If there’s a better sound than a bunch of pipis and mussels clattering their way into a pot, they should record it and sell it.
Last weekend I was delighted to be invited by Ocean Fresh Seafood, here at the Fyshwick Markets in Canberra, to pick up a bundle of shellfish and turn them into something warming for the increasingly wintery weather.
I’ve often popped into Ocean Fresh for lunch and each time has been more delightful than the last. Recently I tried their chilli prawns (fabulous), fish and chips (light, crispy and decidedly not greasy) and now their creamy chowder with scallops and razor clams (amazing).
That last one was sorely needed as temperatures begin plummeting to “how cold is it?!” territory.
As Canberrans don their Kathmandu parkas in unison, we vehemently maintain – through chattering teeth – that we wouldn’t live anywhere else. (While booking a tropical escape for somewhere around August, right?)
What to make that would warm everyone up and switch the mindset from summer seafood platters to things that leave you feeling toasty? (Before you all chime in, besides wine) It needed both heat AND spice to get the job done plus there’s an indisputable warming that only soup can bring.
It had to be seafood laksa.
I cheat a little by using a store bought paste but I thoroughly overcompensate with fresh ingredients and, unless you’re after the appealingly smug feeling you only get from making everything from scratch, you really won’t know the difference.
Mussels and pipis are dandy, but as I left the shop some little Western Australian Mantis Shrimps caught my eye – literally, they have a face – so I had to throw a few in the bag too. They’re strangely prehistoric and oddly futuristic looking at the same time. Somewhere between a prawn and a Balmain bug.
(Tasty, but also a very good way of impressing foodie friends with your knowledge of obscure crustaceans.)
The weekend looks to be brutally cold. We have moved from lustily imbibing the glorious colours of autumn to beseeching our coffee cups to provide us a skerrick of warmth (and caffeine) to survive the day.
But trust me on this one, pop into Ocean Fresh Seafoods and pick up some supplies to raise the temperature of your weekend lunch. Tell Nick and the team you saw my recipe and… you want what she’s having. Yes!
- About a kilo of mixed shellfish (prawns, mussels, pipis or… Mantis Shrimp)
- 1 small jar of Malaysian style laksa paste (approx 180g)
- 1 litre seafood stock
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 brown onion, very finely diced
- 3cm knob of ginger, grated
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar or grated palm sugar
- 1/2 tin coconut milk (approx 200ml)
- Fried shallots (the ones you buy in a pack)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, crushed
- 1 packet vermicelli noodles
- 1 bunch Chinese broccoli, rinsed and chopped into bitesize pieces
- Finely sliced spring onions
- Lime wedges
- Bean sprouts
- More fried shallots
- Fresh coriander
- Red chilli
- Finely chopped kaffir lime leaves
- Place a tablespoon of oil into a large pot along with the entire jar of laksa paste and warm gently on a low heat for about two minutes.
- Add the grated ginger, crushed garlic and chopped onion. Sautee for a couple of minutes.
- Add fish sauce, soy sauce and coconut milk.
- Add fish stock, fried shallots and sugar.
- Allow to simmer on low for about fifteen minutes.
- Meanwhile, place any shellfish into a bowl or sink of clean water. Allow to sit for a little while, scrub off any debris, rinse and drain. Set aside.
- For the Mantis Shrimp (or prawns) either peel and de-vein or simply remove the heads, depending on whether you like to peel them as you eat.
- Place the vermicelli noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for ten minutes, drain and shock with cold water immediately. Set aside.
- Taste the laksa soup. If it isn’t sweet enough, add a little more sugar. For saltiness, add fish sauce. If it’s missing some bite, add some chilli or lime juice. Make it your own.
- Strain the laksa soup through a fine sieve to remove any grittiness and return to the pot on medium heat.
- Add all the shellfish and allow to simmer for about ten minutes or until the shells have all opened.
- In each serving bowl place a serve of vermicelli noodles and a handful of Chinese broccoli. Ladle over the hot soup, seafood and then top with all of the garnishes.
- Take a photo before you eat.