Chicken Tofu Laksa

Serves 5

  • 2cups firm tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 4cloves
  • 1/4teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 8chiles de árbol, stemmed
  • 4tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
  • 3shallots, sliced
  • 1pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1teaspoon shrimp paste (available in the Asian aisle of supermarkets or at Asian markets); omit if you’re adding shrimp or prawns
  • One13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1cinnamon stick
  • 2lemon grass stalks, bottom three inches, tough outer skin removed, lightly crushed (just to start the juices releasing)
  • 1quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • Rice noodles, cooked to package directions (I use wide ones, but this is a personal preference)
  • Mung beans (canned is fine if you can’t find them fresh, but make sure to rinse and drain them)
  • 1/3cup mint leaves, roughly chopped (optional, for garnish)
  • 1/3cup cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
  • 2limes, cut into wedges (for garnish)
  1. Bring well salted water to a boil. Put the tofu in a bowl and pour the salted water over the tofu. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Grind coriander, peppercorns, cumin, fennel, cloves, turmeric, and chiles. Set aside.
  3. Remove tofu from water and place in a single layer on a clean dishcloth to dry. Cover with another towel and pat dry.
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a non-stick skillet or a wok over high heat. Add the tofu in batches and fry until golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Set the tofu aside to cool.
  5. Heat the rest of the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil glistens, add the shallots and ground spices. Cook, stirring often, just until the shallots start to become translucent, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the chicken and shrimp paste, and continue to cook, 1 to 2 minutes more. Turn down the heat if the spices or shallots look like they’re going to burn.
  7. Add the coconut milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon stick, tofu, lemon grass, and chicken broth.
  8. Return the temperature to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for twenty minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through.
  9. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions.
  10. Divide the noodles among the serving bowls. Spoon the broth over the noodles. Top with mung beans, then garnish with the mint and cilantro. Add a lime wedge to each bowl and serve immediately.

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