Saturday 17 December 2011

My Mom's Nonya Laksa Recipe

Nonya Laksa

My mum, who was born and bred in Katong, is pretty well known for her Nyonya Laksa and even movie stars like Joan Chen crave for it when ever she steps into town.
So here it goes.  If you use cheap ass ingredients or skip a step, it won't be right.  If you live somewhere with no fresh coconut milk, you MUST move out to another town that has it!  Lastly, if you pass this recipe around I will kill you.  Just between you and me, Chef Jean Georges ( who incidentally opened the Restaurant at the Hotel Meriedian in Singapore ) came by before he opened up Spice Market in NYC and got this recipe from me.  So feel good about it, as only you and the 3 star chef has it.  That's about it folks.

My Mom’s Nonya Laksa Recipe

Ingredients for Rempah/ Spice Paste
2 thumb size pieces of fresh turmeric/ kunyit, peeled
10 slices of galangal
25 pieces dried red chilies, soaked in water to soften (or 1/2 to 3/4 packet of the ground chili paste of a large packet)
7 candlenuts (buah keras/ kimiri)
2 tablespoon of belachan/ terasi
400 gm shallots (small onion)
6 stalks of lemongrass/ serai, tender white part only, chopped
1 tbsp of ground coriander
*60 gm of dried prawn, soaked in water for 30 minutes and then ground fine.

Method for cooking Rempah/ Spice Paste
Grind all the ingredients for the Rempah first.
Heat up wok with about 250ml of oil and fry ground Rempah for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes in low fire. Remove from heat and cool.
*Add the ground-dried prawns at this stage and keep frying. Also add the last bit of water that was used to the prawns. Use about 1 to 2 cups of each. The secret in cooking this lies in having patience.
As you are frying, add a tablespoon at a time, the thick coconut milk until 1/2 of that quantity is used (please reserve the other 1/2). By this time, also add 4 stalks of Daun kesom and keep stirring. Slowly add the thin coconut milk and keep stirring to make sure that no lumps form. Let this soup boil (while continuously stirring) for about 30 minutes and add salt to taste. The final step is to add the remaining thick coconut milk to thicken the soup. Do this on medium heat for a few minutes and then switch off fire. DO NOT COVER POT!

Ingredients for Garnishing:
700 gms bean sprouts (blanched in hot water for exactly 1 minute, then transfer to iced water bowl)
1.5 kg fresh rice vermicelli (Laksa noodles)
1 kg big tiger prawns (cooked and shelled) reserve 1 to 2 cups of water from pot for Laksa soup
1 or 2 cucumber (skinned, remove seeds in center, then julienne)
2 ozs. Daun kesom (polygomun or ram-ram), which needs to be cut into hair-like slivers
2 oz bean thread soak in boiling water
200 gms ground red chili (Separately, grind chili and add salt to taste. Place in a bowl for people to help themselves)
Fish cake (pleeeeze buy the premium one and not the cheap horrid chewy ones)

Coconut milk (Please make FRESH, not blooming packet things!):
1.5kg to 2kg fresh grated coconut (reserve the liquid from inside the coconut)
3 liters of filtered water
First squeeze without water for thick coconut milk, then second squeeze with water.


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  1. How many does it feed if I'm big AND Japanese?

  2. It's a zero sum game then so it's back to 10 bro!

  3. One of the most delicious meals I have had! Thanks for introducing me to Laksa. I am already dreaming of the next time I get to taste this fab gravy.

  4. Tried your recipe last weekend. Sedap sekali! Thanks!

  5. As you know, I tried your mom's recipe this past January and going to make it again when Kok-yong and Lay Kie comes over on June 23.

    Enak sekali! Terima kasih to your mom.

  6. Hi, I would like to clarify if the "dried prawn" in your recipe is dried shrimps (hei bi in hokkien) or udang geragau?

    Many thanks.

  7. Hi Russel!

    I'm Hui Jun, from Weekender, a lifestyle publication. I know you mentioned in the entry about not passing the recipe around, but I still would like to seek your permission to reproduce your blog entry in our paper, as well as high-res photos to support the entry. I couldn't find your contact in your site, and hope you can email me at about this. Great entry btw! :)

  8. Hi Russell,

    Your nonya laksa is so authentic, I'm so excited to have "stumbled" upon your mum's recipe! Am very grateful to you for sharing this. Btw it's near impossible for us to get fresh coconut milk here as we live in Sydney, Australia (we're Singaporeans though, so we def know how to appreciate a katong laksa when we see one! Hehe! ;)), and I'm serious. I would fly to the next state to get it if I could. If it were summer, I could probably get it in another suburb 50min away. But now that it's nearly winter, fresh coconuts are non-existent. The closest we can get is Ayam's can coconut milk and coconut cream. Mind you, these are not cheap here, but they are very good quality and the closest you can find to the real thing.
    Can I substitute the "thin coconut milk" with the Ayam coconut milk, and the "thick coconut milk" you mentioned with Ayam's coconut cream instead? Is that what you would do if you were here?

    P.S. And rest assured I won't be sharing this recipe with my friends.... as I want to be the only one among them who knows how to do the best laksa... talk about serious competition here.... hehe.....

  9. Can I substitute belachan with salted shrimp? Thanks

    1. No. It would not be the same. Laksa needed that.

  10. "5 big people or 10 regular people or 20 Japanese"

    hahaha oh man you've got a sense of humor.

  11. How do i make the sambal for Laksa?

    1. Ditto. I need the sambal recipe if possible. Thanks!

  12. I tried your recipe and its yummy! Thanks for sharing this recipe

  13. Just one question many midgets can the recipe feed? ;p

  14. local term for bean thread is Tang hoon? I don't remember seeing that in Laksa. also I do not understand "Use about 1 to 2 cups each" each of what in method of cooking rempah/Spice paste. please enlighten. thanks

  15. Hi just one clarification. After preparing the rempag you said to remove and cool. Followed by cooking the hei bi. So the question is when should I put the rempah back into the soup together with the hei bi and coconut milk?

  16. What is your mum's name? I may know her cos I was also born and bred in Katong (475A Joo Chiat Road to be axact) and I ate the janguts laksa at Roxy cinema. Present day youngsters only know laksa with cockles and sad

  17. Really want to make this. How big is a slice of galangal? Do you have a weight equivalent or rough measurements for the size of the whole piece of galangal? Thanks in advance!

  18. How big is per slice of galangal?