Spicy Curry Laksa
This Spicy Curry Laksa boasts a rich and creamy spiced coconut milk broth and is made from scratch with a homemade laksa paste. It’s loaded with shredded chicken, juicy shrimp, fish balls, fish tofu, and fried tofu puffs, and served over rice vermicelli noodles with plenty of classic laksa toppings and garnishes!
Laksa is a bowl of spiced curry noodle soup that’s popular in Malaysia and Singapore, though there are also versions in Indonesia and southern Thailand. This version of laksa is closest to one that is a specialty in Malaysia, and served in Singapore too. It’s known as laksa lemak – or curry laksa.
It’s full of complex flavors, wonderfully creamy thanks to coconut milk, and is perfectly spiced with a made from scratch homemade laksa paste. Don’t worry – the paste is rather quick and simple to whiz up in a food processor once you’ve gathered all the ingredients. 👌
In the protein department, this heavenly bowl of noodle soup is LOADED with all sorts of little treasures! We have tender shredded chicken, juicy jumbo shrimp, chewy fish balls and fish tofu, and squishy fried tofu puffs that soak up the spicy and creamy broth wonderfully and oozes it out into your mouth as soon as you sink your teeth into them!! HEAVEN! 🤤
Also, do not underestimate the power of toppings in this laksa. Fried shallots, coriander and mint leaves (if you can’t get laksa leaves) and a squeeze of fresh lime juice amplifies all the magnificent flavors. They do this hearty bowl of noodle soup JUSTICE! 👊
I mean it. The toppings are eveeerryything, and you’ll definitely want those crispy fried shallots for some good ol’ crunch – like you would want tortilla strips in your bowl of Spicy Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup – on this glorious bowl of spicy curry laksa noodles!
Why This Recipe Works
- AMAZING flavor. It’s full of the BEST spicy and savory umami flavors, and has a lovely creamy and rich texture. Also, homemade laksa paste makes it taste a little more special than if you were to use store-bought paste.
- Simple method. Not gonna lie – there are quite a few ingredients needed since the laksa paste is made from scratch. HOWEVER, the actual technique for making this spicy curry laksa is very simple and pretty straightforward.
- Shortcut alert! Using store-bought chicken broth saves time, but still delivers on flavor even if not using the traditional homemade shrimp or prawn stock.
- Flexible with your choice of noodles. You can use fresh or dried thin rice vermicelli noodles, Hokkien noodles or even egg noodles. Take your pick!
- A hug in a bowl! Soup noodles are the ultimate filling and hearty comfort food. This laksa truly delivers on that front, and can be enjoyed anytime of the year! 🤗 ❤️
- Large Dried Red Chilies: These are the mild and can be found in an Asian supermarkets or specialty Thai ingredients stores.
- Bird’s Eye Thai Dried Red Chilies: These are fiery hot, and can be found in Thai specialty ingredients store. Use less or omit if you’d like to make the laksa milder.
- Dried Shrimp: Sun-dried shrimp are commonly used in Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines to add savory umami notes. You can find them in dried seafood shops in the wet market if you’re based in Asia, or in packages at Asian supermarkets or online. Store them in the fridge in a sealed airtight jar so that they last for 4-5 months.
- Thai Red Chilies: Although not always used if using dried chilies to make the laksa paste, I like to also use plenty of fresh Bird’s Eye chilies to make this laksa even more deliciously spicy! But feel free to use less or omit them if you prefer to make it milder.
- Lemongrass stalks: Substitute with lemongrass paste if unavailable.
- Fresh Turmeric: You can use a teaspoon of turmeric powder in a pinch, but fresh turmeric really enhances the flavor of the broth.
- Galangal: This is similar to ginger in appearance, but is pale and pinkish in color. It has a fragrant citrusy, sweet and floral aroma. Look for it at a Thai grocery store, or an Asian supermarket if you’re based outside of Asia. Substitute with an extra tablespoon of ginger if unavailable.
- Coriander (Cilantro) Roots: This is the bottom part of the coriander stalk – about 1-inch of the thick bottom stem part and inclusive of the hairy parts. The roots may not look appealing in appearance, but they hold a TON of flavor! Rinse well to get rid of any dirt. If you can’t find coriander with the root part still attached, use the stems.
- Candlenuts: These make the broth nice and creamy. If unavailable, substitute with raw unsalted macadamia nuts.
- Belacan (shrimp paste): Also spelled as ‘belachan’. This is a pungent smelling Malaysian fermented shrimp paste that comes in the form of a hardened block. You can substitute Thai Shrimp Paste – ‘gapi’. My advice is to just use the paste, don’t smell it. The strong odor vanishes once the paste has been blended up, and it adds depth of flavor and a savory umami factor.
- Canola Oil: Or use any neutral flavored cooking oil.
