Penang Assam Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan culture, which is a merger of Chinese and Malay elements found in Indonesia, Malaysia and singapore. Penang Assam Laksa is a sour, fish-based soup.
It is ranked at number 7 on World's 50 Most Delicious Food complied by CNN Go in 2011. It is made with mackerel (ikan kembung) soup and its main distinguishing feature is the assam or tamarind which gives the soup a sour taste.
The fish is poached and then flaked. Other ingredients that give Penang Laksa its distinctive flavor include lemongrass, galangal (lengkuas) and chilli etc. It is served with cooked thick rice noodle and typical garnishes include: mint, pineapple slices, thinly sliced onion, cucumber, lettuce, cooked fish meat, Ha-Ko, a thick sweet prawn paste, and use of torch ginger flower.
This is the ultimate dish that is on top of my many favourites – spicy hot and sourish fish broth, coupled with fresh herbs and prawn paste. It is a spicy and sourish fish stock based noodle soup from the baba nonya cuisine.
In Penang, we call this dish Laksa. This dish is very unique to Penang. Personally, I believe this is one of the healthiest dishes you will taste. It is a marriage of sweet (from shrimp paste), sour (tamarind), spicy (chilli) and the savoury taste from the fish stock. Plus all the healthy spices bring out the delicious cooking smells and flavour.
The stock is fish based, brewed in healthy spices, and finally garnished with raw fresh vegetables. What's more – it is super delicious!
How healthy can this be?
When I normally cook this dish, I tend to use pure fish stock – where I would boil salmon bones for about an hour, and painstakingly debone them. After that, I would use the flesh and brew it with the pastes for hours until the aroma of assam laksa fills the air; only then it is ready for consumption.
However, I have never attempted to cook the paste from scratch, as there is one important ingredient that you need for this dish, which is ginger flower. Without it, the taste would not be the same. Thus I have always used the paste to cook my laksa. The taste is just as good.
This is the paste that I normally use, so with this paste and a few ingredients, you can easily whip a very nice assam laksa dish in as little as 30 minutes without having to brew the soup for hours.
Ok, let's go impress yourself, your family and friends.
Normally I will cook 2 packets for 6 people. Depending on how much soup each person consumes. I would have 1.5 -2 liter of fish stock for 1 packet of paste. This should be enough for 4 people.
I use 100% stock for this dish – salmon bones @ $3.99 – $5.00 per kilo. Boil the bones for few hours, set aside to cool. After that, pick the flesh and discard the bones.
So normally when I cook assam laksa, I would cook more and deep freeze the stock for future consumption.
I also add vietnamese mint, tamarind slice and onion (for sweetness).
I would recommend if you are going to spend an hour on peeling the fish flesh, do two packets and more soup, so you can freeze for later.
Net weight per pack: 250g
1 packet Penang Assam Laksa paste 250g – (should be good for bowls of laksa)
1 can of tuna in brine 425g / or you can use fresh fish instead
1 litre of water, but add more if you prefer the soup to be more watery.
1 large onion, chopped finely
Vietnamese mint – You can get hold of it from the Chinese shop.
Sugar to taste
Tamarind puree (optional)
1 teaspoon of prawn paste (optional) and 1 teaspoon of hot water. It is optional as some people just don't like the smell. As for me, it is not assam laksa without the shrimp paste.
1/4 Pineapple – julienned
2 shallots – slice very thinly
1 handful/bunch of mint leaves (use only the leaves)
Half cucumber – julienned
1/2 lettuce – thinly cut
3 calamansi lime (optional) – halved. Use this if you want the laksa to be more sour.
Mint and Vietnamese Mint
1 packet of laksa noodles – you can also use rice noodles.
- Bring the water to boil, add the paste, onion, can of fish, tamarind peel and Vietnamese mint. Brew on low heat for about 30 minutes to an hour.
- While waiting for the soup to brew, prepare all the garnishing ingredients.
- Continue to taste the soup, to bring the flavour to your liking. Add tamarind puree if you would like it to be a bit sour, add more canned fish for more fishy taste, or chilli powder if you would like it a bit spicy.
- As for the shrimp paste / hair kor, you will need 1 tsp of shrimp paste and mix it with tsp of hot / warm water. Mix and stir gently. One teaspoon is good for one serve.
Number of people: 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking: 30 minutes
Laksa noodle and shrimp paste that I use:
Rice Noodles – Place the dried rice noodles in a heat proof container or pot, and boil 1 litre water. Once it is boiled, pour over the rice noodles and let them soak until they softens or until you are ready to cook it.
Assam Laksa Paste that I use:
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