Thursday, November 19, 2009

Asam Laksa 亞參叻沙

Asam laksa (asam meaning tamarind in Malay) also popularly known as Penang laksa, is a lesser know member of the laksa family outside of Malaysia and Singapore. It is a fish and tamarind-based noodle soup believed to be invented in the "street food capital of Malaysia", Penang. Not a lot is written about the origin of this wonderful dish; I personally think it definitely has a southern Thai connection as the taste and ingredients used are very similar to keang som (sour orange curry) which I'll be posting during my next "Thai food festival @ the tummies' kitchen". If you have tasted Trengganu laksa, Kelantan laksa or Perlis laksa (laksa from all 3 northern Malaysian states bordering Thailand) which are all fish and tamarind-based laksa with very similar toppings but with additional of coconut milk, you might be wondering about the Thail connection too.
We might have lots of Malaysian eateries here in Melbourne but a very good asam laksa is still a rarity, so making this at home seems like a wonderful idea. Ginger flower, fresh mackeral (wolf herring is the prefered choice in Malaysia), Vietnamese mint and tamarind peel are just some of the essential ingredients for this dish; some recipes substitute fresh fish meat with canned sardine but I think it is worth
to spend an exta 10 minutes picking the fish for a fresher and more rounded tasting dish.
A quick shopping trip to Victoria Street to pick up all the necessary ingredients; not the most wonderful day to be on a bicycle but I couldn't stop to think how lucky we are to have such easy access to all these wonderful ingredients for making authentic Asian food so closed to home!!!
P.S adapted from the food section on Kwang Hwa Daily (a Penang based Chinese daily). If you read Chinese have a look, it is full of recipes, food ideas and what food craze malaysian are eating at the moment!

makes 8 serves as a very satisfying one dish meal;
for the broth you'll need;
1kg of the freshest mackeral you can lay you hands on, boiled and picked
8p pcs of tamarind peel (asam keping/gelugor) pictured above
6 tbs of tamarind paste (asam jawa)
10 stalks of Vietnamese mint (daun kesom)
4 l of water
Boil fish in boiling water for 5 minutes, remove fish, strain stock and add in the rest of the ingredients. Add spice paste (recipe follows) and bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. Add in flaked fish just before serving.

for spice paste you'll need
500g of shallots, chopped
4 stalks of lemongrass, chopped white part only
10 red chilies, chopped
10 dried chilies, soaked and chopped
small knob of turmeric
a small piece of shrimp paste (belachan)

you'll also need;
1 cucumber, jullienne
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 ginger flower (bunga kantan 花), thinly sliced - pictured in the second photo
1/2 a pineapple, skinned, eyes removed and sliced
2 red chilies, sliced
a handful of mint leaves
lime wedges
5 tbs of prawn paste (petis udang 蝦膏)diluted with some hot water - pictured in the second photo

Laksa broth bubbling away for 40 minutes. Remove solids and add flake fish just before serving.

Place blanched noodles in a bowl and pour the fragrant hot fish broth over.

Add toppings.

Drizzle some prawn paste over and mix everything up!! Makanlah!!!


  1. OMG, Penang Asam Laksa is one of my favourite! Haven't taken this for a long long time. Penang Laksa only be found at the northern part of M'sia or KL. The Southern part of M'sia prefer Curry Laksa. Oh man, I'm really craving for this right now!

  2. You already makes me mouth watering at this breakfast hour. I love both type of Laksa.

  3. Yeah I agree with you on using fresh fish, haven't found a good one in Melbourne. I'll try making this next week! Your dish looks wonderful!!

  4. Thanks My Little Space ! I love every noodle dish from Malaysia :) will make the lemak version soon :)

    Thanks Anncoo! Have a bowl soon haha!

    Thanks BIBI! let me know if you do make it!

  5. this looks divine can any fish be used i write for an Alaskan seafood company would you like me to feature the recipe with a link back to you?
    rebeccasubbiah@ yahoo dot com

  6. Thanks Chow and Chatter ! That would be great!!!
    Any fish that is slighly "fishy" like mackeral or sardine can be used :)

  7. 酸酸辣辣的我很喜歡!!!!謝謝分享!

