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Katong Laksa

Think you know laksa? Think again. Singapore’s katong laksa is on a whole new level. I couldn’t get enough of the revered curried noodle soup dish when I was visiting, but then I got home. Into my kitchen. And I got busy. Lo and behold, this is the recipe you’ve been waiting for, where everything is made from scratch, with love, from the paste to the broth to the sambal. It may look like a lot to take in, but none of the steps themselves are tricky once you get down to it – it just takes a while. Settle in for the afternoon and enjoy a spot of cooking therapy. It’s worth it.

In partnership with Visit Singapore.

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Katong Laksa

1 hour
1 hour

12 large raw king prawns (about 600g/1 lb 5 oz), peeled and cleaned (reserve shells and heads for stock)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

750ml (3 cups) coconut milk

1 tbsp grated palm sugar

¼ cup fish sauce, or to taste

3 tbsp salt

600g (1 lb 5 oz) dried round rice noodles – laksa or rice vermicelli noodles

18 store-bought fish balls  

200g (7 oz beanshoots

150g (5 oz) fried tofu puffs

300g (10.5 oz) blood cockles or clams, cooked, meat picked

finely sliced Vietnamese mint leaves, to serve


Spice paste

2 tbsp dried shrimp 

16 large dried red chillies 

5-6 small dried red chillies 

2 tsp belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste)

1 tbsp coriander seeds

5-6 red Asian shallots, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp chopped galangal 

1 tbsp chopped ginger

3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 lemongrass stalks, trimmed, bruised, finely sliced 

8 macadamia nuts or candlenuts, coarsely chopped

1 tsp ground turmeric



1½ tbsp vegetable oil

reserved shells and heads from the prawns


Chilli sambal 

1 cup large dried red chilies

1 tbsp dried shrimp 

2 tsp belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste) 

5-6 fresh long red chillies 

3-4 Asian red shallots, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 tsp, firmly packed, shaved palm sugar

60ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil

  • Step 1

    For the spice paste, cover the dried chillies with boiling water and leave to soak for 30 minutes, or until softened. Soak the dried shrimp in another bowl in hot water to cover for 20 minutes or until softened, then drain well, squeeze to remove excess water, then roughly chop. Transfer to a blender. (Psst… you’ll need to soak more chillies and dried shrimp for the sambal, so feel free to get that soaking done at this point too!)

  • Step 2

    Once the chillies are soft, squeeze them firmly to remove as much water as possible (reserve the soaking liquid for later), then roughly chop and transfer to the blender. Wrap the belacan in foil. Heat a small, heavy-based frypan over medium heat, then dry-fry the belacan for 2-3 minutes each side until fragrant. Cool, then unwrap and add to the blender. 

  • Step 3

    Meanwhile, place a frying over medium heat and add the coriander seeds. Dry-roast, shaking the pan often, for 3 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer the toasted coriander seeds to an electric spice grinder or a mortar, then process or grind with a pestle until a fine powder forms. Add to the blender with the chillies, as well as shallot, galangal, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, macadamias and shrimp. Process, adding a little of the chilli-soaking liquid as necessary, until a paste forms. Transfer to a bowl, then add the turmeric and stir until well combined (I add the turmeric at the end so it doesn’t stain my blender!).

  • Step 4

    To make the sambal, place the dried chillies and dried shrimp into two separate bowls. Pour boiling water over each to cover, then stand for 30 minutes or until softened. Meanwhile, wrap the belacan in foil. Heat a small, heavy-based frypan over medium heat, then dry-fry the belacan for 2-3 minutes each side until fragrant. Cool, then unwrap.

  • Step 5

    Drain the dried chillies well, squeezing to remove excess water. Use a small sharp knife or kitchen scissors to slit down the length of the dried chillies, then use your knife to scrape out and discard the seeds (they’ll make the sambal taste bitter otherwise). Roughly chop. Deseed the fresh chillies and roughly chop. Drain the dried shrimp well, squeezing to remove excess water. Roughly chop into chunks.

  • Step 6

    Place the dried and fresh chilli, dried shrimp, belacan, shallot, garlic, palm sugar, 1½ tbsp water and 1 tbsp of the oil in a small food processor, then process until a smooth paste forms. Alternatively, pound everything together in a mortar using a pestle. Heat the remaining oil in a wok over low-medium heat. Add the paste, then cook, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn, for around 15 minutes or until the oil separates out. Remove from the heat.

  • Step 7

    For the stock, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the prawn heads and shells, then cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes or until all the liquid from the heads has evaporated and the shells are red and smell a bit toasty. Add 2 litres (2.1 qt) water, then bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then cook the stock for 40 minutes, scooping off any scum on the surface with a ladle. Strain the stock, pressing down on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible, then discard the solids. Measure the stock – you want about 1.25 litres (5 cups), so top it up with extra water, if necessary.

  • Step 8

    Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil for the noodles. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the paste, then stir for 4-5 minutes or until fragrant. Add the coconut milk and the prawn stock, mixing until well incorporated. Next, go in with the palm sugar, fish sauce and salt, then bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to combine well. Reduce the heat to low, then simmer gently for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.

  • Step 9

    While the soup simmers, cook the noodles in the boiling water for 5-10 minutes or until tender, or cook according to packet instructions. Drain well (reserve the cooking water) and transfer to a bowl, then use kitchen scissors to snip them into short lengths. Transfer to serving bowls.

  • Step 10

    Using the same cooking water you used for the noodles, cook the prawns using a spider strainer for about 4 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to serving bowls. Cook the fish balls, beanshoots and fried tofu in the way until warmed through, then add to serving bowls.

  • Step 11

    Divide the cockles or clams between bowls, then ladle over the laksa soup. Top with some finely sliced Vietnamese mint (aka laksa leaf) and some chilli sambal. Serve immediately.

  • Notes

    – Belacan is a fermented dried shrimp paste that is sold in solid blocks. Find it at an Asian grocer.

We have collaborated with Visit Singapore to produce this content and may get compensation from content or collect a share of sales from links. This helps support our content creation. I only partner with companies and products that I’d happily recommend to my audience.

Marion's Kitchen is for everyone who finds joy in flavour and happiness in every bite. Marion's Kitchen is for everyone who finds joy in flavour and happiness in every bite.

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August 7, 2023

Flavour plus

Dear Marion, ( and Mama Noi) I love your recipes and fabulous outcomes of flavours from them. It is such a delight for me to produce ( or reproduce ) your beautiful food which I have enjoyed for so long. I have lived in places where takeaway Asian style food is not available and I have been desperate, especially during pregnancy, for Asian style food. Now, with your help I am starting to really enjoy. I am 77 years old. Thank you my dear x

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June 29, 2023

Marion’s and Mama Noi’s cooking

The meals Marion and Mama Noi create, are so delicious and easy to prepare. They are enjoyable and fun to watch, as they create a meal. I am excited about Marion’s and Mama Noi’s cookbooks. I don’t have them yet, but I am planning on getting them all, and all the Dinner ware, and kitchen utensils. I will update my review on those items, when I get them:)

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