I hope this is just an unfortunate coincidence, but the two times I’ve decided to make laksa (lemak) from scratch I’ve ended up sick. The last time, a few years ago, it was nothing major, just a little queasiness and dismay at the gritty quality of my broth (I’m not sure if you’re supposed to pound the paste even finer or strain to catch the little bits).
The weekend before last I trekked out the Edison, NJ Hong Kong Supermarket. The one in my old stomping ground, Sunset Park, is fine, but this behemoth totally blows away any NYC Asian grocery stores. Plus, in the back of my head I was thinking how the NJ location is the only place I’ve seen rau ram (or daun kesom to be more Malay about it) for sale. While I’ve never knowingly tasted this herb, I know it’s integral for laksa.
Of course it wasn’t in stock on this trip. But I decided to go ahead with the laksa-making project anyway. Using a combination of three recipes I went for one that used both coconut milk and broth (last time I made shellfish stock from scratch, but I wasn’t so gung ho this time), shrimp, fried bean curd, fresh rice noodles, bean sprouts, fried shallots and a paste with candlenuts, lemongrass, turmeric, belacan, galangal, etc. I didn’t use cockles or garnish with hard-boiled eggs.
I won’t go into the detail, but I became violently ill the day after eating my soup and have been seriously out of sorts since. I was too sick to eat the Thanksgiving food I’d spent a lot of time on and am just starting to get a normal appetite. I honestly don’t think the laksa is to blame since James also ate some with no ill effects. But like being turned off from root beer floats after a bad childhood experience, I’m afraid that I’m now going to have bad laksa connotations. That’s a damn shame.