A lovely sour, fragrant soup, served with chewy, translucent noodles and garnished with the lively flavours of fresh pineapple, cucumber and eschalots.
- 80 g ikan bilis (see Note) or dried whitebait
- 1 kg salmon fillet, skin on
- 2 torch ginger flower buds (see Note) (optional)
- 15 dried tamarind slices (see Note)
- 2 cups tamarind pulp (liquid form) (see Note)
- 10 hot (Vietnamese) mint sprigs (see Note)
- 500 g dried, thin rice noodles
- ½ pineapple, peeled, cut into 2 cm chunks
- 1 cucumber, peeled, cut into julienne
- ½ bunch mint, leaves picked
- 2 Asian red eschalots, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup haar goh (shrimp molasses) (see Note)
- 30 g shrimp paste (belachan) (see Note)
- 300 g Asian red eschalots, peeled, sliced
- 6 long red chillies, sliced
- 20 dried red chillies, seeds removed, soaked in 125 ml boiling water for 30 minutes
- 25 g fresh turmeric (see Note), peeled and sliced
- 25 g galangal (see Note), peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 lemongrass stalks, white part only, roughly chopped
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) vegetable oil
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time 30 minutes
Place ikan bilis and 3.5 L water in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 40 minutes or until reduced by one-third; you will need 2.5 L stock. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan and set aside.
Meanwhile, place salmon in a steamer basket lined with baking paper; if necessary, cut fish to fit. Place a steamer basket over a saucepan of simmering water and cook for 10 minutes or until fish is almost cooked through but still slightly pink in the centre. Flake into pieces and keep warm.
To make rempah, preheat oven to 180°C. Wrap shrimp paste in foil and roast for 15 minutes or until fragrant and toasted. Unwrap and place in a food processor with eschalots, long red chillies, dried chillies and soaking mixture, turmeric, galangal and lemongrass, processing to a smooth paste. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add paste and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until fragrant.
Add rempah, ginger flower buds, if using, tamarind slices, tamarind pulp and hot mint to reserved stock, then bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
Cook noodles in boiling water according to packet instructions. Drain and divide among serving bowls. Divide broth and flaked fish among bowls, then top with pineapple, cucumber, mint and eschalots. Combine haar goh in a bowl with 2 tbsp hot water. Serve asam laksa immediately with a spoonful of haar goh.
• Ikan bilis are small, sun-dried, deep-fried anchovies used in Malaysian cooking. They are from Asian food shops and select greengrocers.
• Torch ginger flower buds have a fragrant flavour and are used in South-East Asian cooking. They’re available from Asian food shops and select greengrocers.
• Tamarind, hot (Vietnamese) mint, haar goh, belachan, turmeric and galangal are all from Asian food shops and select greengrocers.
Photography Chris Chen