Penang asam laksa


  • Serves 8 people

This happy marriage of rice noodles and spiced broth is perfect for summer, writes Tony Tan.

  • 1 whole white fish (about 1.5kg) such as bream, flathead, snapper or bream, gutted, scaled, cleaned
  • 3-4 sprigs Vietnamese mint
  • 3-4 slices galangal
  • 150 gm tamarind pulp, soaked in 250ml warm water for 30 minutes, strained through a fine sieve (solids discarded)
  • 3 slices asam gelugor (optional; see note)
  • 1 tbsp white sugar, or to taste
  • 400 gm dried laksa rice noodles, soaked in water until soft, drained
  • ½ pineapple, thinly sliced
  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers, seeds removed, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 iceberg lettuce leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) mint
  • ¾ cup (loosely packed) Vietnamese mint
  • 1 torch ginger flower, thinly sliced (optional; see note)
  • 2-3 small red chillies, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp hae ko, diluted in hot water to drizzling consistency (optional; see note)
  • Spice paste
  • 35 gm fresh turmeric or 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 20 gm galangal, coarsely chopped
  • 5 golden shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 small dried red chillies, soaked in hot water and squeezed dry
  • 4 small fresh red chillies, chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, sliced
  • 1 tsp belacan (see note)
01   Combine fish, Vietnamese mint, galangal and 2.4 litres cold water, or enough to cover fish, in a large saucepan and bring to the simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until fish is cooked through (25-30 minutes).
02   Meanwhile, for spice paste, pound ingredients in a mortar and pestle or process in a food processor to a fine paste, set aside.
03   Remove fish from stock, cool slightly, coarsely flake (discard skin and bones) and set aside.
04   Strain fish stock into a clean saucepan.
05   Add spice paste, tamarind liquid and asam gelugor to stock, season to taste with sugar and salt, simmer until well flavoured (20-30 minutes), check seasoning and add some flaked fish (optional).
06   Meanwhile, blanch noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water until just tender (2-3 minutes), drain, divide among serving bowls. Top with remaining fish, ladle hot stock over, top with pineapple, cucumber, onion, lettuce, mint, torch ginger flower, chilli and hae ko, and serve with extra garnishes on the side.

Note Asam gelugor (a tropical fruit), torch ginger flowers, hae ko (shrimp sauce) and belacan are available from Asian grocers.

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