Whether you're dealing with post-holiday guests or post-holiday blues, a steaming bowl of spicy soup satisfies a need for comfort.
An Asian brand of comfort food, curry laksa has its roots in Malaysia, where the cuisine features a fascinating mixture of flavours, from Thai to Indian. The recipe below is a simple version of that soup/stew. I used frozen, partly shelled green mussels from New Zealand, as they look attractive in the soup, although regular mussels are good, too. You can also add vegetables such as snow peas or baby bok choy leaves. And if available, spices such as galangal and flavourings like shrimp paste lend even more authenticity.
Ready time: 30 minutes
4 bird’s-eye red chilies
250 g (7 oz) thin rice noodles
2 stalks lemongrass
2-inch section of ginger, peeled and chopped
4 shallots, peeled and quartered
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp Indian curry paste, as hot as you like it
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
5 cups chicken or fish stock
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp grated lime zest
1 tbsp lime juice
12 peeled shrimp
20 mussels, preferably New Zealand green
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tbsp chopped coriander
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
Several handfuls bean sprouts
Split chilies in half lengthwise, leaving stems intact. Soak in cold water. Set aside for garnish.
Soak rice noodles in hot water for 20 minutes or until softened. Cut off the bottom section of lemongrass, discarding the top. Remove tough outer leaves and coarsely chop. Put into food processor with ginger, shallots, sugar and coriander. Process until nearly smooth.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add shallot mixture and sauté until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Stir in curry paste and sauté about 30 seconds longer.
Add coconut milk, stock, fish sauce and lime zest and bring to boil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add seafood and simmer for 5 minutes or until shrimp are pink and slightly curled and mussels are cooked.
Stir in lime juice. Taste for seasoning, adding more lime, sugar or fish sauce to taste.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add noodles. Blanch for 1 minute, then drain. Place in 4 large bowls.
Ladle soup and seafood over noodles. Garnish with coriander, green onion, bean sprouts and chilies.