It’s fasting month and it’s the school holidays and hence I have no choice but to cook almost daily. 😂 I am sure once the term starts, the cooking will stop, and I’ll be the occasional cook again pottering about in my pink kitchen.
And because I have been so reliant on my Mama who has the Helper to assist her, I am embarrassed to say I can’t even cook a single of Mama’s cooking. So again the Helper had to tell me what to do step by step.
In Indonesia, this dish is called sayur asem and it’s so good with grilled meat and fish. Which is exactly what I intend to cook tonight. My Mama’s version is the Malay kampung style version which means there are no exact recipes, and you’ve got to keep on tasting till you get the right balance of seasoning.
The key ingredient of the dish is assam or tamarind. Asam keping or asam gelugur is the dried form of the tamarind fruit and then there’s the pulp form of the fruit, now easily available deseeded and in a paste. See below for the picture of the dried fruit. One piece can be already sour. But of course add more if the pot is larger or the fruit is smaller.
The dish calls for a lot of vegetables and the boiling method.
Make the rencah, or paste. My Mama’s basic recipe is one red onion, two garlic cloves, three fresh res chillies and a handful of dried ikan bilis (dried anchovies). Blend to a fine paste. According to my Indonesian Helper, the Javanese would use candelnuts in the paste. Maybe one day I’ll try and find a recipe using the Javanese version.
In a pot, add water and the rencah, and let boil. At this early stage, you may add the corn as it takes longer to cook. Add also a bruised lemongrass and two pieces of crushed galangal slices for the aroma.
Continue to let boil while prepping the rest of the vegetables. I have here long beans, baby brinjals, cabbage and a sliced tomato. But do not add cabbage till the last bit or it’ll be very soggy. Also, add the rest of the vegetables only when the rencah has boiled enough (you can smell it), about 15 minutes of rolling boil.
Once the vegetables are in and boiling (except for the cabbage), it is time to season the broth. Add three teaspoons of salt, one teaspoon of sugar and two or three (if small) pieces of asamgelugur. Let boil and taste. Adjust the salt and sugar content if needed. Add one teaspoon of asamjawa, the tamarind paste if it’s not sour enough. Let mixture boil and then finally add the cabbage.
This is the final product in the pot. I’ll probably update this post later after dinner to show how it’s served with the other dishes.
It’s a very healthy vegetable dish. Try it!
Update: Asam Rebus eaten with grilled fish and tempeh manis.