- Chicken Thighs: Use bone-in chicken thighs with the skin still attached to make the broth incredibly flavorful. You can discard the skin and bone later after they’ve done their job.
- Low Sodium Chicken Broth: Low sodium so that we can control the salt level.
- Coconut Milk: Use full-fat coconut milk for best texture and flavor.
- Coconut Sugar: This is known as ‘gula kelapa’ and it comes in the form of small discs. You’ll need to finely shave it with a knife so that it dissolves easily. I prefer using coconut sugar over palm sugar in my Thai curries and other Southeast Asian recipes. But you can use palm sugar if you like, or substitute with granulated coconut or light brown sugar instead.
- Thai Chili Powder: Use less or omit if you want to make the broth milder.
- Fried Fish Balls: These are available in packages at Asian supermarkets outside of Asia, and at wet markets in Asia. You’re welcome to use the regular non-fried fish balls if you prefer.
- Fish Tofu: These are available cubed in packages. They’re another fish product and actually not made from tofu. They have a soft texture and look like tofu, hence the name. Look for it in an Asian supermarket. You can substitute with a sliced fish cake block (also available in Asian supermarkets) if you can’t find it.
- Shrimp: I used jumbo shrimp (size 16/20), but prawns can be used instead too.
- Fried Tofu Puffs: These are known as ‘tau pok’ and can be found in Asian supermarkets in packages in the fridge section. They’re little squishy sponges that soak up the broth wonderfully, and it’s truly enjoyable to sink your teeth into them in a bowl of laksa!
- Rice Vermicelli Noodles: I used vacuum sealed packs of rice vermicelli noodles (same as the packs as udon noodles come in) and cooked them according to package instructions. You can use fresh noodles or dried noodles (halve the quantity if using dried). Alternatively, use Hokkien or egg noodles if you prefer.
Laksa Toppings and Garnishes
You can use as much as you like of the following toppings to crown your delicious bowl of spicy curry laksa.
- Fried Asian Shallots: Available in jars at Asian supermarkets. You can use homemade fried shallots too.
- Laksa Leaves: Available at Southeast Asian grocers and sometimes Thai speciality ingredients shops. A teaspoon of chopped laksa leaves or so per bowl is traditionally used to garnish a bowl of curry laksa. If unavailable, garnish with a combination of chopped mint leaves and coriander (cilantro) as I’ve done to get a similar flavor profile to laksa leaves.
- Mung Bean Sprouts: Soak in a bowl of water in the fridge for a few minutes to rejuvenate, then rinse and drain before serving with the laksa.
- Lime wedges (optional): For squeezing. An extra kick of tang from fresh lime juice amplifies the delicious flavors of the hot and spicy broth.
- Sambal Oelek or Sambal Pedas (optional): Indonesian chili paste. Sambal pedas is hotter than sambal oelek. Or you can use any type of sambal or other Asian chili paste you like.
Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.
How to Make Laksa Paste from Scratch
- Soak and chop. Soak the large dried red chilies, Bird’s Eye Thai dried red chilies, and dried shrimp in a bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes to soften. Then squeeze the water out from the chilies and roughly chop.
- Blend. Add the dried chilies and dried shrimp to the bowl of food processor, along with the rest of the prepared ingredients and a few tablespoons of the chili soaking water. Cover and blend into a smooth paste, uncovering as needed to push the ingredients down.
- Make ahead pro-tip: Make the paste a day in advance and store in a sealed airtight container in the fridge. This will make it quicker to make the spicy curry laksa the next day. You can also make the paste and store it in a sealed airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- Make milder laksa pro-tip: If you prefer to make this laksa milder, use half of the paste only and freeze the rest for another day. You can also reduce the amount of fresh red chilies and Bird’s Eye dried red chilies too if you are very sensitive to heat.
How to Make Spicy Curry Laksa
1. Sauté the laksa paste. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot, then add the paste and sauté for a few minutes until fragrant.
2. Add the chicken. Sauté for a minute until coated in the paste.
3. Build the broth. Pour in the chicken broth and coconut milk, stir to combine. Then lower the heat and season with some of the lime juice, fish sauce, coconut sugar, and Thai chili powder. Simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
4. Shred the chicken. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Remove and discard the skin. Then shred the flesh and discard the bone. Set aside until ready to serve.
5. Cook/reheat the rest of the proteins. Add the fish balls and fish tofu, and simmer for a few minutes to heat through. Then add the tofu puffs and shrimp and simmer until the shrimp has just cooked through. Taste the broth and season again by adding the remainder lime juice, fish sauce, Thai chili powder and coconut sugar (if you feel more spice or sweetness is needed). Then switch off the heat.
