Laksa paste is the soul of any laksa, get this right and everything else is just assembly. The turmeric, ginger and galangal provide much of the flavour, peel them gently with a small knife rather than a vegetable peeler so you don’t lose too much flesh. The belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste) is best toasted, see the video below on how to toast gapi (Thai shrimp paste) as the method is the same. As you only use the white end of the lemongrass for the laksa paste, save the rest and steep it in hot water to make a refreshing lemongrass tea. Don’t be tempted to nibble on the candlenuts raw as they contain compounds that can cause a mild upset stomach when eaten raw; they are harmless once cooked. Traditionally laksa paste is pounded in a mortar with a pestle, so do that rather than using a stick blender if you prefer. And for those times when you don’t have time to make your own paste, I find the Malaysian brand Ayam is a great quality short-cut.
Makes about 1½ cups
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