Penang Asam Laksa (Rice Noodles in Hot and Sour Fish Gravy)
Just a few weeks ago, I went out with a friend of mine and told her that I was craving for Penang Asam Laksa. I mentioned that I hadn’t eaten Asam Laksa for too long that I couldn’t even remember how many years? Yeah, it does sound incredibly shocking but that was the fact. When you don’t live in Malaysia, it does seem a little bit difficult to eat something like Asam Laksa unless you go to a good Malaysian restaurant or make it yourself. It could be quite time consuming but it’s worth the time preparing it.
My friend, Azma, told me that there are a few Malaysian restaurants that serve good Asam Laksa. Somehow, we ended up in an Asian supermarket buying some cooking ingredients. I said if I could find Polygonum leaves, also called Vietnamese Mint (Malay: daun kesum) and Indian Mackerel (kembung fish), then I didn’t mind to make everything from scratch. She previously gave me some Torch Ginger/Ginger Bud (Malay: bunga kantan) that I have kept frozen, which came in handy for me to make Asam Laksa. If it wasn’t her who brought these ginger flowers from Malaysia, I had no idea where I could buy them in London! She had also kindly brought back some Laksa noodles (thick rice vermicelli) that I had asked my mom to buy. So, I gave one packet to her. These items seem impossible to be purchased (or you gotta try all the possible supermarkets) when you are not in SE Asia. So, it seemed that we were back in the olden days using Bartering system, which I find it great!
Asam Laksa is a hot and sour fish-based gravy served with thick rice vermicelli. Don’t be confused with Curry Laksa, which the broth is curry-based, so, it’s totally different! Asam means tamarind (Asam Jawa) in the Malay language. Tamarind is a common ingredient in Asian cooking that is used to produce sour flavour.
For me, the most important feature of this dish is the fish, that is poached then flaked. The poaching liquid is then strained and use as the stock. If Indian Mackerel (usually comes in frozen) can’t be found, the equivalent of wolf-herring or spanish mackerel can be used. When flaking the fish, be extra careful as you don’t want to be choked on tiny bones!
There are many variations of Asam Laksa. Penang is famous for its Asam Laksa, everyone who visits island of Penang in Malaysia will never miss out in enjoying a good bowl of Asam Laksa! Where I come from, we have what we call Kedah Asam Laksa (Malay: Laksa Kedah), where slices of hard-boiled eggs are added as part of the garnishes. I guess, I love both variations so far.
The usual garnishes/toppings in Asam Laksa include thingly sliced cucumber, red onions, pineapple, mint leaves, and bird’s eyes chillies. I like to add some raw chinese string beans for extra crunch! It is very often that Asam Lasak is topped off with ‘petis udang’ or ‘he-ko’ (蝦羔), which is a very thick sweet prawn/shrimp paste. This can be optional if the smell is too pungent for you.
I made quite a big pot of the fish gravy, so, I ended up having Asam Laksa for about 2 days as my lunch and dinner. The taste was just amazing and I felt like I was back in Malaysia. *LOL* My taste buds just love the gravy that is full of flavours! I remember when I was cooking it, Le Francais said “Ça sent bon! Qu’est ce que tu as mis dans la soup?” (It smells good, what did you put in the soup?) He likes it but he said it was too spicy for him. Well, can I cut down the amount of chillies? It wasn’t that spicy, but for him, it was hell too spicy. The next day when I offered him again, he said ‘No, merci. C’est trop épicées pour moi.’ (No, thank you. It’s too spicy for me.) However, he came around 1 or 2 minutes after for a few sips of the gravy!! Too spicy but couldn’t resist, hey?
By the way, a few days after, I mentioned to Gertrude from My Kitchen Snippets that I made Asam Laksa from scratch as I was craving for it. She then sent me a packet of Asam Laksa paste (amongst other stuff) all the way from the U.S! So, if I need quick-fix of Asam Laksa, I can make it real fast now! Thanks, Gertrude.
