Curry Laksa Fried Chicken, with Pineapple Mint Salsa and Ginger Lime Aioli
Ah, laksa…who doesn’t love a big steaming bowl of fiery creamy goodness. If you’re unfamiliar with laksa, it is essentially a rich and spicy noodle soup commonly found around the Malaysia/ Singapore peninsula, as well as in parts of Thailand and Indonesia.
Laksa has always been a favourite in our house, though ironically we don’t really eat it all that often. I had been playing around with the idea of a laksa fried chicken for a bit, though after a bit of quick research, I found that Adam Liaw (a MasterChef winner from Australia) had already beaten me to it*.
Oh, well – you can’t have too much of a good thing can you?
This recipe has been through a couple of iterations in its lifetime. Initially, I started making a classic curry laksa, topped with laksa fried chicken. Tasty, but it quickly loses the impact of crisp chicken goodness in the soup.
So next came the idea of making a dry laksa noodle – I cooked down the curry paste and coconut milk till thick, then tossed it through noodles stir fried with the usual laksa toppings. This is how it turned out.
In the end though, I abandoned the idea of gratuitous laksa overkill – I’ve concluded that it’s all pretty much an excuse to get as much laksa down my face as possible. So instead let’s focus on the good stuff – the star of the show was always meant to be the fried chicken.
This recipe takes it’s cue from curry laksa, as opposed to the other types of laksa variants such as Assam. Incidentally, here’s a nice overview of the different laksa variations and some etymology on the name that I hadn’t come across before. As you might imagine, recipes can vary hugely even within the scope of the good old curry laksa, but at the heart of it lies a spicy laksa paste balanced with creamy coconut milk to form the heart of the soup base. The spice paste is what brings the fire and the flavour, made from chilies and aromatics including shallot/onion,garlic, tumeric, galangal, lemongrass and shrimp paste.
In this recipe, I’m using boneless thigh fillets, and marinating the chicken in curry paste and coconut milk powder rather than regular coconut milk – I wanted a good amount of coconut flavour without it getting too wet. The curry paste I typically make is fairly standard from what I could see from other recipes online and in my own library. The focus is mainly on the aromatic ingredients, with some lighter, sweeter spices so as not to overpower the balance.
I also trialed several options for the coating for frying – various combinations of potato starch, regular flour and coconut flour. Best options are either all potato starch or half potato starch and half plain flour. I didn’t find using coconut flour added much to the texture or flavour. Using 100% potato starch gives the chicken a lighter, crisp coating which draws on the the Japanese fried chicken/ Karaage approach, whereas the half and half mix gives it more of a regular fried chicken feel – slightly thicker crust and better colour. The potato starch chicken can look a bit on the pale side in comparison, though I did find it stayed crisper for longer.The photo below is the half and half coating, and would be my preferred method, though to be honest the all starch coating is still a very very close second.
The recipe for the curry paste below makes about double the amount you need for the chicken, so feel free to make some regular laksa if you like too! If you don’t feel like making your own laksa paste, it’s possible to do this with a shop-bought or pre-prepared laksa paste instead. Use the same amount of paste, but leave out the 1/2 teaspoon of salt as the paste will most likely already have a fair bit added.
*Christine over at Christine’s Recipes has done a good job of reproducing the recipe, in turn adapted from MasterChef Magazine, so here’s the link)
I also tried to get an idea of what others were doing with their laksa…here are a couple of good options to check out!