Sunday, June 8, 2014

A for Assam.Laksa

Hey Guys, as what we all know sharing is caring! So, we've decided to share one of the food that you must have when you travel so far to Malaysia - Assam Laksa !

Assam Laksa is one of the Nyonya cuisine that was 7th in the top 50 most delicious food in the world in a poll by CNN. This remarkable dish is one of the most popular dish in Malaysia. With its spicy-sour fish broth and noodles (especially great when fused with ginger), Assam Laksa will have your nose running before the spoon even touches your lips. Be sure to try it when you travel to Malaysia ! To further understand about the origins and details of the recipes, we had conducted a short interview with the cook of this Penang Assam Laksa, Ms. Esther Chan. This has assisted us to clear any uncertainties and doubts about the recipe as well as being able to distinguish the differences between the two recipes, the recipe found online and Ms. Esther's homemade recipe. Ms. Esther was very active and cooperative during the interview, and the interview was conducted successfully. 

 Today we are not here just to tell you how nice the Assam Laksa is! 
We know that some of you might not able to travel so far just to try it out. 
So ~~~~ We've decided to share an awesome secret recipe with all of you. 
YEAH!!! Let't start now !


Servings: 30
Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hr 30 mins


           5000ml water
·         ½ pkt tamarind paste
·         1.2kg Slimy Mackerel, cleaned (ikan kembung)
·         2 stalks lemongrass
·         10 Tamarind Peel (assam keping) 
·         1 stalk ginger flower
·         10 stalks daun kesum 
4    6 tblspoon Shrimp Paste/Prawn Paste (belacan) 
1    1 stalk bunga kantan
·         4 tblspoon sugar
1 tblspoon salt
A (For Spice Paste) :

2nd Question
To make a comparison with the recipe provided by Ms. Esther Chan, the other recipe reviewed by us is from the website Rasa Malaysia which offers easy Malaysian cuisine to everyone in the world. The author of this food blog is Bee Yinn Low and throughout this post, we will be referring to her as Bee.
There were several notable differences between the two recipes.
First and foremost, we shall talk about the availability of ingredients.
In Ms. Esther's recipe and in her area, fresh tamarind has proven to be a rare ingredient wheareas in the recipe from Bee, she had difficulty sourcing for bunga kantan.
Therefore, depending on the area you are in, there will be factors that will influence the overall taste of the dish.
1    1 tblspoon fish sauce

·         3 packs  Mihun

·         5 pcs Red Chilli (seeded)
·         10 pcs Dried Chilli (seeded
·         1 ½ stalks lemongrass
·         75g galangal
·         300g onion
·         50g garlic
·         ½ stalk wild ginger flower (bunga kantan) 

·         Pineapple
·         Cucumber
·         Large onion
·         Lettuce
·         Ginger Flower
·         Chilli
Fresh Mint leaves

 Asam Jawa
Ikan Kembung (Slimmy mackerel)

Topping !

Fish Sauce

1.      Ingredients B are first blended until smooth and then put aside
2.      Put in tamarind paste and bring 5000ml water to boil.
3.      Put in kembung fish for 15 minutes until cooked. Carefully remove kembung fish and drain. Start removing flesh from fish, discard the bones and pound until fine.
4.      Put in lemongrass, bunga kantan, assam keping and gingerflower. Boil for 15 minutes.
5.      Add the blended ingredient B and daun kesum into broth. Boil for 1 hour to bring the flavor of the daun kesum out.
6.      Put pounded fish into soup and then add 6 tblspoon belacan, 4 tblspoon sugar, 1 tblspoon salt and 1 tblspoon fish sauce. Boil for 30 minutes.
7.      While waiting for the flavor to come out, in a separate pot, put mihun into water and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft. Then insert mihun into cold water to further soften. Drain.
8.      To serve: Place a serving of laksa noodles in a bowl. Garnish with preferred amount of topping. Ladle laksa gravy over the noodles and vegetables.
9.      Enjoy !

Done our peeling Job !

Just keep swimming !
One of the most important tool that have to use for prepared nyonya cuisine.

Further Q & A ?! 

1st Question

“Hi, Ms. Esther, when did you learn to cook this Penang Assam Laksa and where did you get this recipe from?”

-“It has been more than 30 years since I've learnt how to cook this Penang Assam Laksa from my grandmother, and this recipe have been passed down ever since my grandmother's generation. Penang Assam Laksa belongs to the Nyonya cuisine and it originated from the northern part of Malaysia, Penang hence, the title "Penang" Assam Laksa. My grandmother who was also from Penang brought the recipe over to Perak when she migrated over and from Perak, I've brought it back to KL.

“Next, based on your opinion, do you think that it requires high level of skills in order to create this dish, and to compare to the Penang Assam Laksa elsewhere, which do you think prefer a higher level of skills?"

- “To be honest, this is an easy dish that every can cook easily but it requires a lot of patience as it involves a variety of ingredients and a considerable amount of cooking time. In comparison with the Assam Laksa served outside, I would say it's different in the sense that most restaurants tend to cut cost and shorten the duration by using flavourings and preservatives. "

3rd Question

“Are the ingredients involved easy to obtain and is it costly to make this dish? And again, to compare with the Penang Asam Laksa outside, is it cheaper?”