6. Cook the noodles. Prepare the noodles according to package instructions and divide evenly into bowls.
7. Serve! Ladle the laksa evenly over the noodles and top with the shredded chicken. Garnish with fried Asian shallots, mung bean sprouts, chopped laksa leaves (and/or chopped mint and coriander), chopped red chilies. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing and sambal oelek (or sambal pedas) if desired. Then enjoy!
Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Place a bowl on top of the dried chilies when soaking. This will push the chilies down into the bowl of water to ensure that they get a good soaking and soften.
- Store belacan in a TIGHTLY sealed zipper bag. It is a very pungent paste, so it’s best to store it in a tightly sealed Ziplock bag in a cool dry area. This will prevent the odor from permeating throughout your pantry and home.
- Season the broth twice to layer the flavors. Once in the beginning when you add the chicken broth and coconut milk, then again at the end. This will allow the fresh tangy flavor of lime juice, salty umami notes from the fish sauce, and kick of heat from the Thai chili powder to really shine through.
- Don’t overcook the fish balls and fish tofu. These are already pre-cooked when they come in packages, and simply need a few minutes in the broth to heat through.
More Delicious Noodle Soups
- Khao Soi Gai (Northern Thai Coconut Curry Noodles Soup with Chicken)
- Thai Glass Noodle Soup (with Chicken & Prawn Meatballs)
- Spicy Dan Dan Noodles with Wontons
- Spicy Korean Seafood Soup Noodles (Jjamppong)
- Or browse the entire Noodles recipe collection.
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Spicy Curry Laksa
This Spicy Curry Laksa boasts a rich and creamy spiced coconut milk broth and is made from scratch with a homemade laksa paste. It’s loaded with chicken, shrimp, fish balls, fried tofu puffs, and more, and is topped off with all the classic laksa garnishes!
- Prep Time: 25
- Cook Time: 40
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Simmer
- Cuisine: Southeast Asian
- Diet: Gluten Free
For the Laksa Pasta:
- 6 Large Dried Red Chilies – soaked in a bowl of hot water, then squeezed and chopped (reserve the chili soaking water)
- 6 small Bird’s Eye Thai Dried Red Chilies – soaked in a bowl of hot water, then squeezed and chopped
- 1 TBLS Dried Shrimp – soaked in a bowl of hot water
- 12–20 fresh Thai Red Chilies (Bird’s Eye preferred, but any small hot red chilies will work), to taste – roughly chopped
- 3 Lemongrass stalks – outer tough layers removed, top and bottom woody parts chopped off and discarded, then finely minced
- 2-inch piece fresh Turmeric – peeled and roughly chopped
- 3-inch piece Galangal – peeled and roughly chopped
- 3 Coriander Roots (use 1 tablespoon coriander stems if unavailable) – rinsed and roughly chopped
- 5 Candlenuts – chopped
- 1.5 TSP Belacan (Malaysian fermented shrimp paste. Or use Thai Shrimp Paste – ‘gapi’)
- 1 TSP Coriander Powder
- 1 TSP ground Cumin
- 1 TSP Kosher Salt
- 3–4 TBLS chili soaking water, or as required
For the Spicy Curry Laksa:
- 3 TBLS Canola Oil (or vegetable oil)
- 450 grams / about 1 pound Chicken Thighs, bone-in, skin-on – cleaned and pat-dried
- 6 cups / 48 fluid ounces Low Sodium Chicken Broth
- 1 (400 ml / 13.5 ounce) can Coconut Milk
- 2–3 TBLS freshly squeezed Lime Juice, or more to taste
- 2–3 TBLS Fish Sauce, or more to taste
- ¾ disc / 37.5 grams Coconut Sugar (known as ‘gula kelapa’), to taste – finely shaved with a knife (substitute with palm sugar, or 1.5–2 tablespoons granulated coconut or light brown sugar if unavailable)
- 2–3 TSP Thai Chili Powder, to taste (substitute with crushed red pepper flakes if unavailable)
- 170 grams / 6 ounces (1 pack) Fried Fish Balls (or regular non-fried fish balls) – rinsed in a fine mesh strainer
- 160 grams / 9 pieces (1 pack) Fish Tofu (or use a sliced fish cake block)
- 200 grams / 7 ounces peeled and deveined Jumbo Black Tiger Shrimp (or Prawns, size 16/20) – rinsed and pat-dried
- 93 grams / 3.3 ounces (12–15 pieces) Fried Tofu Puffs (known as ‘tau pok’) – halved
- 600 grams / 21.2 ounces (3 vacuum sealed packs) Rice Vermicelli Noodles – prepared according to package instructions (see notes*)
- To Serve (optional toppings, amounts as desired): Store-bought (or homemade) fried Asian shallots, chopped laksa leaves, chopped mint leaves, chopped coriander (cilantro), mung bean sprouts, lime wedges for squeezing, sambal oelek or sambal pedas (Malaysian chili paste)
For the Laksa Paste:
- Make the Laksa Paste: Soak the large dried red chilies, Bird’s Eye Thai dried red chilies, and dried shrimp in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes to soften. Then squeeze the water out from the chilies (it’s ok if they’re still a bit wet) and roughly chop. Remove the dried shrimp from the bowl of water and set aside. Prepare the rest of the fresh and dry ingredients for the paste as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section. Add everything and 3 tablespoons of the chili soaking water to a food processor bowl. Cover and blend into a smooth paste, uncovering as needed to push the ingredients down. Add an additional ½ to 1 tablespoon of water if needed to help the paste come along. Transfer the paste to a bowl or container and set aside. For the Spicy Curry Laksa:
For the Spicy Curry Laksa:
- Prep: Clean and pat-dry the chicken thighs. Shave the coconut sugar with a sharp knife and set aside. Rinse and pat-dry the prawns, rinse the fried fish balls, and cut the tofu puffs into halves. Place the mung bean sprouts in a bowl of water in the fridge for 15 minutes to rejuvenate. Then rinse and drain into a colander, set aside until ready to serve.
