When I was a child, I used to be put off by the fishy smell of asam laksa (tamarind spicy noodle soup). It was until I was in Glasgow and befriended someone who loved her hometown asam laksa. She even brought bunga kantan (ginger torch flower) and asam laksa paste from Penang.
It started of with a few invitation to her place for asam laksa and I politely declined it. Eventually I decided to give it a go when she listed all the ingredients e.g. tamarind, veggies and mackeral. I actually do eat all the ingredients.
She did a really mild version that was not too sour and fishy with lots of veggies and udon noodles. Surprisingly, I embraced the flavour.
When I came back to Kuala Lumpur, it took me a few tries to get used to a stronger version which was spicier, more fishy and more sour. In fact, my regular ones taste stronger than the ones in Penang.
Today I have decided to try making asam laksa from scratch and Piglet has helpfully bought all the ingredients during the lockdown.
Asam Laksa Recipe
- Fish: 600g indian mackerel/ kembung (I used ikan tongkol/ tuna)
- Aromatics: 2 lemon grass, 1 ginger torch flower/ bunga kantan, Several sprigs of laksa leaf/ daun kesum, tumeric leaf (optional)
- Spice blend: 10 shallots, 1 fresh red chilli (deseeded), 4 dried chilli, 1 thumb size galangal, 1/3 thumb size ginger, 2 cloves garlic, 1/4 thumb size tumeric or 1/2 tsp tumeric powder, 2 lemon grass (white part), 1 tsp belacan
- 130g-150g tamarind pulp/ asam jawa
- Flavouring: (to taste) sugar, salt and additional tamarind juice, 1 tbs heiko (prawn paste)
- Noodles: rice flour, tapioca starch, pinch of salt (quantity here)
- Garnishing: Mint, pineapple, fresh red chilli, cucumber, lettuce, red onion, 1 tbs heiko
1. Boil fish with 1.5-2L water for 15 minutes. Remove fish. Shred fish and debone. Put the fish bones back into the soup stock and leave shredded fish aside.
2. Add aromatics and boil then simmer for 15 minutes. Sieve soup.
3. Soften dried chilli by soaking it in boiling water for 20 minutes. Blend the spice mix and pour it into the soup.
4. Add hot water to tamarind pulp. Remove seeds and pour tamarind juice to the soup. Boil for 15 minutes.
5. Add flavourings to taste.
6. Prepare noodles using this recipe.
7. Add noodles into the bowl, top it up with soup and fish. Add garnishing.
How was it?
Piglet and I had this for 2 meals. It tasted flavourful surprisingly. And the noodle making part was quite fun. It was quite time consuming prepping all the ingredients. It took me about 3 hours.
It’s also really healthy as there are lots of veggies in the mix. We reduced the noodles (carbs), added extra fish and veggies. There is an extra vegetable platter to top up.
I will be making a simpler version in the future though as the herbs are pretty expensive. Moreover, my local hypermarket sells these in bulk. The cost of this meal is the same as eating at a hawker shop although it is healthier to eat at home.
Let’s see… Maybe I could omit laksa leaf and ginger torch flower next time.