Instant Laksa Recipe ala Pao Tsin In A Pinch
Who among us hasn’t found themselves suddenly nostalgic for a taste of Pao Tsin Laksa soup, a legend for its budget-friendly and affordable comfort food in Manila? Are you suddenly craving a hot, comforting bowl of laksa but don’t have hours to simmer the rich coconut broth from scratch nor prepare the host of hard-to-find laksa ingredients associated with creating its rich broth?
As much as I love homemade laksa from scratch, sometimes a girl just needs a simpler solution. Enter laksa cubes – those savory Malaysian seasoning blocks that let you create curry laksa soup in under 30 minutes.
Laksa is one of those dishes that you hear so much about but never really know where to start with making it yourself. It has flavors that define Southeast Asian cuisine with roots stretching across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and each region offering its spin and spices on this beloved soup. If you found that a bit scary, well I’m here to walk you through my process of mastering this Malaysian noodle soup so you can enjoy it too. Being based in Marinduque, we don’t have everything available that they do in Penang or KL. But I’m going to show you how you can tweak a laksa recipe to use ingredients you can find locally.
Traditional Laksa Varieties
The first thing is choosing your broth base which is your primary variants of Laksa: Curry Laksa and Asam Laksa.. The traditional Curry Laksa is coconut milk based, enriched with a spice paste that includes lemongrass, galangal, and turmeric. Asam Laksa, on the other hand, offers a tamarind-infused broth, marked by its tangy and slightly sour flavor profile.
Here in Marinduque we have plenty of coconuts, so I usually go with coconut milk. Make sure to get good quality coconut milk – the canned stuff works great but my favorite when in Manila is Coco Mama. For the tamarind part, I’ve found that like in Sinigang, juice from ripe tamarind pods works well. You’ll need to mash and strain out the seeds and fibers. Or use Sinigang Mix, gasp! Really, though. We take the shortcuts where we can mom!
Putting Your Curry Laksa Together
Next up is building layers of flavor with your spice paste. This is key to getting that authentic laksa taste. My go-to ingredients are shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric and chili peppers. Play around with amounts to get the heat level you prefer. Blend everything to a smooth paste.
Once your laksa paste is ready, fry it in a saucepan with a bit of oil until very fragrant. Then add your broth base – either just coconut milk or thinned out with water or chicken stock. Simmer for at least 30 minutes to develop flavors. Taste and season with salt, shrimp paste or fish sauce to taste. See! it’s that simple.
Now it’s time to pick your protein. Shrimp and chicken are classics, but being an island we have lots of fresh fish too. You can use any white fish you want. Add them to the broth to poach for 10 minutes. For the noodles, rice sticks or vermicelli both work great. Egg noodles are also nice and soaks up the flavor well. And don’t forget the toppings – herbs, bean sprouts, calamansi and chili are must haves in my book.
But you said this is easy!
Yes, Im getting that story. A few weeks ago, I got to try the instant pho from Massel Instant Pho Cubes from Shopee and then found this sister in the form of Laksa Cubes in the grocery! So of course, I had to try this too. They’re available in Shoppee too, don’t worry. You can buy these Instant laksa cubes here. According to research, a better option is the laksa paste, also available in instant packs but since we don’t have that, we will have to use these cubes.
Just crumble one or two into some coconut milk along with your protein and veggies for an instant pot of soup. In under 30 minutes, you’ve got a full meal that tastes like you slaved over it for hours. The kids will love it too thanks to easy clean up. And best of all, you can relax and enjoy family time instead of cooking stress!
Now I know what you may be thinking – instant anything rarely lives up to the real deal. But these cubes have got some serious flavor zip-packed into that shiny wrapper. Made from a vegan blend of lemongrass, galangal, turmeric and other laksa flavor bomb spices, just add a cube (or two, depending on your heat tolerance) to simmering coconut milk along with your protein and noodles of choice. The result is a laksa that tastes like it simmered all afternoon when really, it only took the time to boil some water. Add a tablespoon or two of salted egg yolk and the taste wouldnt really be far off.
Laksa cubes provide an easy cheat that still delivers on depth of flavor. No judgment from this mom – we all need a hand now and then to get delicious, nostalgic meals on the table without losing our minds in the process. So bust out those cubes, momma, and let’s cook this easy laksa recipe and get to slurping some Laksa soup!
