Ikan masak asam pedas is an appetising dish that is very popular during the fasting month.
This dish with tangy tamarind gravy is a traditional Minang favourite that is commonly associated with the states of Melaka and Johor.
Do a search online and you will find different versions that show the cooks’ preferences in ingredients – whether to use daun kesum or daun limau purut, asam jawa or asam gelugor (asam keping), and to cook with or without belacan, the debate goes on. Ultimately, the argument of which state has the better asam pedas is best left to the connoisseurs.
The fish of choice for asam pedas is often tenggiri or jenahak, but my wife uses golden pomfret in her own awesome recipe.
I especially enjoy the flavour of pomfret; its smooth, flaky texture and the slight fattiness of the fish belly goes well with the tangy broth, so I would recommend you try this fish in asam pedas.
The biggest pomfret I was able to get during this period weighed only 450g. You can cook up to 900g of fish in the listed amount of seasoning and the broth will still retain the potency of the spices. You will definitely “carbo-load” on rice with this dish!
This recipe is a combination of a few that I have tried and you may adjust the level of seasoning to your own liking. I like my asam pedas to be well-balanced – spicy and sour. I hope this version with gula melaka and daun kesum achieves that balance without alienating the Melaka or Johor factions.
It is a simple recipe that requires you to blend the spices, sauté and simmer. Just the perfect dish to whip up for something flavourful when you have to stay at home.
Ikan masak asam pedas
(Sour and spicy fish stew)
½ cup cooking oil
100g tamarind pulp
3 cups water
3 stalks lemongrass
75g ladies’ fingers
1 stalk torch ginger flower
5 stalks daun kesum
450g golden pomfret fish
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp palm sugar
50g dried chillies
½ cup water
Boil dried chillies in half a cup of water, then blend with some of the water and set aside.
Blend shallots, garlic, ginger and galangal into a fine paste.
Soak tamarind pulp in water, extract the juice and strain away the pulp.
Toast belacan in a wok over low heat until dry and fragrant.
Add oil and spice blend and saute until fragrant. Then add chilli paste and continue sautéing until the oil separates.
Add tamarind juice, water and lemongrass, then bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add eggplant and ladies’ fingers, then simmer for 5 minutes.
Add fish, torch ginger flower and daun kesum, then cover with a lid and simmer for 5 minutes.
Finally, season with salt and palm sugar, and serve hot with rice.