Coconut Laksa with Shrimp (Coconut-Curry Noodle Soup with Shrimp)

Green and red curries, Tom Yum Soup and Spicy Basil Chicken are just a few of the Thai dishes that I crave, prepare at home or order out in a restaurant on a regular basis.  Thai cuisine is one of my favorites and I tend to prefer the dishes that are a bit spicier and hotter.

Most Thai dishes generally require a simple preparation with a somewhat lengthy list of ingredients.  Since it is one of my favorite cuisines, I attended a Thai cooking class many years ago to learn how to prepare these dishes at home with more of a restaurant flair.  In fact, we are hosting a Thai Cooking Class with a local chef at my home next month to instruct others how to prepare authentic Thai cuisine at home as part of a Chef’s Table Dinner Series with our On The Road culinary adventures.

Chef Craig Deihl, of Cypress Restaurant (Charleston, South Carolina), calls savory, the fifth component of the five basic tastes, the “unami bomb”.  It is this special combination of the elements of savory, hot, sour, salty and sweet that makes Asian (in particular Thai) dishes so compelling in taste and almost addictive.  Deihl’s recipe for Crisp Wasabi Tuna has to be one of the best Asian inspired dishes I have made in the last few years.  Each bite had its own unique flavor as the sauces, tuna, edamame and other ingredients merged together exciting the palate.

This dish from the April 2012 issue of Food & Wine, Coconut Laksa with Shrimp, is not a Thai dish, however, it has many of those flavors and elements from Thai cuisine that I described above.  This coconut-curry noodle soup originates from Singapore (where it is called laksa) and Vietnam (where it is known as ca-ri tom).  The recipe is from Chef Bryant Ng of The Spice Table in Los Angeles.  Chef Ng is known for his Southeast Asian flavors and dishes.

I enjoyed the spicy green curry base with coconut milk in the soup paired with the fragrant lemongrass and ginger.  Combined with coriander and tumeric and the macadamia nuts, it was an interesting mix of flavors and textures.  It had just the right blend of heat and spice.

I used wild-caught local Georgia Shrimp for the recipe and made my stock for the soup from the shrimp shells (as the recipe suggests).  We thought that a nice addition to the soup would be to make additional shrimp stock and cook the Thai flat rice noodles in the stock, rather than water, for more flavorful noodles.  Since the noodles are bland in taste on their own, cooking them in the stock would add another level of flavor to the dish.


Coconut Laksa with Shrimp (Coconut-Curry Noodle Soup with Shrimp)


1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp—shelled and deveined, shells reserved
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, sliced
3 large shallots, quartered
4 jalapeños, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
2 plump lemongrass stalks—bottom 8 inches only, outer layer removed, stalk cut into 2-inch lengths
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 pound Thai flat rice noodles (pad thai), soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
Lime wedges, for serving


1. In a large saucepan, combine the shrimp shells with the onion, carrot and 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the stock is bright orange and reduced to 5 cups, about 30 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock.

2. In a food processor, combine the shallots, jalapeños, ginger, macadamia nuts, coriander and turmeric with 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of the canola oil; puree until smooth.

3. In a soup pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the seasoning paste and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the lemongrass and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture darkens slightly and the oil separates, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved shrimp stock, coconut milk, brown sugar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Simmer over moderate heat until the soup is reduced to 6 cups, about 15 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling water, cook the rice noodles just until pliable, about 1 minute. Drain, shaking out the excess water. Transfer to 8 soup bowls.

5. Add the shrimp to the soup and cook until pink and curled, about 5 minutes. Season the soup with salt and ladle it over the noodles. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

* You can make this ahead of serving time. Prepare through Step 2 and refrigerate overnight.

Recipe courtesy of Chef Bryant Ng
Food & Wine, April 2012

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