Special Dish for the Week: Seafood Laksa

This has got to be one of my favourite kind of meals—it’s soupy, it’s spicy and creamy, it’s full of veggies and seafood, and healthy to boot!—a combination of Indonesian and Thai ingredients and flavours that burst in the mouth and feel like there is sunshine radiating from the plate in this Special Dish for the Week:

Seafood Laksa

Seafood Laksa

Seafood Laksa

On a recent trip to T&T Supermarket, the Asian grocery store at the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown, to pick up some specialised ingredients for my multitude of Bali dinners following my recent self-directed healing retreat in Bali, I picked up some rice vermicelli noodles.

I have been salivating over the thought of making some type of a laksa meal since I was reminded of this delicious dish during my recent travels.

Laksa is actually a Malaysian dish of Chinese origin, though through the use of ingredients and spices, it can be varied in flavour. I use an Indonesian seafood recipe with spices that I am familiar with from Thai cuisine, and it turns out to be a taste sensation.

Seafood Laksa Chopped Ingredients

Seafood Laksa Chopped Ingredients

I start by finely chopping the spice and vegetable ingredients:

  • 1 stem of lemongrass, cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 8 leaves of kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 4 small Indian eggplants, cubed into 8ths
  • shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • small piece of green cabbage, thinly sliced
Seafood Laksa Ingredients

Seafood Laksa Ingredients

When the sliced ingredients are ready, I sautée the spices:

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste (a bit more if using shrimp sauce)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (or 1.5L fish stock or bone broth, whichever is on hand, but using stock requires longer cooking time to reduce the volume)
Seafood Laksa Cooking in a Wok

Seafood Laksa Cooking in a Wok

I then add 2-3 cups of coconut milk to make the soup, into which I add the chopped spices and vegetables when the soup is lightly bubbling hot.

I let the veggies soften and absorb some of the soup’s flavours.

Meanwhile, I boil up some water, and place my package of rice vermicelli noodles in the hot water for about 10 minutes. (This dish could also be made with buckwheat soba noodles, for some Japanese influence on the taste, texture and nutrient composition.)

I drain the noodles in a colander, and set them aside covered with a lid.

Seafood Laksa Dish

Seafood Laksa Dish

After 10 minutes of warming up the vegetables, I add the seafood:

  • shrimp, dethawed and peeled
  • red snapper, sliced into small chunks (or any other white fish fillet)

I let the dish warm and cook for another 10 minutes, and I serve it by placing a generous portion of warmed rice vermicelli and topping it with a couple ladlefuls of the laksa soup, veggies and seafood.

I enjoy this pure sunsine in a bowl dish with a glass of my favourite Apothic Red wine and a flower by my side.

Meal ideas & recipes from Periplus Mini Cookbooks “Step by Step – Indonesian Cooking”.

Special Dish for the Week: Sambal Oelek

I make one of the most versatile Indonesian condiments to have on hand—and use in other Indonesian dishes—for this Special Dish for the Week:

Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek

Sambal Oelek

This very spicy chili paste can be used directly in recipes or as a condiment served at the table allowing guests to spice up the dish on their plates.

In a pinch, a single red Thai chili pepper can be used in a recipe instead, although balancing out the flavours with the other ingredients in this paste gives that much more depth to the dishes that call for it.

Care is advised when handling these chili peppers, specifically to wash hands, utensils and chopping boards immediately after handling the chili pepper. Prolonged contact with the skin turns the skin quite painfully itchy, as I accidentally discovered in the past—and contact with the eyes and other body parts or orifices is definitely to be avoided if serious pain is not desired.

Sambal Oelek Ingredients

Sambal Oelek Ingredients

I use the following ingredients to make this wicked-sounding paste:

  • red Thai chili peppers*, finely chopped with seeds in (quantity and seeds in or out dependent on desired spiciness)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3-5 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

* I use about 20 chili peppers with seeds in, which means very little is needed for each dish and it looks like it will last me for a while

Chopped Red Thai Chili Peppers for Sambal Oelek

Chopped Red Thai Chili Peppers for Sambal Oelek

I boil the chopped red Thai chili peppers in water, covered on low heat for about 15 minutes. In my first trial of this paste, I used a little too much water and wasn’t patient enough to reduce it, so my paste turned out as more of a sauce. But no matter! Its spiciness prevails regardless, and I exercise extreme caution with the tip of the teaspoon when adding the saucy paste to my dishes.

