Thursday, 3 January 2008

WHB #114: Assam Pedas Ikan - Sour Spicy Fish

Daun Kesom (Vietnamese Coriander, Polygonum odoratum)

Today Mom made Assam Pedas Ikan, a Malay dish directly translated as “Sour Spicy Fish”. Every respectable Malay kitchen would have their own version of assam pedas. My mom’s version has the perfect balance of spicy and sour. Daun kesom is an essential ingredient for my mom’s assam pedas.

Daun Kesom, or Vietnamese Coriander, has a coriander-like smell with a clear lemony note. Although it is closely related to water pepper there is hardly any pungency present. In Singapore and Malaysia, the shredded leaf is an essential garnish for laksa, and so, the herb is also commonly referred to in Malay as daun laksa (aksa leaf). More information on this herb here and here.

Mom always uses fish for her assam pedas - usually fish steaks since fish fillet would be too fragile after being cooked in the spicy broth. Today, she used a medium sized snapper head. Yes, you read that correctly. I apologise if this may be hard for many of you to stomach. Some of you know that Singapore is known for our famous Chilli Crab. Well, another dish that is also very popular with locals and some daring tourists is the Fish Head Curry. Fish head dishes are not considered exotic or a novelty. It is easily found in most neighbourhood eateries. When I was in my early 20’s I stopped eating fish head because I was put off by it. But in recent years, I am back to fish head lovin’.

Assam Pedas Ikan
- Sour Spicy Fish

Fish head or fish steaks (e.g. Red Snapper)
2 heaped tspn of powdered tumeric
chilli paste
tamarind juice
4 slices of tamarid pieces
2 medium red onion, peeled and chopped into 6-8 wedges
young eggplant (cut into small wedges)
3-4 stalks of daun kesom
vegetable oil
hot water

Chilli Paste:
4 clove garlic
15 shallots
30 dried chillies (yes, that is not a typo)
1 tbspn of belacan (prawn paste)
1-2 cm of fresh ginger root

Tamarid Juice:
2 heaped tbspn of tamarind pulp
1-1.5 cups of hot water

Prepare chilli paste – You will notice that this paste is similar to the one used for sambal prawns, but with the addition of ginger. Roughly cut dried chillies with a kitchen scissors and pour enough hot water to cover the chillies. Leave for 10 mins and drain. Blend the chillies finely with 1 cup of fresh water, and all other ingredients.

Prepare tamarind juice - Soak pulp in hot water, squeeze out the juice and strain.

Now you are ready to cook the dish:
In a large saucepan, heat some oil and over medium heat, stir fry the onion wedges till fragrant. Add the chilli paste and stir fry till fragrant (about 20 minutes). Add tamarid juice, tamarid pieces and tumeric. Add fish and enough hot water to almost cover the fish. When the fish is almost cooked, add the okra, eggplants, daun kesom and salt (to taste). Serve hot with steamed jasmin rice.

This will be my contribution to the first Weekend Herb Blogging for 2008. WHB is a food blogging event sponsored by Kalyn's Kitchen where each week food bloggers around the world photograph and write about herbs, plants, veggies, or flowers, and on the weekend, a Recap with links to all the posts is published by the host for that week. This week’s host (WHB #114) is the founder of WHB, Kaylyn. Do drop by her blog to check out the Recap.


More Singaporean foods:
Sambal Prawns
Black Glutinous Rice Porridge



Bellini Valli said...

A great addition to the Weekend Herb Blogging event Nora!

Lydia said...

This herb is new to me -- I'll have to look for it at one of the large Asian grocery stores. Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

Kalyn said...

What a great entry! I've tasted this herb, but only once, in a restaurant in California, and ever since I've wished I could find it in Utah. No luck so far finding it for sale or the plants either. I'd love to try your dish.

Veron said...

Yummy fish! I'm not queasy about fish heads at all, had them growing up. I remember everyone fighting for the fish eyeballs and gills at the table. :)

winedeb said...

A thumbs up for your mom Nora! This looks yum to me. Being here by the water, fish is on our plates 3 or more times a week. I am really liking the dishes you are using those chili's with and the addition of ginger, oh too good! I have not seen that herb but will check it out in my seed catalogs. Might be able to grow it here since it is so warm (speaking of warm, it is NOT here today. Key West had a record low of 45 degrees last night! So a touch of winter has hit us for just a couple of days - burrr!)
Have fun!

WokandSpoon said...

Yum! Anything with 'pedas' or 'assam' sounds good to me! My mum's got her version of assam fish as well! I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! ;-)

Eva said...

Having already seen you digging into fish head curry, I wasn't too shocked after all! However, I don't think I'll try this at home..;-)

Big Boys Oven said...

this assam pedas looks classic.... so herbally fragrant delicious!

Andaliman said...

a week ago, I was planning to make Asam Ikan Penang. Too bad I don't have any daun laksa. Yours looks delicious

Anonymous said...

Hi Nora,

I have been trying to get the laksa leaves in Sydney. Do you know if any place in kingsford or kensington where I can get it?