Here’s a simple recipe for Instant Homemade Laksa using the Massel laksa seasoning cubes:
Instant Homemade Laksa Recipe ala Pao Tsin
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 4 laksa seasoning cubes mixed in 2 cups of broth
- 200 gms rice noodles (or any noodles available, egg noodles are what I used)
- 500 gms pork, chicken, or shrimp, sliced
- 1 itlog na maalat (salted egg) yolk (optional for the Laksa Pao Tsin version)
- crispy fried tofu (optional)
- fried sliced onions
- 1 cup Bean sprouts (with the seed part removed)
- 2 sliced red Taiwanese chili
- Follow the package instructions for cooking your noodles. Set aside.
- Prepare your protein of choice -chicken, pork, shrimp or ready made crispy lechong kawali / crackling pork as in the Pao Tsin version)
- In a saucepan, bring the coconut milk / water / broth to a simmer over medium heat. Crumble in the laksa cubes and stir to dissolve. Taste and add additional cubes as you like. Add sliced chilies for a spicy laksa and optional salted egg yolk and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the protein of choice directly to coconut milk broth. For sliced or diced meat like chicken, only 2-3 minutes is needed to cook through. For shrimp or whole chicken pieces, you may need 5-7 minutes.
- To serve, divide drained laksa noodles between bowls. Arrange protein on top, then ladle hot Laksa broth over noodles. Top with bean sprouts, fried slices of onions, and crispy fried tofu.
Laksa Cooking Tips
Laksa welcomes customization. Adjust the level of heat, experiment with different proteins, or add more vegetables to make the dish your own. It’s about finding the perfect balance that suits your palate. Since the cubes are vegan, you can also opt for a vegan laksa using tofu or mushrooms.
The best part is you can still customize it to your liking. Want more heat? Add some sliced bird’s eye chilies. Prefer seafood? Swap chicken for prawns. Feel like burrowing through the garden? Herbs like Thai basil and mint would be delicious additions.
Now on the question of coconut milk. The instructions from the box was actually 1 cup of coconut milk per 1 cube of laksa cubes but I felt that that will be overwhelming for me and my family so I just replaced two cups with water. Decide on this and taste it as you go so you can get it to how you like your laksa broth.
For optional toppings to take it to the next level, in addition to the ones listed on the laksa recipe, try sliced hard-boiled eggs, and lime or calamansi wedges. This Laksa version might probably not pass for the authentic curry laksa test but is flavorful with balanced spiciness and nuttiness. The contrast to the lechong kawali and its crackling skin was so good specially when you have allowed the pork to absorb a bit of the broth. I love love the freshness of biting through the fresh bean sprouts. But honestly, it was the salted egg yolk that brings the laksa broth home so iof you can, don’t skip that part.
You can also serve this with sambal chili -available in bottles online or on your favorite Asian store. One of these days Im gonna try and make this chili but here’s a laksa chili sambal recipe in case you are feeling extra.
Where does the red color of the Laksa come from?
Now this version of laksa is not as red as I like, and so I’ve been asked by the kids where the beautiful red color of laksa comes from, since it’s definitely not from tomato like some other dishes. I’ve found that here are a few main contributors to laksa’s reddish hue:
- Spices – The key spices used in laksa, like turmeric, shrimp paste, and chili paste/peppers all impart various shades of yellow, orange and red when cooked in the broth. Turmeric especially is a major player, contributing its bright yellow color. If youre not satisfied with the cubes and you have some turmeric in your kitchen, you can add a dash or two.
- Shrimp Paste – Also known as belacan in Malaysia or Alamang here in the Philippines, this flavor-packed paste made from fermented shrimp is commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking. When toasted or fried, it develops an intense reddish color that stains the broth.
- Tomato Sauce – While laksa wouldn’t traditionally contain actual tomatoes, some modern versions do add a splash of tomato sauce or ketchup for extra color and tanginess. This deepens the red tone.
- Spice Caramelization – As all the aromatic spices and pastes are blended and cooked down slowly in the coconut milk or tamarind broth base, natural chemical reactions occur that boost the red pigments further. The longer cooking time, the richer the color becomes.
That’s all there is to it – an extremely easy way to get your laksa fix even on busy weekdays. Slurp it while it’s hot! And remember, you dont need to stress if you’re missing a few toppings. Simple is best!
Ps, I know its carbs on carbs but eating this with Hainanese Rice will take you back an make you a decade or two younger. Now my Hainanese Recipe is not green like in Pao Tsin but tastes great, maybe even better, ehemmm. If you;re set on green though, just add a drop of green food color. :)
Let me know in the comments below how yours turns out! And be sure to sign up for my mailing list below to receive more simple yet delicious family meal recipes and cooking tips straight to your inbox.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog when I’ll be sharing my personal hack for taking lazy day pasta up a flavorful notch with an unexpected ingredient swap.
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