Well it’s been a full week of classes now and things are still (*knock on wood*) going smoothly. I’m absolutely loving my lectures. Finally, after four years of Physics and five years in the “real world”, I am studying what I’ve been wanting to study all along: Astronomy. Now I’ll admit it’s a bit surreal jumping headlong into academia again (oh wait, I can only afford two bags of groceries at a time? …you want me to ssh into where??…yes I do in fact know what it’s like to work outside school), but after having my Astronomy studies previously limited to Science Daily, this is just so cool!
One of my biggest challenges so far hasn’t been the work – although my math skills are still VERY rusty – it’s been finding the time to cook even the simplest meals. I need at least two dishes’ worth of leftovers to sustain me through the week and there have been some days when I’ve given in and bought my food, not ok when you’re on a strict budget…
…that is why, people, I love this dish. And if you are a person pressed for time with a weakness for flavor I highly suggest you make this soon! Laksa, I’ve learned, is a traditional Malaysian noodle soup marked by its main ingredients of curry, coconut milk, and noodles. Are you familiar with laksas? Is such a dish primarily Malaysian and just borrowed in other cuisines, or do other cultures have their own personal varieties?
Shiitake & Tofu Laksa (very slightly adapted from The Big Book of Wok and Stir-fry)
1½” (4 cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer layers discarded and inner stalks chopped*
small handful fresh cilantro, a few leaves saved for garnish
3 T vegetable oil
3 C vegetable stock
14 oz. canned coconut milk
9 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stalks removed and thinly sliced
1 C firm tofu; drained, pressed, and cubed
2 T tomato paste
2 packs instant ramen (without spice pouches)
2 – 3 scallions, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
*Note: I couldn’t find lemongrass at the time so I added scallions instead. Loved the scallions and bet the lemongrass would make the broth even more delicious so I’ve included both here.
1. Puree chiles, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro, and oil in a food processor until smooth. I deliberately left mine with small chunks in it because I wanted little bursts of flavor in the broth but I’m sure it’s just as delicious perfectly pureed.
2. Heat wok over Medium-high heat and add puree. Stir-fry puree for 30 seconds or until fragrant before pouring in veggie stock and coconut milk. Bring broth to boil. Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water and place on separate burner to boil.
3. When broth is boiling in the wok add mushrooms, tofu, and tomato paste and lower heat to gently simmer for 5 minutes. As broth is simmering, cook ramen in saucepan for just two minutes or so – until soft but not fully cooked (be careful here, it’s very easy to overcook instant ramen!). Drain noodles and set aside.
4. Remove wok from heat. Taste-test your broth and add salt and pepper as desired. Using tongs or two forks, divide ramen into bowls (will serve 4 without leftovers) and ladle broth over the top. Garnish with sliced scallions and cilantro and serve immediately.
I feel a tad guilty saying it, but I think this is the best Asian dish I have ever made. The guilt comes from the fact that this isn’t a Japanese dish, it’s not even an Asian dish I’ve eaten much of, yet I pulled it off better than any of my Japanese dishes attempted so far (speaking of which, I’ve been wanting to get back to those challenges for a while now but haven’t found the ingredients I need within biking distance – yet!). Even Brad, who’s a bit skeptical of international foods he hasn’t tried yet, told me it was really good. The best part? Easily-reheatable leftovers! Woohoo!
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