Thursday, October 20, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Laksa with Fresh Turmeric Pickle (T is for Turmeric)

Ever have one of those days where so many annoying/frustrating/upsetting things happen that they start snowballing and suddenly things that aren't a big deal seem like they are? Where so many crummy things have happened that when you go to the grocery store and you can't find fresh lemongrass all you want to do is shout WHY UNIVERSE, WHY DO YOU SO HATE ME?! Yeah, today was one of those.

On days like this, I fear going into the kitchen. Because if something goes wrong, I will have a total meltdown and I know it. And as you can probably guess, in my crazy chaotic kitchen, things go wrong all the time! Usually I embrace this as part of the fun and challenge of cooking and roll with it, but today I was in no mood. I actually seriously thought about just getting takeout today and topping it with the one item I had pre-made for today. (Actually, it's the one thing I have managed to make ahead during this entire month!) Buuuut... the lure of the unknown was too great. You see, today I was cooking with fresh turmeric!


We saw someone use fresh turmeric on Top Chef: Just Desserts a while ago, prior to which I had no idea what turmeric looked like when it wasn't in powdered and in a baggie form. So imagine my delight when we were at an Indian grocery store looking for jaggery back at the letter J and I actually SAW some fresh turmeric in a produce case! I immediately bought a couple little rhizomes (like ginger, they're not exactly roots) and stashed them away for the letter T!

I'm so glad I decided to cook tonight after all, because it turns out I freaking love what I made, laksa... a type of asian curry-like soup. Cooking went so smoothly and I really loved the end result. So I am sharing the recipe, which is my own interpretation based on what I had on hand after reading about six thousand non-vegan laksa recipes earlier today.

Laksa with fresh turmeric

Laska with Fresh Turmeric Pickle
makes a ton of soup - serves 8?

Turmeric pickle:
large piece (2 inches or so) fresh turmeric
juice of 4 limes

Laksa paste:
1 tbsp chopped jarred lemongrass
1 tbsp pureed jarred galangal
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled & grated
2 inch piece of turmeric, peeled & grated
6 whole brazil nuts
3 shallots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled
4 green chiles (or more, if you like it spicy... I wanted it a bit less mild), seeded and sliced
4 tbsp coconut oil, NOT chilled
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Rest of soup base:
1 can coconut milk
4c vegetable broth

1 lb tofu, cubed
1/2 lb rice noodles of your choosing
2c chopped snap peas
1 small tomato chopped
1 bunch of kale, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped jarred lemongrass
1 tsp jarred pureed galangal

1. One day before you want to make laksa, make the turmeric pickle: use a vegetable peeler to peel the turmeric, then use the peeler to slice thin slices of the turmeric flesh. Drop the thin slices of turmeric into the lime juice. If you don't have enough lime juice to cover, add more. Store in the fridge til the next day.

2. Day of: Make the laksa paste: combine all the laksa ingredients in a food processor and puree until you have a fairly smooth paste (see picture below, it won't be perfectly smooth.)
3. Heat a soup pot over medium heat and add the laska paste. (You don't need to add more oil because this is already full of oil, remember?) Fry, stirring often, until fragrant, about 10 minutes.

4. While the laksa paste is frying, dry-fry the tofu in another saute pan. (Dry frying is exactly what it sounds like, google it if you're not familiar.)

5. When the laksa paste is fragrant, stir in the coconut milk, the broth, the extra tsp of galangal and lemongrass, and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer while you do the rest of the things.

6. Prepare the rice noodles according to the package. Mine said to boil for 5 minutes, so I boiled the kale together with the rice noodles. Rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly.
7. Stir all mix-ins into the broth: tofu, noodles, kale, snap peas, and tomato. (No need to cook snap peas & tomato ahead of time, they both cook fast in the broth.)
8. Simmer for a couple more minutes.

9. To serve: top each serving with several shreds of turmeric pickle. Don't skip this step, the acidity from the lime juice really brings out a lot of the flavor in the soup.

Whew. That was tiring to write out! Couple more pictures from the process:

Pickled turmeric

The yellow liquid there is the lime juice-- it turned the most amazing yellow color because of the turmeric. (The orange slices in there.)

Laksa paste components

Laksa ingredients in the food processor pre-processing. The huge pile of orange shreds is all the fresh turmeric I put in.

Laksa paste, post blend

After pureeing. You see it's still pretty chunky, like curry paste.

This was really a lot of fun to put together, and I feel like it turned my whole crummy day around. Fresh turmeric is really neat... it tastes sort of like a fragrant slightly spicy carrot. The pickle is nice on its own but soooo incredibly sour that I could only eat a couple of slices of it alone. So glad that I made the soup to put it in.

The Emperor initially wouldn't try the soup, but then proceeded to eat a bunch of snap peas and a ton of the tofu out of it. He got a serious turmeric ring around his mouth. He also tried a piece of turmeric pickle, which was hilarious. His face puckered up, he closed one eyelid, opened it while closing the other eyelid, and repeated a couple of times. Like out of sync blinking. Then he said, quite thoughtfully, "I'm eating... sour." Ha ha. Indeed, guy. You ARE eating sour.

Speaking of the Emperor, here's today's picture. He takes his cooking in his play kitchen very seriously, as you can see from the look on his face:

Sous chef


Mel said...

I love laksa, but with turmeric pickle, wow that's so inventive! It sounds like there are some great flavours in there. It's such a bummer when you can't get that one vital fresh ingredient that you really need but I'm sure it tasted fantastic regardless. :)

Anonymous said...

Haha. I SO know of those days. Usually mine involves a meltdown though or some sort. A good cry makes everything better :) Lemongrass? Turmeric? Ginger? Galangal? Could you have won me over any more??!!! This sounds AMAZING, Nikki. Like, REALLY amazing!

Anonymous said...

Coooool, I've never seen fresh turmeric before!

coldandsleepy said...

Carrie, it came from Bharat Bazaar in Sunnyvale. Don't know if that's close to where you are or not but if so, it was cheap as hell and really cool to try.

The more I eat it, the more I like it. Really no way to describe the way it tastes beyond kinda spicy, kinda carroty... mmm...

Richa said...

Just amazing! you are super creative! and i love the emperor pictures!. I've had fresh turmeric pickle before when my grandma made some.. but i've never found any in seattle indian stores.. they are quite useless compared to ca stores..

the laksa with fresh turmeric sounds divine.. i need to try some to refresh my fresh turmeric taste memory!. i think my pinterest is going to be full of your recipes!

Richa @ Hobby And More Food Blog

Richa said...

and both of u feel better soon! take care.

Amey said...

Wow! What an amazing post! I didn't know about fresh turmeric either, until I went to India. It was so easy to find there, I really loved it so much... now I miss it! The pickle looks and sounds crazy amazing!!!! Also, thanks for sharing your recipe for lakes, I've never had it, but it sounds wonderful!