Vegan Butternut Squash Laksa
This Vegan Laksa is packed full of flavour, it’s sweet, spicy and aromatic. It’s a vibrant dish that will leave you feeling warm inside, whatever the weather.
Turn up the heat
This recipe first came into existence on one cold, wet, winter afternoon. I’d planned to go for a nice long walk in the North London countryside but it was pissing it down with rain. After just 5 minutes out in the cold I decided to turn back home, I’d already got a chesty cough and a sore throat and I didn’t want to make it any worse. The only slight downside was that I was going to have to find food at home rather than treating myself while I was out. On raiding the fridge I found a stumpy piece of butternut squash, some limp beans sprouts, mange tout that was past its best and some chillies which (I am ashamed to admit) were so old that they had completely dried out! See – food bloggers don’t always have a perfect stocked fridge. Out of the mishmash of leftover vegetables I had a couple of options – soup, salad, curry?! Soup seemed like a good idea, especially as my throat was so sore. But I was starving so it needed to be filling too. I settled on something in between, a spicy broth with chunks of butternut squash, red pepper, bean sprouts, mange tout and edamame, on top of a big bowl of rice noodles. Bliss.
Since I first made this dish, a lot has changed (thanks to COVID-19!) but a big, steaming bowl of Vegan Laksa is still a good way to nourish mind, body and soul. I get an extra warm fuzzy feeling inside when I cook this in the summer as I can pick fresh chilli, coriander and even mangetout from my backyard. (The butternut squash won’t be ready for a little while yet…)
Vegan comfort food
Whether you’re new to a plant based diet or have been vegan for a long time, you might be wondering what about laksa isn’t vegan? It’s just a spicy noodle soup right? In it’s simplest form, yes, laksa is a spicy noodle soup and so it doesn’t have to contain any ingredients that aren’t suitable for a plant based diet. However, laksa originates from South East Asia and so will often include chicken, prawn or other fish. These can easily be swapped out for bean curd puffs or hearty vegetables like butternut squash but there might be something fishy in the broth too. Shrimp paste and fish sauce are common ingredients in South East Asian cuisine and are often used to flavour sauces and soups like this.
I’ve noticed that a couple of supermarkets in the UK have started selling their own fish sauce. If you can get your hands on this, then great! But my Vegan Laksa skips this particular ingredient. You can have a delicious dish without having to hunt down too many niche ingredients. If you are looking for a shortcut and don’t want to make the paste yourself, then you can use a Thai red curry paste instead. Juts be mindful that if you do this, you will need to check the ingredients for fish paste. It should be highlighted as an allergen. Not all commercial Thai red curry pastes contain it so do check a couple of brands before giving up.
For the laksa paste
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 0.5 tsp turmeric
- 0.5 tsp paprika
- 5 red chillies adjust for your own spice tolerance
- 3 shallots roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1.5 inch piece galangal (or root ginger, see note 1)
- 2 sticks lemongrass roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
For the noddle soup
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small butternut squash cubed
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
- 1 red pepper cut into strips
- 225 grams mangetout
- 150 grams edamame
- 200 grams bean sprouts
- 400 millilitres coconut milk
- 150 millilitres coconut cream
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 400 millilitres vegetable stock
- 4 nests rice noodles (see note 2)
For the garnish
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
- 1 handful fresh coriander
To make the laksa paste
Add the coriander, paprika, cumin and turmeric to a small frying pan over medium heat and toast for 1 to 2 minutes until they are releasing their oils and smelling fragrant then allow to cool.
Add the chillies, onion, lemongrass, galangal (or ginger) and the cooled spice mixture to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Add in the oil and run the processor on low until you have a smooth paste.
To make the noodle soup
In a large frying pan or wok, heat the oil and add the cubes of butternut squash. Fry for 5-10 minutes or until they are starting to soften but are slightly crisp on the outside.
Add the shallots with a big pinch of salt and cook for another 5 minutes until the shallots have softened.
Turn the heat up high and add the red pepper and mangetout. Stir fry the vegetables for 2 - 5 minutes.
Turn the heat back down to a medium heat and add the laksa paste, stirring to stop it catching from the heat.
Next add the coconut milk, coconut cream, soy sauce and vegetable stock.
Stir to ensure the ingredients are all combined and simmer until the butternut squash is cooked through.
Add the beansprouts, edamame and rice noodles to the pan and simmer for a few minutes until the additional ingredients are all cooked through and piping hot.
Serve with a wedge of lime, a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and some fresh coriander.
Note 1 - galangal versus ginger
Galangal and ginger look similar as they are both from the same flavour. But, look a little closer and you will see that both the skin and flesh of galangal is much lighter and less yellow. Galangal has a light citrus flavour which is much brighter than the fiery, spicy notes of ginger. Even though ginger will make this dish a little more fiery, I've suggested it as an alternative to galangal as, in my opinion, it's the closest substitute that is easy to fine. It also still tastes delicious! Enjoy.
Note 2 - measuring rice noodles
I've always bought rice noodles that are packaged up in "nests". These make it incredibly easy to work out what is a portion; just use one nest per person! If the rice noodles you buy are not packaged in this way, I would recommend between 60 and 90 grams of rice noodles per person.