Sunday, May 31, 2009

Penang Laksa

The title of this post is unabashedly penang laksa because this humble dish has woken up my tastebuds in ways never imagined!

Penang laksa is definitely an acquired taste. Its sour tangy sweet and fishy all at one go. Definitely not for the faint hearted. I grew up exposed to Singapore laksa, which is notorious for its cholestrol clogging qualities. I would like to think that Penang laksa is a much healthier option given that it does not contain coconut milk.

I learnt this recipe from a Penang lady who claims to whip up the most authentic version. Her recipe for penang laksa is yummy to the last slurp and definitely a keeper!

(A) Preparation of fish
Season 1.5kg of kembong fish (mackeral and cat-cat fish are also good) with 1 tablespoon of salt. Make sure fish is layered nicely on top of one another on a steaming dish with gaps for the hot steam to flow through later.

Steam the fish for 20 mins under high heat, then leave to cool. Do NOT discard the fish stock collected from the steaming. Once cool, flake the fish (be careful of bones!)

(B) Preparation of rempah
Use a grinder to grind:
50g galangal (discard stem, skin it and chop into rough pieces)
40 pieces of dried chillies (presoaked in hot water for 30mins, using a heavy object to push down the chillies in case they float up. thereafter, squeeze out water and cut into rough pieces)
30g toasted belachan (this potent paste attracts flies from nowhere! Catherina uses the brand Cheong Kim Chuan from Penang which is sold at selected wet markets in Singapore like Tiong Bahru. She has earlier roasted the belachan on a non stick pan over medium heat and smashed it into little granules for cooking)
50g serai/lemongrass (retain only the portion 4 inches from the bottom and discard the top, cut into small pieces)
250g shallots

(C) Preparation of Assam Water
Soak 100g Assam/Tamarind Paste in 2 cups of cold water for 1 hr. Sieve out residue thereafter

(D) Preparation of Bunga Siantan/Rojak Flower
Buy 2 big stalks of the flower. Discard the stems and only retain the pink buds (each bud should weigh abt 50g). Cut deep incisions into one bud and finely chop the other bud for garnishing (see e)

(E) Preparation of seasoning
1.5 tablespoons of salt
5 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 cup green lime juice (buy small limes from the supermarket and squeeze for juice)

(F) Preparation of garnishing
1 cucumber (finely shreded)
1 small pineapple (finely shredded)
1 bunga siantan bud, finely chopped
1 big purple/bombay onion (thinly sliced)
A handful (20g) mint leaves
2 cut red chillies
2 tablespoons of black shrimp paste/hey-koh mixed with 1/2 cup boiling water till a gooey consistency is reached

1. Bring Assam Water (c) and 8 cups of water to a boil. Add rempah (b), 100g laksa leaves, bunga siantan (d), 20g pre-soaked assam skin and 3 red chillies to boil for 10 mins.
2. Add flaked fish and fish stock (a), continue boiling for a further 10mins.
3. Add seasoning(e). Taste to see if further adjustments are required. Once desired taste has been obtained, scoop out laksa leaves and discard.
4. Separately boil 1.5kg of laksa beehoon in water.
5. To serve, place some laksa beehoon in bowl, strain it with laksa gravy once or twice before topping it with the gravy again.
6 .Garnish using (f).


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