Monday, February 4, 2019

'Around the Spice Rack' Laksa Noodle Soup #CooktheBooks

Claudia from Honey from Rock is our Cook the Books hostess for this round (February-March 2019); she chose Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.* You can read Claudia's invitation: here

And, as luck would have it, we're doing a double-header with the book here and the movie over at Food'N'Flix. You can join in that party with Debra at the lead. Read more in my post for that event: 'Eat the Baby' Handmade Dumplings, including Debra's invitation and what I thought of the movie.

On the Page
For this edition of Cook the Books, I had already read the book last summer...and not cared for it at all. You can read my first impressions of it in my post: Sotong Bakar (Grilled Squid) with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

I rarely prefer a movie version to a book. But that was definitely the case with Crazy Rich Asians.

But I decided to keep an open mind and I asked my mom for the book back. She told me she hadn't had a chance to read it yet; I promised I'd return it quickly. Little did I know it would be this quickly. While Jake went to a Superbowl party and the boys worked on homework, I settled onto the bean bag and tried to read it again. 'Tried' is the operative word there. After the prologue, which I really liked both times through, I was right back to really disliking the book. Oh, well.

So, I flipped through, just skimming the footnotes. I remember those being informative about different kinds of Malaysian foods and customs. Anything with italics drew my eye and I landed on 'laksa' and inspiration struck with this passage.

"... three maids entered the dining alcove and placed large steaming bowls of laksa noodle soup in front of each guest. Rachel marveled at the beautiful composition of butterfly shrimp, fried fish cake, pillowy tofu puffs, and hardboiled egg halves beautifully arranged over the thick rice vermicelli and fiery soup. For a few minutes, the room lapsed into silence as everyone slurped down the distinctive noodles and savored the rich broth.

'I can taste the coconut milk in the soup, but what gives it the slightly tart, spicy kick? Is it Kaffir?' Rachel said.

Show-off, Eleanor thought.

'Good guess. It's tamarind,' Daisy answered. This girl wasn't bullshitting - she does know how to cook.

'Rachel, it's so impressive that you know your way around a spice rack,' Francesca chirped, her fake-friendly tone barely masking her disdain" (pg. 322).

My Spice Rack
A few years ago, my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf decided to be a spice rack for Halloween. Yes, he's the child of a foodie writer. That's crystal clear. He and my husband grabbed jars off my actual spice rack and I didn't see those spices for weeks! I chuckle every time I look at these photos.

It also cracked me up that he stenciled 'Spice Rack' on the top...just to make sure that people knew what he was. So cute!

Laksa Noodle Soup

Inspired by the Crazy Rich Asian passage about laksa, I decided to make some for dinner. I've made laksa before - with roasted pumpkin and acorn squash - and it's such a warming, comforting bowl. I wanted to try my hand at a composition with shrimp, fish cake, tofu, and hardboiled egg halves. Admittedly, my bowl wasn't beautiful. But it was tasty and everyone asked for second helpings.

Ingredients serves 4

  • 12 wild caught whole shrimp, heads and tails on
  • 8 C water
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1-1/2" knob fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 C clam juice
  • 1 T organic peanut butter
  • 2 T soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 t ground turmeric
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground paprika
  • 1/2 t ground coriander
  • 1 (13 ounce) can organic coconut milk
  • 1 T tamarind concentrate (available at most Asian markets)
  • fried tofu, thickly sliced
  • fish cakes, sliced
  • butter or oil for the griddle
  • rice noodles
  • hardboiled eggs, peeled and halved
  • lime wedges for serving
  • chile paste or other hot sauce for serving
Peel and devein shrimp. Place heads in a large souppot and add in 8 C water. Add in the garlic and ginger. Bring to a rolling boil and cook for 10 minutes. Pour in the clam juice and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the peanut butter, soy sauce, fish sauce, and spices. Pour in the coconut milk and tamarind concentrate and whisk till combined. Stir in the fish cake and heat until the coconut milk and fish cakes are heated through.

In another pot, cook noodles according to package directions. Mine cooked in 4 minutes. In the meantime, cook your tofu and shrimp on the griddle or grill.

To serve, place noodles in the bottom of your bowl ladle broth over the noodles. Garnish with tofu, shrimp, and hardboiled eggs. Serve immediately with lime wedges and chile paste on the side.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

I am also linking this up to #FoodieReads. 
Here's what everyone else read in February 2019: here.


  1. Yum....this caught my attention too and I have it on my to make list. Love your little spice rack.

  2. Ha and Ha!!! Love the spice rack!!! The soup is amazing, too. (Almost as good as the "Eat the Baby" dumplingS!!!)

  3. I think soups are so comforting and when you can haul out the spice rack that's an added bonus

  4. I love your human spice rack: your Kitchen Elf is so wonderful. I was also taken by that scene in the book and in fact I bought some tamarind, then changed track. Your Laksa noodle soup looks inviting: great job :)


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