Malaysian Curry Vegetable Soup (Laksa)

Malaysian Curry Vegetable Soup (Laksa)

Since I started getting more experienced in the kitchen, I have relied more and more on my own homemade spice blends and always try to get the best quality herbs and spices when possible. So I tend towards being a little mistrustful when it comes pre-made spice blends purchased from grocery stores and even from smaller stores that specialize in particular cultural cuisines.

However, I was recently offered a chance to try a few blends from RawSpiceBar. This company offers high quality whole and ground toasted spices from around the world. Free of additives, many of the spices are organic and most of the blends are salt-free, gluten-free, paleo and vegan friendly. You can get a spice subscription, and they also offer gift subscriptions and starter sets. As a home cook who recognizes the importance of high quality spices to really enhance the flavor of dishes and also one who enjoys a culinary exploration of cuisines from various cultures and traditions, I was intrigued by the vast selection, and more than delighted to try a few samples.

Of the three blends I received, the most inspiring was a Malaysian curry powder as it contained some of my favorite aromatic spices. The aroma by itself was enough to try it out right way in a vegetable-based soup to showcase and taste the results for myself. After some research, I decided to make a vegetarian laksa and began to draft a recipe. The result of my efforts was a soup that very much reminded me of many of the vegetable Thai soups I have made in the past.

I'm now eager to try more of the many spices and blends offered up by this company. If the Malaysian curry powder is any indication of the quality of the offerings, I would highly recommend you take a look around.

But back to the laksa.

For those unfamiliar with laksa, it is spicy coconut curry noodle soup, often featuring chicken or shrimp, but as I follow a vegetarian diet, the focus of my soup was vegetables in addition to noodles. Some cooks use tofu, but as I rarely eat tofu, I was particularly generous with the veggies and rice noodles. It's popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand. It has a creamy base in which the vegetables and noodles are simmered, along with a fragrant aromatic paste.

The paste was made up of a few teaspoons of the curry blend, along with other spices and additions that suited my fancy as I was drafting the recipe. I went with fairly wide rice noddles for the soup for extra texture. I also used a variety of vegetables, focusing particularly on mushrooms, and used coconut milk for a creamy, fairly thick soup and also some tamarind for a tart, sweet and somewhat sour element.

Though I was most pleased with the quality of the blend I tried, go ahead and try my recipe without the blend. Use a fairly mild or medium curry powder, such as my homemade curry powder, or instead use some Thai red curry paste. I suggest my homemade version. See the notes following the recipe for suggestions based on what sort of flavor you are going for.

Don't be intimidated by the list of the ingredients or the suggestions I make here. Remember, recipes are essentially only a guideline and the more you experiment in the kitchen, the better cook you will become.

Malaysian Curry Vegetable Soup (Laksa)Malaysian Curry Vegetable Soup (Laksa)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Malaysian
Published on December 3, 2018

Spicy vegetarian Malaysian Laksa rice noodle and vegetable soup

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 2 tablespoons raw cashews, soaked for 30 minutes and drained
  • 1 tablespoon Malaysian curry spice powder, to taste, or 1 tablespoon or more Thai red curry paste*
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 to 2 red or green chilies, to taste, seeded and chopped
  • 1 to 2 stalks lemongrass, to taste, tough outer leaves and stem removed, sliced
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, to taste, minced or crushed
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, to taste
  • small handful of fresh parsley, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup tamarind pulp, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 30 to 40 minutes
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups mixed vegetables (I used red pepper, green beans and cauliflower)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable stock, or as needed
  • 1 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 6 to 8 oz (175 to 225 g) rice noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon tamari (soy) sauce, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut sugar
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons lime juice, to taste (optional)
  • handful of fresh parsley, trimmed and chopped, for garnish
  • Soak the tamarind pulp in hot water for 30 to 40 minutes. Place a strainer over a bowl and drain the soaking water, squeezing as much liquid out of the tamarind pulp as possible. Discard the pulp and set the tamarind water aside.

  • Meanwhile, soak the cashews in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain and transfer the cashews to a food processor. Add the remaining paste ingredients and process into a fairly thick paste. Taste to adjust for seasoning and add a little oil or a few teaspoons of water if the paste is too thick.

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the paste and stir for a few minutes.

  • Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the carrot and the mixed vegetables and pour in the tamarind water, vegetable stock and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender.

  • Stir in the rice noodles a handful at a time and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the noodles are just tender — the cooking time will depend on the thickness of the noodles you are using. Add more vegetable stock or water to the pan as needed.

  • Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted. Add the tamari, sea salt and sugar. Add a little lime juice if desired. Simmer for another few minutes, adding more vegetable stock or water as needed.

  • Remove from heat and serve hot, garnished with fresh chopped parsely.

  • Notes: I used a Malaysian curry spice blend from RawSpiceBar that I was given to try. This aromatic blend contains turmeric, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, green cardamom, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorns and chilies. Instead of this blend you can use Thai red curry paste. Adjust the amount according to how hot the curry paste is that you are using. If you do use my Thai red curry paste instead of the spice blend, omit lemongrass, chilies, shallot and garlic, lime juice, parsley and cashews and add 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon fennel, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Stir in the ground spices with the paste as you are frying it, including the turmeric and paprika. You can also stir in a handful of fresh parsley near the end of the cooking time, in addition to that used for garnish.

  • Alternately, use my homemade curry powder or another medium-hot curry powder instead of the Malaysian blend. This will give your dish a more aromatic flavor. Go ahead and include the other ingredients I suggest along with the curry powder while you make up your paste.

Makes 8 servings

Vegan Laska

Other soups you may enjoy from Lisa's Kitchen:
Thai Red Curry Vegetable Soup
Spicy Thai Pumpkin Noodle Soup
Creamy Thai Coconut Mushroom Soup
Thai-Style Coconut and Roasted Carrot Soup

On the top of the reading stack: Second Opinion: A Doctor's Dispatches From The Inner City by Theodore Dalrymple

Audio accompaniment: Tom Houghton - MICRODOSING.


Shanti said...

Hallo Lisa,
I am a vegetarian too and I like your recipes. Thank you for your efforts!
May I suggest that you put a printer- version along the instructions, so I could print it our easely.
Thanks in advance !

Lisa Turner said...

Hello Shanti:

Thanks for dropping by. I do have a print function. It appears under the title of the recipe and just before the list of ingredients and instructions. Most of my recipes have that function available, expect a few of the older ones that may have been missed.

Carole said...

Love laksa! Cheers