Michael's birthday was actually on Monday and he requested a fairly heavy dessert for the occasion. The dinner decision was left up to me and so I put my mind to finding a meal that would be warming and a bit special yet still leave room for cake. Mindful of Michael's long love of all things curry, I soon realised that laksa could be everything I was looking for. This recipe comes from Kurma Dasa's Vegetarian World Food, a favourite source of inspiration in this house for several years before I became addicted to blogs and bookmarking. There's a lot of chopping, grating and grinding involved but the reward is a huge pot of food (even with the halved quantity I made!), kaleidoscopic with flavours and textures, spices, veges and noodles. On the side were unnecessary but indulgent taro paratha - I've been a fan of the flaky, pastry-like paratha since I first encountered it, but the subtle sweetness of a taro one is new to me and just perfect for a coconut milk curry like this.
1/2 cup beans, cut into short lengths
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
3 dried red chillis
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1 inch length ginger, peeled and minced
1 inch length galangal, peeled and minced
1 stalk lemongrass, the white inner stem, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup potatoes, cut into cubes
3/4 cup carrot, cut into circles
1 cup vege stock
175g dried rice vermicelli noodles
3/8 cup tamarind puree
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 teaspoon salt
200g fried tofu, cut into cubes
2 cups coconut milk
To garnish (optional): beansprouts, cucumber cut into matchsticks, lime wedges, sambal oelek (chilli paste)
Steam the beans for ten minutes and drain (or not, if you like them crunchy - I probably won't bother next time).
Roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and chillis in a small saucepan over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes. Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind them to a powder.
Heat the oil in a very large saucepan, then add the ginger and galangal, stir-frying for a few minutes. Add the lemongrass and fry for a further minute. Smells pretty good, huh? Unfortunately dinner's still a fair way off. Add the garlic, give it another minute, then pour in the tomato mush. Cook the tomatoes for 5-10 minutes so that they break down a bit.
Add the roasted spice powder, curry powder, black pepper, potato, carrot and vege stock. Cover and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5-10 more minutes, until the veges are at your preferred tenderness.
Cover the noodles with boiling water and let them sit until tender. Drain.
Add the tamarind puree to the curry, then the beans, sugar, salt, tofu and coconut milk. Bring it all to the boil again then take it off the heat. Time to serve up! Put a scoop-full of noodles in each bowl, then ladle the curry over. Garnish and enjoy.