Ink on my Apron: Old cook, new tricks
This fulfilling bowl of broth is a one-pot meal with literally no work involved other than chopping and tossing together a handful of ingredients and allowing them to work their magic.
Getting back into a routine in the kitchen after a prolonged period of time is a little bit like relearning a dance with a partner you once shared great chemistry with. You’ve been through the motions one time too many and there is an intrinsic sense of rhythm and form but a cloak of awkwardness hangs in the air.
A cooking routine, as most will tell you, is ultimately the make or break factor that will determine whether you are resigned to a lifetime of post-work flopping on the couch and takeaways or virtuous meal planning rosters and grocery rationing.
I’ve had a lazy stretch over the last week and have fallen prey to rustling up frozen dinners I’ve stashed away for a rainy day or into the comfortable trap of eating like I was 21, complete with egg fried rice and butter chicken à la Ponnusamy. Eager to make good on this front, I’ve vowed to get back into the habit of stepping into the kitchen regularly, even if it is just to make beans on toast.
If there’s one thing I’ve never found myself particularly inclined towards it’s Far Eastern cuisine, but I’ve had an unexplainable craving for a big bowl of slurpy ramen or egg noodles that taste like a cross between a laksa and tom yum soup. Not sure if I was likely to stumble across a restaurant that hit the sweet spot, I decided to roll up my sleeves and cook to preference.
The result is a delightful cheat laksa that is part Indonesian-inspired with a smattering of Thai influences courtesy the fresh lemongrass, which perfumes the broth with a heady scent that no other ingredient can quite be credited with.
The best news, however, is that this experiment has left me with the knowledge that while basil, flat-leaf parsley, and rocket are hard leaves to come by in Chennai, my neighbourhood-friendly Nilgiris stocks fresh lemongrass. And if that’s not reason enough for me to break my culinary dry spell, the fact that this fulfilling bowl of broth is a one-pot meal with literally no work involved other than chopping and tossing together a handful of ingredients and allowing them to work their magic, while you sit back and watch reruns of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel should be incentive enough.
So whether you’re hoping to ease yourself back on to the eating-at-home bandwagon with a fuss-free meal or have, like me, overdosed on three kinds of mutton biryani over the Eid long weekend, do yourself a favour and give this Cheat Chicken Laksa a go.
Recipe for Cheat Chicken Laksa
*Note - Vegetarians can swap the chicken for firm tofu that can be lightly seared before adding as the final step (after the baby corn)
1 chicken breast
3 stalks of fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
1 chicken stock cube
Enough water to make soup broth
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, unsalted
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (more to preference if you like, taste as you go)
½ teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons of water or more. (You want a thick paste-like consistency)
Egg noodles, quantity as desired
Tray of baby corn, chopped
1. Boil the chicken breast with the lemongrass, chicken stock cube and enough water for the soup broth. Once the chicken is cooked through, allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes.
2. Stir the ingredients for the sauce until they’re smooth and attain a thick paste-like consistency.
3. Stir this into your broth and let it infuse and simmer for about 5 minutes.
4. Add your egg noodles and let it simmer for 10 minutes or until they’re cooked.
5. Add your corn for the final step and let the soup simmer until the corn is perfectly cooked (about 7 minutes).
6. Garnish with coriander and fried crushed peanuts.
All photographs except header courtesy of Jehan Nizar
Jehan Nizar is a lifestyle features writer and food blogger at www.inkonmyapron.com.