Kesum leave, wild ginger and lemongrass, boiled fish to debone
Chilli paste and belacan. Boiling stock with tamarind, kesum leaves, wild ginger and lemongrass without adding chilli paste
All stock ingredients removed and chilli paste added. Ready soup with fish meat added.
Assam Belai is a spicy, sourish sweet soup almost similar to the famous Penang Assam Laksa with fish [mackerel or sardine] as its main ingredient. The cooking method is simple and ingredients not as much as Penang Assam Laksa as it can be a soup to be served with rice or rice vermicelli [thin rice noodles]. It is especially easy to cook this in Penang since we can get the chilli paste mix from the vendor in Penang wet market. Just tell him how much fish you have and he will sell the quantity needed. Alternatively, we can just blend our own chilli paste [paste consists of dried chillies, lemongrass, shallots, tumeric] and shrimp paste [belacan].
For this recipe, I bought ready mix chilli paste [RM 1.50] to cook 1 kg fish [ikan kembong]. Now this type of fish [mackerel] is available in abundance and it's about RM 3.00 - 4.00 per kg.
Ingredients for Soup
1 kg fish - mackerel [scaled and cleaned]
a bunch of daun kesum [vietnamese mint]- washed
2-3 stalks lemongrass - lightly smashed
1 wild ginger flower
3-4 pieces dried tamarind [assam gelugor]
3 tbsp tamarind mix with 500 ml water
2 litres water [add more according to taste]
Ready Mixed Chilli Paste [see photo]
2 inch piece belacan [mix with chilli paste]
salt, sugar and msg to taste
Mint Leaves - garnish [optional]
- Boil 1 litre water in a sauce pot. When boiling, add in fish to cook, then remove fish and set aside to cool. Meanwhile add in the remaining 1 litre water, daun kesum, lemongrass, wild ginger, tamarind slices and tamarind mix into sauce pot. Continue boiling till soup is very fragrant.
- When fish is cooled, separate fish meat from bones. Discard the bones. Set aside fish meat.
- When soup is fragrant, remove all the boiled soup ingredients and discard. Continue boiling soup and add in chilli paste with belacan. The soup will turn into a very appetising soup [see photo]. Add in fish meat and seasoning to taste [should be spicy, sweet and sourish].
- Bring soup to a thorough boil for 5-10 minutes on high heat, then lower to medium heat to simmer for about 20 minutes.
- If thick soup with more fish meat is preferred than add less water or add more fish. If eating with noodles, then you may need more soup. Heat up to serve with rice and garnish with mint leaves for added flavour.
- Can add other ingredients such as sliced big onions, chopped wild ginger flower, sliced pineapple, mint leaves and shredded lettuce if serving with noodles. If you have tried Penang Assam Laksa before then it is easy to check the taste of this soup.
- Can use this soup base to cook other fish [whole] such as mackerel, sardines and various species of stingray.
- No oil is needed to cook this dish.