Kari Laksa with Salmon

I have tried Kari Laksa in Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Ipoh, and Penang, and although there were all fantastic, my favourite was dining on Kari Laksa Udang (prawns), in a little seaside restaurant in Penang.

Kari Laksa in Malaysia is as important as the warm tropical air Malaysians breathe. Every Malaysian person I have met have tried to introduce me to their favourite Kari Laksa. I have tried it in Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Ipoh, and Penang, and although there were all fantastic, my favourite was dining on Kari Laksa Udang (prawns), in a little seaside restaurant in Penang.

The combination of creamy coconut milk from fresh coconuts, and whole spices roasted and ground up on the spot, plus the heat of fresh chilies and the tang of limes just produced the most perfect bowl of Kari Laksa.

We are not able to get fresh coconuts and whole spices as easily as one would when in Penang, but we can improvise. Here is my version using ingredients easily available, and in-season sustainable B.C. farmed salmon.

Traditionally Kari Laksa calls for white sugar, but I substituted the white sugar for 1 tablespoon Greek tomato paste, thereby using the natural sweetness of the tomatoes to flavour the broth

Kari Laksa with Salmon
Serves 4


The fish
4 fillets BC farmed salmon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Greek Olive oil

The noodles
300g vermicelli
Boiling water

The spices
½ tablespoon ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Make a Bouquet Garni with 2 star anise, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 4 green cardamom pods.

The spice paste
8 dried chilies, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drained
6 small shallots, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
One 2-inch (approx. 6cm) piece of fresh ginger, grated
2 stalks lemongrass (the bottom half only), pounded quickly to release the juices, then minced
1 teaspoon shrimp paste, toasted (or 1 tablespoon fish sauce)

The broth
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
6 tablespoons Greek olive oil
12 prawns, peeled
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon Greek tomato paste
1 tin (400ml) lite coconut milk, plus 6 tins water
200g spinach, cut into 3-inch strips (approx. 12cm)
8 pieces’ spongy tofu (cut into fours)
200g beansprouts
juice of 2 limes


  • Pour the cold oil into a fry pan, place the fish skin side down, and turn the heat on to medium. Sprinkle the fish with salt and black pepper to taste. Cook for 4 minutes, flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, set aside.
  • Place the noodles in a large bowl and blanch with boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and wash with icy water to cool the noodles down, drain well again, and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the spice paste ingredients, set aside for a minute.
  • In a large stock pots, heat the olive oil, add the dry spices (not the Bouquet Garni), toast quickly (about 10 seconds).
  • Add the spice paste, stir well and cook for 15 seconds.
  • Add the prawns and stir fry for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir well.
  • Add the coconut milk, water and the Bouquet Garni, and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes.
  • Add the tofu, beansprouts and spinach and cook for 2 more minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, scoop out the Bouquet Garni and discard. Now, squeeze the lime juice into the broth and stir gently. Divide the noodles into 4 bowls. Pour 4 equal amounts of broth over top of the noodles (make sure each bowl gets an exact ¼ portion of prawns, tofu and vegetables.
  • Top each bowl with 1 salmon fillet each (skin side down) and serve immediately