Laksa Johor, a royal treat for every palate
Paper Edition | Page: 25
Courtesy of Chef WanDatuk Redzuawan bin Ismail is better known as the garrulous Chef Wan, seen on the Asian Food Channel whipping up Malaysian dishes and the author of several cook books about the food of his homeland.
The chef’s task is to bring Malaysian cuisine to an international audience, including during a visit to Jakarta recently for a Ramadhan fasting month promotion at the Dharmawangsa Hotel.
One of the 54-year-old chef’s favorite dishes is Laksa Johor, a curry flavoured soup with rice cakes from the region of Johor. A popular dish in Malaysia, it has been associated with the Johor royal family since the reign of Sultan Abu Bakar at the end of the 19th century.
There is a curious tale behind its origins that is linked to a land very far from Asia.
“Sultan Abu Bakar traveled to Italy often and there he tasted spaghetti bolognaise. Returning to Malaysia, he told his chef to modify the recipe with fish sauce. Since then, Laksa Johor is popular and has become a frequent dish for ceremonies. Now it’s common at weddings and is no longer palace food,” he said.
Chef Wan says contemporary Malaysians have their own special recipe for the dish, or a particular restaurant serving it. Here he shares his recipe for cooking up a taste of traditional Malaysian cuisine.
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1-cm knob ginger, peeled and chopped
10 shallots, peeled and pounded
3 cloves garlic, peeled and pounded
5 tbsp dried prawns (shrimps), soaked, drained and pounded
4 heaped tbsp fish curry powder
300 g prawns (shrimps), cleaned, shelled and finely minced
1 liter store-bought coconut cream
3 stalks lemongrass, bruised
1-cm galangal, peeled and bruised
1 kg mackerel fillets, poached and minced
5 dried sour fruit (asam gelugur)
70 g pounded, roasted, grated or desiccated coconut (kerisik)
500 g spaghetti, cooked
1 cucumber, julienned
8 sprigs laksa leaves, chopped
100 g bean sprouts, tailed
2 onions, peeled and sliced
100 g long beans, sliced
10 Kalamansi limes, halved
3 red chilies, seeded
1 tsp dried prawn (shrimp) paste, toasted
Salt to taste
½ tsp lime juice
Combine ingredients for sambal belacan in a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy pot and fry the ginger, shallots, garlic and dried prawns until fragrant. Add the curry powder and fry for two minutes.
Add the prawns, coconut cream, lemongrass and galangal. Leave to simmer.
Add the mackerel and dried sour fruit and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the pounded grated coconut to the stock. Stir and cook for another two minutes. If the sauce is too thick, dilute with hot water.
To serve, divide spaghetti into serving bowls. Garnish with cucumber, laksa leaves, bean sprouts, onions and long beans.
Pour the stock over the spaghetti, squeeze some limes on it and serve with sambal belacan (shrimp chili paste) on the side.