It all started with a comment on Facebook. I posted a picture of my breakfast and out of nowhere my good friend ABH commented “Laksa pasta”. Armed with a bunch of leftover laksa leaves from family lunch, it was a sign that I must make this dish.

Some of the ingredients

Since I had zero clue where to start, I know I can always rely on Google. I went through a few recipes and most required fish sauce which I don’t have it at home (and I ain’t going to buy a bottle just for this recipe). I decided to adapt the style of traditional Italian pesto, and use only five ingredients – laksa leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, salt and garlic.

My ah ma mortar and pestle

I unearthed my grandma’s ancient old mortar and pestle (It is really old. It was passed down from my grandma to Mdm Tan and now to me. Sort of.), and started pounding everything together.

Once the pesto was done, you just need to cook the pasta and mix everything up. There was no slaving over the stove, just a few good ingredients and a bit of strength. The result was a plate of creamy delicious pasta with a bit of local flavour.

Laksa pesto pasta

Laksa Pesto Pasta

(Serves two)

Laksa Pesto
1)      30g laksa leaves (stem removed) (1 cup)*
2)      20g pine nuts (1 ½ tablespoons)**
3)      Half a garlic clove
4)      2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
5)      Pinch of salt
6)      1 teaspoon of laksa paste (optional)

-        Lightly toast the pine nuts till pale brown. I like to toast pine nuts on the stove rather than oven as they burnt easily and I have better control over the stove.
-        Put the laksa leaves in the mortar together with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil will help to break down the leaves and loosen the mixture.
-        Once the laksa leaves are almost paste like, put in the toasted pine nuts, salt and laksa paste.
-        Once everything is well blended, drizzle in the last tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and taste. Add in more salt if needed.
-        If you do not intend to use the laksa pesto on the day you made it (which I don’t understand why), put it in an airtight container and covered it with a thin layer of olive oil. This will help to prevent oxidation and maintain the freshness of the pesto. Put it in a fridge and use within 3 days.
-        If you do not have a mortar and pestle, you can use food processor or immersion blender.

Laksa Pesto Pasta
1)      Pasta of your choice – I prefer to use thick noodle pasta like tagliatelle or fettuccini. In this way the pesto can coat onto it.
2)      Laksa pesto
3)      A small handful of dried shrimp
4)      Pasta water (reserved before you drained the pasta).
5)      Coconut milk (optional)
6)      Prawns – de-shelled, de-veined
7)      Korean chilli powder (Gochutgaru) or crushed red pepper flakes
8)      Extra virgin olive oil
9)      Salt

-        Soak the dried shrimp in a small bowl of water for a minute. Once drained, chop them up with a knife or use the mortar and pestle to pound them.
-        Put a pot of water over the stove. Once boiled, add in the salt and pasta. Cook the pasta 1-2 minutes short of the packaging instructions. I personally don’t rely on the packaging instruction – I like to taste my food.
-        Once the pasta is cooked, reserved a cup of water and drained.
-        Using the same pot, drizzle in some olive oil. Once the oil is heated, put in the chopped dried shrimp.
-        After stir frying for 30 seconds, add in the laksa pesto, coconut milk and pasta water. Let it mix and simmer for a minute. At this point, you can taste the pesto and see if you need to add in more salt. I usually don’t as there is salt in the pesto and the pasta water.
-        Put in the shrimps and let it cook for 30 seconds. Add in the pasta, making sure that every strand is coated with the pesto. If the pasta seems a bit tight, add in a bit more of the pasta water.
-        To serve, drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkled some Korean chilli powder.
-        If you like to keep this vegetarian, omit the use of dried shrimps and prawns.
-        Beside shrimps, you can use chicken, fish, dried tofu, beancurd puff, bean sprouts and so on.

*If you get your laksa leaves from Cold Storage or Jason, it usually comes in the standard 50g pack which should yield 30g of leaves.
**Pine nuts are ridiculously expensive. If you are not willing to splurge, you can use unroasted unsalted cashew nuts instead.