Saturday, August 31, 2013

#Eatsoethingnice article 1 - Assam Laksa

proudly a part of #Saysomethingnice

image credit: Veronica Ng 

When Anas Zubedy first approached to participate in his #Saysomethingnice, a campaign to get one million Malaysians to say something nice to each other, we jumped at the chance and volunteered to write #Eatsomethingnice, 17 articles on Malaysian street food.

Why 17 articles? Well, the campaign will kick off on Merdeka Day and will continue for 17 days, to end on Malaysia Day on Sept 16, to create a time of "positivity and peace." Hence, one street food article a day for 17 days.

Sounds quite easy, right? Not so, my friend. Our problem started when Veronica and I began jotting down our favorite street food. It didn’t take us long to realize that 17 dishes would only provide a brief snapshot of what you could eat in a food paradise like Malaysia.

Because we take or research seriously by the time we finished writing, our list had soya, chilli and sambal stains on it, the both of us had gained a couple of kilos and we ended up arguing "But how can we not write about Kolo Mee? Wei, Assam or Curry Laksa? Since when did Pie Tee become street food?"

Ahem. You get the general idea.

Truth be told, being born as Malaysians we take our diversity and richness of culture for granted. Being forced to choose and narrow down only 17 street dishes made us realize that there are so many culinary traditions of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Ethnic, Western and Global influence melding in our beloved nation that it was a near impossible task.

So while we certainly do not claim that our list is complete and exhaustive, here's a frigglive tour through 17 dishes you should Eatsomethingnice.

Assam Laksa is one Malaysian street food that can proudly claim to have made it into CNN’s list of World's 50 best foods.
Assam Laksa, popularly known as Penang Laksa, is at its most basic description noodles in fish broth. It is unique to Malaysia and is one awesomely amazing dish. Come to think of it, it’s the perfect dish to illustrate the uniqueness and diversity of Malaysia! A good bowl of Assam Laksa is one that contains the perfect blend of sweet, sour, spicy, minty and pungent taste all infused together in the broth.

The aromatic, intense and flavorful broth is suitably ‘fishy’ from mackerel, sour from tamarind and lemongrass, as well as salty, spicy and sweet. The scent of the spices hits your nose with every mouthful of springy noodles that have been lusciously coated with the soup.

The onions add an extra touch of heat while the pineapple is sweet and cuts through the tangy tamarind soup. Through it all, our favorite bits are the crunchy Julienne cucumbers and fresh mint that are the best antidote of coolness for the onslaught of chilli heat.

As crazy as the ingredient list looks, the actual process is not at all difficult as the key is simply to season it correctly for the perfect balance of sour, sweet and salty. The spice paste can be made in advance and the soup only needs just over an hour’s cooking time.


0.8kg Kembong fish (Indian mackerel)
2 liters water
100g shallots (blended)
30g fresh turmeric
60g galangal (blended)
1 lemongrass (blended)
1 lemongrass (smashed)
1 ginger flower
60g chilli boh
20g belacan
40g prawn paste
80g kesum leaves
15g tamarind skin
75g tamarind paste (soaked in water and squeezed)
10g salt
40g sugar
1kg laksa noodles

red chilli
birds eye chilli
red onions
mint leaves
ginger flower


Steam the fish until cooked then leave it aside to cool. Debone the fish and leave aside. Bring a pot of water to the boil and add all the ingredients except fish, seasonings, laksa noodles and condiments.

Remove laksa leaves from the stock. Add in fish and seasonings. Blanch noodles and serve hot with laksa soup and garnish with cut red chillies and mint leaves.

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