One of the items I requested and the first paste that I tried from the box of goodies I received from Asian Supermarket 365 was asam laksa, a Malaysian hot and sour fish noodle dish. Obviously, if you're the so-very-talented Bee of Rasa Malaysia you would make Penang assam laksa by scratch. :P But, even Lily's Wai Sek Hong used a mix when she's not in Malaysia. So that's good enough for me.
This is more a lesson in how to doctor up a packaged mix and still have a tasty meal. The package of ChanHong brand Perencah Segera Asam Laksa Pinang (Penang Asam Laksa Noodle Instant Sauce) sells at Asian Supermarket 365 for $1.99. The ingredients listed were shallots, vegetable oil, water, lemongrass, chili, galangal, garlic, sugar, salt, asam jawa (tamarind), spices, and preservatives. They also sent me a can of Ayam Brand sardines in tomato sauce, which sells for $2.99.
I've eaten curry laksa before, but not asam laksa, so I referred to Rasa Malaysia's recipe to see what side herbs I should add. I made a nice platter of sliced lettuce, pineapples cut into strips, rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) which Malaysians call daun kesom or daun laksa, and mint. Cucumbers would have been nice too but I didn't have any on hand.
The package makes three bowls of noodles, so I filled half my stock pot with water and added the whole mix along with the can of sardines. While I was waiting for the water to boil, my kitchen was filled with the loveliest lemongrass and tamarind fragrance. Before I even tasted the soup, just based on the smell alone, my mouth watered.
You should also set another pot of water to boil the noodles too. I used round rice vermicelli noodles. I prefer Three Ladies Brand Jiangxi bun giang tay.
When the water boiled, I scooped out the sardines. And here's where it got a little messy, with your hands, separate the sardines so you can remove the center bones. Then tear the fish into small pieces. Don't worry, the sardines were really tender. Then add the fish back into the pot.
Spoon the broth and fish over a bowl of noodles, add lettuce, pineapples, mint, and rau ram. I added a dollop of chili sauce to amp up the spice. Tell me that doesn't look homemade?
This was seriously good stuff. Slightly sour from the tamarind and fragrant from the lemongrass. After trying this, I want to try making asam laksa from scratch. But for a quick meal that still tastes very good, I'd recommend this particular mix.
Please refer back to my Terrible Twos post to see other items I've tried.
Update May 27, 2010: It took nearly two years, but I finally made Penang asam laksa from scratch.
1 year ago today, Vietnamese wedding preparations and ceremony.