01 March 2019

Asam Laksa

How many of you are like me, love to eat Asam Laksa but scared of overwhelming fishy smell, and also dislike handling raw mackerel fish or Ikan Kembong, the small fish that's used to make the laksa?

The thing is, I've been craving for Asam Laksa, missing the flavourful, tangy and spicy fish broth with smooth & chewy rice noodles as well as the different textures/colours toppings for the laksa. And no, Asam Laksa is definitely not available where I stay currently (in Thailand).

I'm so glad to find Ayam Brand Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the supermarkets here! It has nearly no fishy smell (probably because the sardines are brined in EVOO) and so much easier to handle (fish bones are teeny tiny and can be mashed up easily, or just remove the centre bone with ease).

This is my quick and easy Asam Laksa, without having to go through the trouble of cleaning raw Ikan Kembong fish, preparing complicated fish broth or removing bones from the fish etc etc. Do note that I replaced or omitted a few ingredients as they are not available where I stay.

What I did was, blend the rempah spice paste ingredients with some EVOO brine from the can, then stir-fry the rempah using the remaining brine as well as the sardines together until fragrant. Next add water, instant fish or ikan bilis cube (yes, it's cheating but hey, I'm looking for quick & easy & fuss-free) and Thai basil, boil for 10-15 mins, season with tamarind paste, salt and sugar and viola, the asam laksa soup broth is ready!

Finally, cook some rice noodles, add toppings of choice (I add more sardine fish, chopped salad leaves, pineapple, cucumber, red onion, chilli padi, lime juice as well as Hei Ko or sweet shrimp paste (which I brought from SG last year to make rojak! Yay!) and a bowl of yummy Asam Laksa is ready!

Asam Laksa
(serves 3 big or 4 small servings)

(A) Rempah/Spice Paste
  • 5 pcs shallots
  • 3 dried chilli, soak in hot water till softened and remove seeds
  • 2 big red chilli, remove seeds
  • 1 pc lemongrass, bottom 3" only, cut into small slices
  • 1 cm turmeric root, cut into small slices
  • 1 tsp belachan, toasted
  • 1-2 tbsp brine from Ayam Brand Sardines in EVOO
  1. Add all the ingredients into a blender/food chopper and blend till smooth paste.
(B) Fish broth
  • 1 can Ayam Brand Sardines in EVOO
  • Rempah spice paste from (A)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 pcs instant fish stock cube (or ikan bilis cube)
  • 6 pcs thai basil
  • 3 tbsp instant tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Add the remaining brine from the can, all the sardines (not necessary to remove bones) and the rempah spice paste into a pot, stir-fry the mixture till aromatic for a few minutes. Crush and mash up the sardines when frying.
  2. Add water, stock cube and Thai basil, and bring to boil on medium heat. After the broth boils, lower heat to low and simmer for 10-15 mins.
  3. Season with instant tamarind paste, sugar and salt (to taste) and the broth is ready to use.
(C) Asam Laksa and Garnish
  • 1 can Ayam Brand Sardines in EVOO
  • 200g thick rice noodles (dried ones)
  • Fish broth from (B)
  • 1/2 pc cucumber, julienned
  • 1/4 pc pineapple, sliced into small pieces
  • 1 red onion, cut into thin slices
  • Handful of mint leaves
  • Handful of salad leaves, chopped
  • 1-2 pcs chilli padi, cut into small slices
  • 3-4 wedges lime
  • 3-4 tbsp hei ko / sweet shrimp paste
  • *torch ginger, omitted as not available
  1. Open another can of sardines, remove centre bones from the sardines if desired and tear the sardines into flakes.
  2. Cook the thick rice noodles for 10-12 mins till the noodles are fully cooked, al dente. Drain and rinse in ice water. Add the rice noodles into 3-4 individual bowls.
  3. Scoop the fish broth into the bowls of noodles.
  4. Add desired toppings - sardine flakes, salad leaves, red onion, pineapple, cucumber, mint leaves, chilli padi, lime and hei ko. 
  5. Mix well to eat and best enjoyed hot!

I'm really pleased with how my quick and easy Asam Laksa turned out! The broth is quite flavourful, tangy and spicy, but not fishy and lighter on the palate as well, love the combination of different colours and textures of the toppings. Even the hubby enjoyed it and said it was not bad at all.

Glad that I can cook this dish anytime I have cravings now. And also thinking of making more dishes with Ayam Brand Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil =D

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