Assam Laksa is one of Penang’s signature street food fare (others famous street food include but not limited to Penang Char Kway Teow and Penang Prawn Mee Soup). It is a Pescatarian-suitable dish that contains no meat except for fish. This appetite-inducing-sweet-spicy-sour fishy (in a good way) noodle soup is well known in Penang, an island state located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, by the Malacca Strait.
The best one I’ve had (in the 80s) used to be served in the food court of Liang Court but it is no longer there. I have yet to find one that come close to it! Recently I visited the food centre at Old Airport Road and tried Penang Signature’s Assam Laksa.
While Penang Signature’s Assam Laksa tasted good and the stall was generous with their fish, I still find it lacking compared to my memory of the one I had from Liang Court. I supposed I have to tweak recipes and adjust them according to my personal taste preferences. I will certainly use more ginger flowers in my broth and garnish. That said, the stall’s noodle were very springy which I liked; I suspect they are not the normal coarse beehoon (made from rice flour) but the springy lai fun (made from rice flour and tapioca starch).
Now where can I get lai fun in Singapore?
While researching for recipes online, I came across one that screams legitimacy – “AUTHENTIC LAKSA RECIPE BY A PENANG HAWKER ~ Penang hawker Madam Cheah Siew Mooi share her family’s recipe”. Clicking on the link led me to Her World’s (local magazine) article (published on 21 Mar 2016 by MIA CHENYZE) – Penang Assam Laksa Recipe by Madam Cheah Siew Mooi of Boon Wah Café, 2nd Floor Komtar Complex, 29 Jalan Penang, Penang, Malaysia.
Time to put on the apron and embark on another culinary adventure!
- For the soup:
- 1kg fresh sardine/mackerel/kambong fish, cleaned and blanched.
- 3 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced.
- Bulb of 1 ginger flower, thinly sliced.
- 8 shallots.
- 250g belacan.
- 2L water.
- 2 tbsp chilli paste.
- 10g tamarind skin.
- 10g tamarind paste.
- 150g laksa leaves.
- 1 tbsp salt, to taste.
- 1 tbsp sugar, to taste.
- 1 kg fresh coarse rice noodles, soaked in cold water for 15 min and strained.
- For garnish:
- 100g prawn paste, mixed well with 50ml hot water
- 300g Chinese lettuce, cut into thin strips about 2cm long
- 100g mint leaves
- 1 red onion, cut into thin strips about 2cm long
- 1 cucumber, cut into thin strips about 2cm long
- 4 chilli padi, sliced diagonally
- 1 pineapple, cut into thin strips about 2cm long
For the soup:
Place a large pot of water to the boil. Add the blanched fish and simmer for another 15min, then remove the fish and let it cool on a plate. Debone the fish and roughly break it into small chunks.
Blend the lemongrass, ginger flower, shallots and belacan till smooth. Set another pot with 2L water to the boil. Add the blended paste and the rest of the soup ingredients, except the salt and sugar. Simmer for 30min until fragrant, then take out the laksa leaves.
Add the fish into the pot, bring to the boil, then simmer for 1h. Stir in the salt and sugar, taste, and slowly adjust by half teaspoons if necessary.
Blanch the noodles in the hot soup for 15s. To serve, pour soup over the noodles, a tsp of the prawn paste mixture, and a handful of the remaining garnishes.
Happy cooking, eating and bonding!