  8. I had this for the first time in Penang and felt in love with it straight away! Thanks for sharing the recipe, booked marked for later use :)
    Is there anything you can cook?

  9. Haven't have this for a long long long time...hahahaha... the last time I had it in Kuala Lumpur... thanks for sharing

  10. Oh I haven't had this for a very long time , love the added prawn paste too :) Yum!!

  11. making it from scratch looks like a lot of work but it sure looks worth it. yummy looking :)

  12. 大肥不謝!

    Thanks Mary G! I tried to cook everything at least once, haha!

    My pleasure A Full-Timed Housefly !

    Will be a big bowl for you my darling Adrienne!

    Thanks Michele! For me that's the best part!!

    Thanks noobcook! worth every second of it :)


  13. Oh wow!That is one delicious looking bowl. Haven't had assam laksa since my last trip back. I've never tried to make it at home because I always assumed that the salted "ikan kembung" was needed. Thanks for sharing, will definitely try this.


  14. oh wow, I've never heard of this type of laksa before! It sounds so interesting and the flavors sound like a treat. I should try this for myself!

  15. My hubby loves laksa very much. As you said, we are so lucky to have all these authentic Asian foods so close at home.

  16. Thanks Shaz! Please let me know when you do make it!

    Yes Maria!! Pleeeeeeeease do! you won't be disappointed!

    Aren't we lucky Christine! :)

  17. Can you get prawn paste in Melbourne ? Lucky you ! Can't get good Asam Laksa in Kuching. Have to wait for Penang, or maybe try your recipe ?

  18. CW we can get almost everything in Richmond, that's 20 minutes on my bicycle :) Try making it at home, the only 'hard work' is the fich picking part :)

  19. I had this once when I was in Malaysia, haven't seen this at the Malaysian place we go to. I might get the boys to pick the fish haha! How are you dealing with the heat?

  20. love to eat I think it is a great idea to get the boys to do that!!! Not overly great with the heat but I'll keep my mouth shut as the summer hasn't officially arrives yet!!

  21. This looks absolutely devine! I love assam laksa, unfortunately both my hubby & son don't ... majority wins! Sigh!

  22. I have heard about this dish but have never tasted it! This sure looks delicious! Things to do this weekend, get my s--ts together and cook some of your food. Cheers!!

  23. Believe it or not that I made Assam Laksa a few days ago!! ehehhe.. I couldn't find tamarind peel... so made do with tamarind pulp..
    I had it for lunch and dinner.. and the next day.. heehhehe

  24. What an amazing looking dish! Love the colors and all the ingredients. I have never had laksa before, but would love to try it.

  25. Wow where did you get the Bunga Kantan ... was it in the freezer section? I'm so glad you recommended making the effort to use fresh fish. I can't stand it when they use tinned sardines. Thats not the flavour of Assam Laksa I grew up with. My partner (who is ang moh .. sorry a bit racist I know) loooves Assam Laksa. I think he is more asian than me sometimes!! So we're definitely going to try this one out at home. I am loving your site!! But my figure isn't!!!

  26. Get to work Fitzboy!!! :)

    mycookinghut , I always imagine you to be dishing out amazing Malaysian food in your kitchen so I'm not too surprised :) I made extra for my lunch too haha!

    Thanks Lyndsey! Please try and let me know what you think!!

    Temasek, yeah got the bunga kantan from the freezer section. I'm glad we are ally on the fresh fish front. Angmoh is not a racist term is it?? :) I'm so glad you are enjoying my blog, thanks!! This has no fat in it so forget about your figure for another day :)

  27. This is a new dish to me, looks awsome!

  28. Thanks Anonymous! This is a must try!!

  29. Made this tonight and it was sooooooooooo DELICIOUS!!!! The boys did the picking of the fish and they are very happy to do it again soon!!

  30. Yes,Yes,finally good Assam Laksa in Melbourne ! I went hunting for the best Assam Laksa in Melbourne, so my friend took me to 3 or 4 stalls which the locals claimed to be the best. They used can sardines !

    Surprise you can find ginger flower

  31. A beautiful presentation... thank you for sharing!


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