Right, I hope you like this recipe. Well, I haven’t forgotten about the Dorset Cereals Giveaways! Congratulations!! to the winners that have been randomly drawn as follow:
Prize 1 to 4: DORSET CEREALS – Exotic Pineapple & Papaya with Toasted Coconut
- John K
Prize 5 to 8: DORSET CEREALS – Berries & Cherries Bars
- Mei Yin
- Lubna Karim
- Tan Siew Moy
Prize 9 to 12: DORSET CEREALS – Fruit, Nuts & Seeds Bars
Prize 13 to 16: DORSET CEREALS – Super High Fibre Bars
- Deb Harriss
- The Little Teochew
Penang Asam Laksa (Rice Noodles in Hot and Sour Fish Gravy)
For the Penang Asam Laksa (Rice Noodles in Hot and Sour Fish Gravy):
600g indian mackerel/wold herring
90g tamarind pulp
3-4 pieces tamarin peels
2 stalks polygonum/daun kesum/vietnamese mint
1 ginger flower
5 red chillies
5 dried chillies
60g belacan/shrimp paste
1 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2-3 red chillies, chopped
150g mint leaves
600g laksa noodles
5 tbsp thick prawn paste
100ml hot water
a pinch of salt
1. If using dried laksa noodles (thick rice vermicelli), prepare according to the instruction on the packet.
2. Gut and clean the fish and place in a shallow dish for steaming. Steam the fish until cooked. Leave the fish to cool before removing the flesh. Set aside the fish flakes. A pool of clear fish stock would have been collected in the steaming dish – strain the fish stock into a big pot along with 2 litres of water. (If you choose to boil/poach the fish like I did, make sure you take the fish out, leave cool. Then, strain the stock.)
3. Mix the tamarind pulp with water and strain into the pot with the fish stock. Add the tamarind peel, polygonum leaves, ginger bud and the spice paste.
4. Bring the stock to a boil and lower the heat to simmer until aromatic. Before turning off the fire, add the flaked fish and season to taste.
5. Split and core the cucumber and cut into think strips (julienne). Cut the pineapple into think strips too. Peel, halve and slice red onion thinly. Slice the chillies thinly. Then, separate the mint leaves from the stems.
6. Add just enough hot water to the prawn paste to achieve a pouring consistency.
7. To serve: Place a serving of laksa noodles in a bowl of deep dish. Top with a little of each of the toppings/garnishes. Ladle hot laksa gravy over the noodles and toppings. Serve with a tablespoon of the prepared prawn paste.
This looks fantastic!
love laksa 🙂 esp with cockles and lots of chilli! hehe.
The laksa looks great. i love the red and blue chopsticks.
Thanks for the giveaway.I'm so excited to try the cereals.
Thanks! I hope to you will enjoy the cereals when you get them!
My favourite especialy Penang Laksa. I’ve prepared this once before. Yes it’s time consuming but the result was satisfying:) Your looks delish!
Yes, it is time consuming.. but, hey, what to do when we crave for it.. 🙂
My bunga kecombrang (you call it bunga kantan) has been used for ikan arsik. I have to wait till somebody send me from Indonesia to try this recipe.
Wondering did you get those chopstiks from IKEA?
I learn a new Indonesian word today 😉 Yah, we call it bunga kantan. Ikan Arsik? Sounds yummy, do you have the recipe?
Yeah, got those chopsticks from Ikea..
Yes, I do have the recipe. I posted on my multiply account, not blogspot. I'll move the recipe to blogspot.
About the chopsticks, I have the same set 🙂
On the chopsticks, what a coincidence!! 🙂
Asam laksa, I always prefer home cooked than those selling at hawker stall.
Thanks for dropping by! I am going to check out your blog.. 🙂
Yes, home cooked is always better.. but hard work sometimes.. 😛
Your asam laksa looks so yummy…. one of my favourites!!
Thanks for the Dorset cereals giveaway.
Thanks!! Congrats again on the winning!!
ah, I'm now craving for assam laksa in the middle of the night! I made from scratch once and it was too much work for me. Yours look great!
Oppppsss.. sorry that it made you hungry.. ! Yeah, it was a lot of work.. but it was a dinner and lunch for 2 days, not too bad 😛
That meal looks like a breath of fresh air. The bright colors look beautiful. Just what we need to brave the rain outside (jeez, its still raining!!!).
I know what you mean.. yes, it is still raining! I can't believe it! There's no way that I go out from my house without an umbrella..
You made your assam laksa from scratch? Wow! You're so talented! I really miss my Penang assam laksa. But the lucky thing is I will be there for a 2-weeks vacation. LOL!
Yes.. no choice.. *sigh* Was craving for it ma.. If in Malaysia, I could have gone out and got myself a quick fix of Asam Laksa! Ahhh.. you are teasing me now.. please eat Asam Laksa on my behalf, or maybe email to me 😉
This looks soooo good. Man I miss assam laksa. The closest I've gotten to making my own is to use Hup Loong's assam laksa powder, which is actually pretty good – but definitely will pale in comparison to yours!
