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Lotsa Laksa

If you follow my blog, you know that I love laksa, the spicy Southeast Asian soup with an addictive flavor and lots of garnishes. Well, my laksa craving struck again, this time with a few new variations. After a recent trip to the Asian market (see last week’s post), I still had some great veggies that needed to be used, including an Indian cucumber, Thai basil, and watercress. Laksa provided a great way to use them, since cucumber is a traditional addition to laksa, and I liked the idea of using Thai basil instead of cilantro. Plus, I thought watercress would make a great addition to the brothy noodle soup. (And I was right!)

We each had a big bowl of soup for dinner, with lots leftover. By the next day, the noodles had absorbed the delicious broth, so instead of having leftover soup, it was more like a saucy noodle dish, but just as good.

Even though laksa begins with making a spice paste, this soup is quick and easy to make, and the addition of watercress (or spinach) helps to make it a satisfying one-dish meal. For an even quicker version, look for laksa paste in Asian markets, but be sure to read the label to make sure it’s vegan, because some brands contain dried shrimp.

Lotsa Laksa
This spicy-hot soup that uses three different heat sources: dried red chiles, cayenne, and an added dose of heat in the form of sriracha or sambal oelek. If you prefer it less spicy, cut back on any or all of them.

1 small yellow onion or 2 large shallots, coarsely chopped
4 dried hot red chiles, softened in hot water
2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, crushed
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
5 cups vegetable broth
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 scallions, minced
1 bunch watercress (optional)
1 (14-ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste – depending on saltiness of broth)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 ounces cooked rice noodles or linguine
Choice of garnishes: sriracha or sambal oelek, chopped cucumber; cilantro or Thai basil leaves; bean sprouts; chopped tomato; diced pineapple; lime wedges

In a food processor, combine the onion, chiles, lemongrass, ginger, coriander, paprika, curry powder, if using, turmeric, and cayenne, and process to a paste.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion mixture and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring in a small amount of the broth to prevent burning. Add the remaining broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes then strain and return the liquid to the pot. Stir in the tofu, scallions, watercress, if using, coconut milk, sugar, salt, and pepper and heat until hot. Add the cooked noodles and simmer until hot. Serve in soup bowls, garnished as desired.

COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY REMINDER:  There’s still time to enter the cookbook giveaway at the Vegan Heritage Press blog.  Enter to win a copy of The Blooming Platter Cookbook by Betsy DiJulio.  Contest closes on Sunday night!