Asam pedas is a sour-and-spicy stew popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. Though its origins are not clear, this dish is closely associated with the Malays and Minangkabau communities in Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra.
The main ingredients in this dish are usually fish and seafood such as ikan tenggiri(mackerel), ikan merah (red snapper) and ikan pari (stingray). Various vegetables are also added such as brinjals or eggplants, okra (sayur bendi) and tomatoes.
Unlike the Thai tom yam that gets its sourness from lime juice, the sour taste of asam pedas comes from tamarind juice extracted from tamarind pulp (asam jawa). This is then cooked with chillies and other spices to create a hot, sour and spicy stew.
The cooking method for this dish also differs from the northern and southern states of Peninsular Malaysia. In the south, the ingredients are first sauteed to release the aromatic flavours of the herbs and spices. The most popular asam pedas dish in the south is from Melaka, which I would like to share here with you. This asam pedas Melaka recipe I am sharing is from Chef Mohd Shokri from the cook book "Lost Recipes of Malaysia" as I see some similarities with how I cook this awesome spicy Asam Pedas dish.
- 500g stingray, cleaned and cut (I used ikan merah)
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- 6 onions, smashed/pound
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed/pound
- 30g ginger, smashed/pound
- 20g shrimp paste (add this to the dried chillie paste)
- 100g dried chillies
- 700ml water
- 1 stalk lemongrass (serai), smashed
- 2 tbsp tamarind juice
- 7 okra - (bendi)
- 2 ripe tomatoes (I add this) - cut into halves
- 1 bunch polygonum leaves (daun kesum)
- 1 torch ginger bud (bunga kantan)
- Salt to taste
To prepare the chillie paste:Boil the dried chillies (which has been cut into small pieces) for about 20 minutes until soft. Drain, then grind in a blender with a little water until fine. Put aside.
To cook the dish
- Heat the oil in a pan on medium heat.
- Saute the pounded onions, garlic and ginger until aromatic
- Add the chillie paste (with shrimp paste added to it) and fry until the oil separates.
- Next, add the lemongrass, water, tamarind juice and stingray. Season with salt.
- Finally add the okra (bendi) and tomatoes, polygonum leaves and the torch ginger bud.
- Cook until sauce thickens.
- Serve hot.