Oh by the way, where did you get the daun kesum from?
I have never tried Hup Loong's powder. Gertrude from the Kitchen Snippets sent me a packet of Asam Laksa paste, the brand is Chan Hong (it's made in Malaysia) which I am eager to try!
Ahh, I bought the daun kesum from the Asian supermarket (also Cost Cutter) just opposite of Queensway Tube Station.
Are the Vietnamese mint leaves any different from the usual mint leaves?
Polygonum leaves or what we call daun kesum (in malay) is also as VIetnamese mint. So, I guess it's the name that makes the confusion?
Love assam laksa and it's usually a struggle to find a good one here in Singapore. I love mine with lots and lots of prawn paste. Yours look really good. One thing about this dish is the flavour and fragrance of everything, not forgetting the colours as well. Lovely!
Yeah.. the combination of the flavours is just too yummy to resist!
I never make asam laksa from scratch. Too much work and too many ingredients ha ha.. With Chan Hong I can have a bowl in no time. Do try out Chan Hong and see if you like it.
I will definitely try out Chan Hong and let you know! 🙂
yum…. give me laksa anytime… laksa Johor, laksa Kelantan or Laksa Sarawak and definitely Asam Laksa…in time of desperado…spaghetti will be used as the Beehoon laksa…Love your pics…
Spaghetti used as the Beehoon laksa is def a good idea – if can't get Beehoon laksa!!
Happy to read that you could satisfy your craving ! 😉
And even if I'm not familiar with this dish, it looks really tasty !
Thanks! It's difficult sometimes when I miss some kind of flavours back in Malaysia.. the only way is to make them at home… 🙂
Ahh … Assam Laksa is my fave Nyonya noodle dish!! Kudos to you for making it! Gotta try make this from scratch someday!!
Thanks! I guess it's a real experience to cook it from scratch..
I could really use a bowl now. I like Malay assam laksa, with a half hard-boiled eggs. Kedah has lots of Malay laksa.
Yeah.. Kedah has a lot of Malay/Kedah Laksa that I absolutely love… the hard-boiled egg is always a bonus 🙂
WOW you made laksa from scratch! I made some the other day too…instant..haha.
Yeah I did… 🙂 But, I am going to use the paste that Gertrude gave me next time 😉
yummy!! my favourite food too!! wow!o!! U so rajin make your own assam laksa broth! can you get pre-packed Tean's or Delimas assam laksa paste in GB? try that it's really easy and delicious! save time and work!
hehehe.. yeah.. I was too desperate for a bowl of assam laksa and keen for the flavours that I tasted in Malaysia… so, I had decided to make from scratch. I will make note of Tean's or Delimas.. will check them out when I go to Chinese supermarket next time! Thanks for the reco!
Wow it looks fantastic!! Big craving for assam laksa now!!
It looks so refreshing ! I am amazed you can find all the ingredients….I tried doing it in US & Aust,….I failed miserably. Anyway Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.
It was really difficult to get all the ingredients to be honest… the ginger flower was brought back from Malaysia.. hehehe..
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too!
I prefer the Kedah Assam Laksa than Penang Assam Laksa.
There was an old Malay man who cycled to our village to sell this addictive dish, back in the 60's.
Besides tamarind, he also used asam gelugul in his soup. Asam Gelugul give the Laksa Kedah a clean, sharper sour taste, and it is not meant to be think.
What is Tamarind peel? is this the shell of the tamarin pulp? The tamarind looks like a legume.
hey ..hru.i prefer penang asam laksa..am craving now…n am too glad too know tat ur frm uk too…which part r u?…drop by my blog whenever times permits u…hope we can keep touch …i need a malaysian sifu hr in uk… tcr bye
Hi there!! I live in London. I will surely check your blog out! It's great to know another Malaysian living in the UK 😉
hehehe, I can't be sifu yet..
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Contact : Ms Tan Peng Boon
Operation Hours : 7.30am – 2pm
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Nyonya Laksa : RM 3.30
Mee Siam : RM 2.80
Nasi Lemak : RM 2.80
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If you run out of the basic ingredients for assam laksa you can get some authentic paste from See Woo in London. They are the distributor of the paste from penang. All you need to do is boild some paste in water , add fish, noodles, cucumber, mint and it is all ready! Btw, it is the little nyonya brand. previously only found in Australia
Cool. Thanks for the info!