice vermicelli or 2 portions of pre-cooked noodles150g (5oz) raw prawns (shrimp)300g (10oz) beansprouts, or cucumber cut into matchsticks1 bunch of spring onions (scallions), finely chopped1 lime, ½ juiced and ½ cut into wedges25g (1oz) bunch of Vietnamese corianderSambal, chilli oil or sliced red chilli, to serve
For the paste:1 large shallot, chopped3 garlic cloves, chopped1 tbsp grated fresh ginger1 lemongrass stalk, chopped30g (1oz) roasted peanuts or cashews½ tsp sea salt2 tsp chilli flakes2 tsp ground cumin1½ tsp ground coriander½ tsp ground star anise¼ tsp ground cloves¼ tsp grated nutmeg¼ tsp ground cardamon
1. First make the paste. Blitz the shallot, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, nuts, 100ml (3½fl oz) 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, priced £26. Photography Mark Diacono. Available now.