I chop the cooked chili peppers in a blender together with the remaining ingredients, and on the advice of the recipe, I store the sambal oelek in a glass container with non-metallic lid in my fridge for several weeks.

Meal ideas & recipes from Periplus Mini Cookbooks “Step by Step – Indonesian Cooking”.

Special Dish for the Week: Fried Coconut Bananas

As part of my first Indonesian meal, Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice, prepared after a recent visit to the beautiful island of Bali on a self-directed healing retreat, I prepare for dessert:

Fried Coconut Bananas

Fried Coconut Bananas

Fried Coconut Bananas

This dish can serve as a refreshing spicy curry accompaniment, or as a dessert on its own or with a little topping.

  • 1-3 bananas, peeled and sliced lengthwise, cut in half or thirds if long, or thickly on a diagonal
  • 1/2-1 cup shredded or grated unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil, for frying
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, for frying
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (alternatively palm sugar, ice cream, yogurt, coconut cream, or any other desired topping)
Fried Coconut Bananas Ingredients

Fried Coconut Bananas Ingredients

I cover the banana slices generously with the grated coconut, and fry them over low heat until they are warmed through and the coconut begins to brown.

I serve the Fried Coconut Bananas sprinkled with some shredded coconut and with a little maple syrup dripped over them, and enjoy their heated sweetness immensely.

Meal ideas & recipes from Periplus Mini Cookbooks “Step by Step – Indonesian Cooking”.

Special Dish for the Week: Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice

With a recent visit to the beautiful island of Bali on a self-directed healing retreat, I gain new culinary skills in Indonesian cuisine and eagerly begin trialing new recipes, naturally “Maggifying” them to suit my tastes, available ingredients, and the amount of time I have to make the base ingredients (like Sambal Oelek red chili paste) from scratch or to find them pre-made, with my first dish prepared for a friend:

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice

This basic Indonesian dish, a version of which is often served for breakfast, can be dressed up or dressed down as one’s fancy strikes. The dressing up typically involves some form of fried egg and possibly other fancy looking, yet simple, ingredients.

It is highly recommended to prepare the rice in advance and to let it cool before using it in the recipe, where it is to be fried (to prevent it from turning into a risotto).

The night before, I steam and store in the fridge:

I then prepare one part of the garnish, by frying up on low heat a thin layer of scrambled egg omelette:

  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • generous pinch of turmeric powder
  • pinch of black pepper and sea salt
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil or coconut oil, for frying

When the omelette cools, I cut it into 1 cm x 8 cm strips that I eventually arrange in a hatched pattern on top of the fried rice. It can also be rolled up and sliced thinly into more of a messy spaghetti string look.

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice Ingredients

Nasi Goreng Indonesian Fried Rice Ingredients

I then prepare and fry up the following ingredients, adding a few at a time:

  • 2 tbsp peanut oil, for frying
  • garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Sambal Oelek
  • 1 tbsp Bragg soy sauce
  • chicken breast or thigh meat, shredded or pealed from bones used to make bone broth
  • peas and carrots, frozen and lightly steamed (steaming optional)
  • broccoli flowerettes, lightly steamed (steaming optional)
  • 1/2 orange or red pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced and browned separately in coconut oil
  • 2-4 green onions, diagonally sliced
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • cool rice, prepared in advance
  • water, to prevent rice from sticking too much (optional)
  • 1-3 tbsp coconut oil, for frying (optional)

I arrange each portion of the Nasi Goreng fried rice on plates and arrange the following garnishes on top, adding more flavours, textures and beauty to the dish:

  • strips of egg omelette, arranged in a hatched pattern on top of the fried rice
  • 1/2 orange or red pepper, julienned and raw, arranged decoratively on top of egg omelette strips
  • 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced and browned separately in coconut oil, arranged decoratively on top of raw pepper slices

I serve the Nasi Goreng with Cabernet Sauvignon wine from Australia (the closest region to Bali that produces wine), which my dinner guest graciously brings for us. I also adorn the table with a lovely white and yellow Balinese flower (a paper one I brought back from my trip to remind me of the ever-presence of these flower in that land everywhere!).

Following the main course, I serve Fried Coconut Bananas for dessert.

Meal ideas & recipes from Periplus Mini Cookbooks “Step by Step – Indonesian Cooking”.