- Sauté the laksa paste: Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Add the laksa paste and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
- Add the chicken: Add the chicken thighs and sauté to for 1 minute until coated in the paste.
- Build the broth: Pour in the low sodium chicken broth and coconut milk, stir to combine. Then reduce the heat to medium-low.
- Season and simmer: Stir in the 2 tablespoons of lime juice, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, coconut sugar, and 2 teaspoons Thai chili powder. Simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. (You can check by piercing the flesh with a fork. The juices should run clear.)
- Shred the chicken: Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Skim off (if any) “gunk” or dried blood floating at the top of the broth and discard. Remove the skin off the chicken thighs and discard. Then shred the flesh using two forks or by hand, discard the bone, and set aside until ready to serve.
- Cook/reheat the rest of the proteins: Add the fish balls and fish tofu, and simmer for 6 minutes. Then add the tofu puffs and shrimp and simmer for another 2-3 minutes, or until the shrimp has just cooked through. Give the broth a taste and adjust seasonings by adding the remainder tablespoon of lime juice and fish sauce, remaining teaspoon of Thai chili powder, more coconut sugar if needed. Then switch off the heat.
- Cook/reheat the noodles:
- If using vacuum sealed packs of rice vermicelli or dried noodles: Cook according to package instructions in a pot of boiling water. Then drain and divide evenly into four bowls.
- If using fresh rice noodles: Briefly place them in a pot of boiling water, then drain and divide evenly into four bowls.
- To Serve: Ladle the laksa broth, fish balls, fish tofu, tofu puffs, and shrimp evenly over the noodles and top with the shredded chicken. Garnish with fried Asian shallots, mung bean sprouts, chopped laksa leaves (and/or chopped mint and coriander). Serve with lime wedges for squeezing and sambal oelek (or sambal pedas) if desired.
- Asian ingredients: Look for the large dried chilies, Bird’s Eye dried red chilies, dried shrimp, fresh turmeric, galangal, candlenuts, belacan (shrimp paste), coconut sugar, Thai chili powder, fried fish balls, fish tofu (or fish cake block), fried tofu puffs at an Asian supermarket. Some of these ingredients can also be found in Thai specialty ingredients stores or ordered online. See the post above if you’d like to learn more about each of these ingredients.
- Laksa paste: The paste can be made a day in advance and stored in a sealed airtight container in the fridge. Or it can be stored in a freezer friendly sealed airtight container in the freezer for up to 1 month. Use half of the paste to make the laksa broth milder and freeze the rest for another day.
- Noodles: I used vacuum sealed packs of rice vermicelli noodles and cooked them according to package instructions in a pot of boiling water. But you can use fresh rice noodles, which will only need a quick dip in a pot of boiling water to reheat. Alternatively, use Hokkien or egg noodles if you prefer. If using dried noodles, use 300 grams / 10.6 ounces and prepare them according to package instructions.
- Storing and reheating leftovers: Store the laksa (without the noodles) in a sealed airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can reheat either in a pot or Dutch oven on the stovetop, then cook the noodles separately, ladle the laksa on top, and add your desired toppings. Alternatively, reheat individual broth portions in the microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring once in between, until hot throughout. Then pour over cooked noodles in a separate bowl and add toppings and garnishes as desired.
- Nutritional information is approximate, and is not inclusive of information for toppings/garnishes.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 1093
- Sugar: 22g
- Sodium: 2924.1mg
- Fat: 51.4g
- Saturated Fat: 22.6g
- Unsaturated Fat: 17.6g
- Trans Fat: 0.1g
- Carbohydrates: 86.7g
- Fiber: 10.4g
- Protein: 58.3g
- Cholesterol: 194.6mg
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.
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