I am quite excited, as I am a new member of a group called The Velveteers. The group consists of several members, all from various corners of the globe, who are all passionate about cooking and challenge themselves to cook diverse and interesting dishes. (More on the Velveteers at the bottom of this post…)
Each month, the Velveteers take on a new cooking challenge. For example, last month, the Velveteers each made their own interpretation of the Sicilian classic, Caponata. This is my first month as a member of the group, and I must say that I was a little scared when I saw our assignment. We were asked to cook the a traditional dish from Singapore called Laksa. Laksa is a coconut curry soup, that is usually served with rice noodles and various other ingredients (cockles, fish cakes, shrimp, etc).
Upon reading the assignment, panic immeadiately sunk in: I had never heard of Laksa! I did a little research, and found that laksa can take many different forms and be made in a variety of different ways. Laksa looked so exciting and delicious, and so different from the cuisine I normally cook. And even though I was slightly hesitant to try my hand at laksa (mostly due to my recent and disastrous attempt at curry paste), I knew that this dish was special. And I knew I could redeem myself and make a beautiful curry.
My first thought when approaching this dish, was that I wanted to incorporate mussels into the laksa. I love mussels in any form, but I especially love mussels with a good curry broth. My next thought was to make a curried Moules Frites – (aka Mussels and Fries). My husband and I are slightly obsessed with moules frites, and order them whenever we get the chance. And while moules frites is one of my favorite meals, I have never made them at home. I’ve been meaning to do so, and this challenge provided a unique opportunity to make one of my favorite dishes with a twist. So, I set out to use a laksa broth as the base for my mussels and fries. And, I must say, it turned out beautifully! I understand that the dish is a far cry from a traditional laksa soup, but I did my best to make an authentic laksa curry paste and based the entire dish upon that. The flavor was unbelievably good, and the sweetness of the mussels worked so nicely with the spicy broth.
Here is my method for making my version of laksa (with mussels and fries):
LAKSA: CURRIED MUSSELS AND FRIES
For the Laksa Paste
(Adapted from Fat of the Land)
3 stalks of lemongrass (the “hearts” – soft inner white parts)
1/2 red bell pepper
3 – 5 hot chilis, stemmed and seeded to taste
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp tumeric
1 – 2 thumbs of ginger, peeled & chopped into thin slices (I used extra ginger as the original recipe calls for Galangal, but I could not get my hands on any)
1 – 2 Tbsps of Fish Sauce (The recipe also called for shrimp paste, and I did not have any – so I used a little extra fish sauce)
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 Tbsps brown sugar
4 Tbsps peanut oil
To make the Laksa paste: Simply combine all ingredients and blend together in a food processor until smooth. You may need to use extra fish sauce or peanut oil if the mixture is too thick. However, keep in mind – this is a paste! It is supposed to be quite thick.
For the fries:
4 russet potatoes, throughly washed and cut into thin wedges.
1 – 2 cups of peanut oil
*You will need some sort of thermometer or temperature gauge for this!
For the fries, I used the Geoffrey Steingarten method. Its super easy, and they turn out great every time!.
Wash and cut the potatoes into thin wedges and try to cut them as evenly as possible (so they will cook evenly). Rinse the cut potatoes in cold water and then pat dry with a towel. Place the potatoes in a pot or pan that has at least a 10″ diameter and is at least 4″ tall (I used my dutch oven). Pour the peanut oil over the potatoes, just enough to cover them. Turn the stove to high heat. Watch the temperature rise, and be careful not to let the oil heat over 370 degrees. Once the temp has reached 350 and the fries are looking golden brown, remove from the oil and let drain on a paper towel. Salt to taste.
For the mussels:
2 pounds fresh mussels, cleaned thoroughly (*Please see this site for instructions on properly storing and cleaning mussels. It is very important to do so!)
1 can coconut milk
4 cups chicken/veggie stock (or water)
1 carrot, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup laksa paste
1 Tbsp peanut oil
In a large stock pot, heat the peanut oil over med-high heat. Add in the diced carrot, onion and bell pepper. Cook for a few minutes, until tender (3-5 minutes). Add in the laksa paste, and stir to coat. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add in the stock (or water) and stir. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and continue to let simmer for another 5 minutes. Add in the mussels and cook for a few minutes, until each mussel opens. If there are any mussels that do not open, throw them away as they are no good!
Serve the mussels in a shallow bowl. Ladle a good amout of the laksa broth over the mussels. Top with fries, fresh cilantro and sriacha aioli (which is a fancy way of saying I mixed sriacha with mayo!). Feel free to sop up the delicious broth with some crusty bread.
So, there you have it! My first Velveteers challenge. I had a fantastic time making (and eating!) this dish.
” The 4 Velveteers* was started by Pamela (The Cooking Ninja), Aparna (My Diverse Kitchen), Asha (Fork Spoon & Knife), and Alessio (The Recipe Taster), who are passionate about different cuisines and food in general. Each month, we will attempt a new dish and share our experiences and the recipes we used. If you’re interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our Google group. ”
Do, check out what the other Velveteers have created:
Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen made Vegetarian Curry Laksa
Asha from Fork, Spoon, Knife made Laksa Lemak with Shrimp and Catfish
Alessio from The Recipe Taster made Fragrant Almond Laksa with Noodles
Sarah from Simply Cooked made Light Chicken Laksa