This recipe whoops a ‘grand huzzah’ in tribute to the splendid, vicious firework that is the scotch-bonnet chilli! In isolation, it must be considered a pungent, mean & unpleasant beast; one which doles out penance to all those who countenance it. But when tempered by a little sweetness & warmth; its unremitting intensity is bridled and the ‘beast is tamed’!
Much like a tiger, chilli is a thing of beauty; something to be admired yet very much treated with respect. But once the cook has learnt this skill, the two will become firm friends for life, with most pleasing results!
Laksa is a delicious dish from Malaysia, which carries considerable influence from other Oriental cuisines. The origin of the name is unknown, but thought to stem from either Persian or Sanskrit. There are a myriad versions of the recipe, but this one is based on the wonderful, keto-friendly foundation of coconut-milk and chicken-stock. These two mild and velvety ingredients are just what’s required to sooth the vicious, bad temper of the chillies; delivering a perfectly balanced & mouth-watering equilibrium of taste! This is heightened by the addition of coriander leaves and lemon/lime juice, which add just the right touch of sourness to complement the sweet coconut. Some dishes have a perfect flavour-profile; and this is one of them!
The original dish is made with thin rice-noodles (vermicelli). These are not ideal on a ketogenic-diet, due to their high carbohydrate content. This recipe therefore uses courgette-noodles, or ‘zoodles’ , which make a delicious alternative to their high-starch counterpart. This renders the dish infinitely accessible to diabetics, gluten-intolerants, or those who quite simply want a break from the stodge! The carb-content is very low, so there’ll be no impact to blood-sugars or insulin ramping – you can tuck in to your heart’s content!
In this version, I use pork-belly slices because of their crispness in contrast to the noodles. Should you wish however, you can equally replace these with chicken, other poultry, game or even fish. The true beauty of this dish lies in the sauce, everything else plays ‘second fiddle’. As a result, my choice of meat is guided by texture rather than taste. I leave any variants up to your own creative instinct therefore. If you have any special successes, make sure to write back and tell me how you got on!
So, to work! Start by cutting your pork-belly slices into inch chunks and placing-these onto a baking-tray. Season well and place into a hot oven for 30-40 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.
If you have a ‘mini-food-processor’, destalk 1-2 scotch-bonnet chillies and whizz these up until finely chopped. Add two cloves of garlic and a large pinch of salt, then follow these with your coriander stalks and a grind of pepper. Blend these as fine as possible, then scrape out with a spatula. If you don’t have a food-processor, chop the lot with a sharp knife on a sturdy wooden board. If you choose this option, make sure not to touch anywhere near your eyes for a good long while – it hurts!!!!
Place a wok or broad-based pan onto the hob and add a good glug of oil. Sunflower- or rapeseed-oil are perfect; olive oil has a lower burning point so cook a little more slowly if you use this. Sauté the mix for a couple of minutes, then add a chopped onion and a diced pepper. Soften these for a minute, then pour in a half-cupful of chicken-stock, or water and stock-cubes (to taste). The mix should burst into an aromatic cloud of steam, that fills the room with a sharp chilli-garlic fragrance! This is delicious, but powerful; so don’t place your head directly over pan when adding the liquid!
The water will start to evaporate fairly quickly under the high heat. Before this happens, open a can of full-fat coconut milk and stir this into the mix, making sure to scrape the can clean with a spatula. If more water is required, add this in and season well. You want the liquid to be the consistency of a thin soup. As the dish simmers, it will soon thicken up.
Take 2-3 courgettes and cut into ‘zoodles’ with a spiraliser or julienne-peeler (see the following link for more details – courgette-noodles). Add the noodles to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes until cooked through. At this point, squeeze in the juice of one lemon or lime and sprinkle in your chopped coriander leaves, reserving a few to garnish.
By this time, the sauce should be rich, thick and glossy. Taste to adjust the seasoning (including ‘warmth’ of flavour by crumbling in another half chicken-stock-cube) and then add powdered sweetener to ‘round’ the taste-profile. I suggest a small half-teaspoon, but this will naturally depend on how much chilli you used and your personal preference. Once all is to your liking, remove the pork from the oven, ladle the laksa into bowls and arrange the pork-pieces on top. Finish the dish by garnishing with a sprig of coriander and a slice of lime. Truly delectable in every way!
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Thanks for reading and bon ap!