I was first introduced to this noodle dish by my husband when we were living in London. He cooked it using the cheat method; he used canned sardines and included only some basic ingredients. I am not complaining as it tasted yummy… It wasn’t until we were living in Kuala Lumpur, that I tasted a really good Penang Assam Laksa. One of my husband’s best friend took us to a stall in one of the coffee shops in Subang and it became one of our family’s favourite haunts till we left Malaysia.
Assam Laksa is available in many corners of Malaysia, especially in Penang, as it is an all-time favourite. It is a flavourful, spicy, sweet and tangy rice noodle soup which is always interesting to savour and never fails to pleasantly surprise your palate with loads of goodness. I am so thankful that I have stumbled upon the recipe from Season with Spice, which I built my recipe on.
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Serves 4 to 5 persons
800g thick white noodles
For Ground spice paste:
5 fresh red chilies
20 dried red chilies
6 cloves garlic
1½ inch of galangal (lengkuas)
1 tablespoon turmeric powder
3 stalks lemongrass, minced (use the white part only)
3 tablespoons belacan (dried shrimp paste)
For cooking fish:
1kg fresh mackerel, horse mackerel, fresh sardine, or yellowtail kingfish – cleaned and gutted
13 cups water
3 stalks lemongrass, lightly smashed (white part only)
1 torch ginger flower, quartered
2 inches of galangal, sliced
½ cup tamarind juice (Mix tamarind pulp in hot water for five minutes before squeezing it to obtain the juice)
8 pieces tamarind peel (asam keping or asam gelugor)
8 stalks Vietnamese mint (daun kesom/laksa leaves)
2 cubes of rock sugar or to taste
Salt to taste
1 cucumber, peel off the skin, thinly sliced into strips
6 slices canned pineapple, sliced into small pieces
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Handful of mint leaves (daun pudina)
1 torch ginger bud (bunga kantan), finely sliced
3 red chilies, thinly sliced (optional)
Calamansi lime (optional)
Sweetened prawn paste (heh ko sauce), diluted with laksa soup or water
Preparation of the Fish and the Broth:
- Blend the spice paste ingredients into a fine paste.
- Heat a pot of water and add lemongrass, galangal, and torch ginger flower.
- Bring to a boil and then add fish.
- Boil on medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked.
- Transfer cooked fish to a bowl and let cool.
- Strain broth to remove spices.
- Add the stalks of laksa leaves, tamarind juice and tamarind peel to the broth. Then continue to boil on low heat.
- Break the fish meat into tiny pieces, but keep some in bigger chunks.
- Add the fish flakes back into the pot with the spice paste.
- When it reaches a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour.
- While simmering the soup, add some salt and rock sugar to balance the spiciness and
sourness for your taste.
Preparation for the Noodle for serving:
- Boil a pot of hot water and blanch the noodles.
- Then rinse it under cold water and strain.
- Place one serving of noodles into a bowl.
- Pour the hot broth with fish flakes over the noodles.
- Garnish with the cucumbers, pineapples, onions, torch ginger flower and chilli.
- Serve immediately with a spoonful of sweetened prawn paste/hei kou and calamansi lime.