-“In order to produce a good Penang Assam Laksa, of course it would cost more and that's not an exception in my recipe. In order to create a rich and authentic flavour, it is going to incur a higher cost for sure as every ingredient used in my recipe is fresh off the market and there are no artificial flavourings added. The ingredients used in the recipe can be easily obtained in the local market. For example ikan kembung, belacan, gingerflower, tamarind leaves and other daily used ingredients. "

4th Question

“Regarding time constraint, what do you think about the time spent on preparing this dish?”

-“As I mentioned earlier, you will need a lot of patience in the making this dish. This is because it will take up a lot of time to prepare the ingredients beforehand. In addition, you can't keep the ingredients out for too long as the freshness of the ingredients while you prepare the dish will cause a significant difference in the taste of the dish. Therefore, I would recommend to complete the dish within 6 hours."

5th Question

“Lastly, from the perspective of a customer, what do you think about the Penang Asam Laksa cooked outside comparing to your recipe?”

-“ My laksa will definitely taste better ! The flavour is original and authentic. Furthermore, in the preparation of the dish, I did not add any oil or artificial flavourings which makes it healthier. Other than that, the freshness of the ingredients also maintains the quality of the flavour. Although my recipe may cost more, the quality of the dish will definitely make it worthwhile."

            From the interview, we got to know in detail about the recipe of Ms. Esther. 
We are grateful for the cooperation and help of Ms. Esther in providing such useful information for our recipe blog. 
The Penang Assam Laksa recipe could be found at the link below:
In addition, the way they cook the dish have slight variances. Particularly, in the terms of the order. Bee would put the bunga kantan first whereas Ms. Esther would put the bunga kantan in afterwards. This really depends on the preferences of the cook as they might have learned the recipe in different ways.
Furthermore, the duration of the time preparing the dish also contributes to the taste of the dish in the end. For example, If you cook the dish for a longer duration, it will certainly bring out the flavours of all the spices.
Finally, in terms of richness of flavour. It can be seen that Ms. Esther's recipe is richer as she's really generous with her ingredients. This might also stem from the fact that Ms. Esther cooks for her family members whereas Bee's recipe is simplified to suit the preference of the international audiences.

In conclusion, depending on the availability of resources, time available, the techniques used and the generosity of the ingredients used, the taste of the dish will greatly differ. Of course, if you can't find specific ingredients in the area you're living, you can always find substitutes like what Ms Esther did when she substituted Fresh Tamarind with Tamarind Paste. Even though, you can't get the original taste, you can always get a somewhat similar taste !
Always learn and never stop innovating !
Everyone can be a chef.
It's just whether you're willing to try.

 Factors Changing Malaysian Food Heritage
            Today, Malaysian food heritage is facing a challenge in surviving. Some of the Malaysian food has been struggling to be continued and some even have failed to be inherited until today. UNESCO is one of the organizations that protecting the food heritage and prevents the extinction of them. There are many factors that cause the change in the food heritage.
            Firstly, the change of Malaysian lifestyle to modern lifestyle is the main reason that causes the change in Malaysian food heritage. Malaysian people nowadays are getting busier in their life due to the increase in time spent in work, as well as entertainment activities. This has caused the dining time to be shortened. Therefore, people would prefer to eat fast food because it is more convenient and does not consume much time. In example, fast food chains that open 24/7 provide drive through and delivery service, it is fast, convenient and also offers in attractive price. This brings disadvantage to traditional food where it is less preferred by the young generation.

            After that, further developments of technology in food industry also affect the change in food heritage. Some of the traditional cooking methods will be eliminated, as modern cooking method is easier and efficient that shortens the cooking process. New artificial flavoring and coloring agents will cause a huge impact on the originality or the authenticity of traditional cooking as well. Replacement of ingredients and equipment with modern technology does not only affect the originality of a dish, but as well as the spirits of making the dish.

            Next, availability of ingredients is another factor that will affect the change in Malaysian food heritage. Due to natural causes or government related factors, some ingredients might not be obtained easily in the market. In example, removal of subsidy for corn plantation farmer will lead to the shortage of corn in the market. And some recipe might face difficulty in being inherited to the net generation.

            Other than that, the change in the dining habit of Malaysian is also another factor. The switch of preferred eating habit to brunch, teatime and supper is threatening Malaysia traditional foods. Western cuisine is more suitable to be eaten as brunch and teatime while heavy meals are not recommended for supper. Popularity of heritage food will then face a dramatic fall.

            Lastly, fail in passing down the recipe to the next generation will affect the change in food heritage. The younger generation today is not interested in learning traditional recipe because they are exposed to wider world and has broad interest. Most of the people are not interested in learning, as it will not allow them to make much money in the future and western cuisine are usually more preferable by the young. This will cause the elimination of traditional recipe and extinction of some recipe in the food heritage.

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