No matter how busy one is, we always have time for food. The first thing we thought of when we wake up is what to have to break the fast. It might not be breakfast, as sometimes (or usually) I break my fast with lunch. Ah, lazy me. Then in due time we would be thinking what to have for dinner. Such gluttony! But aren’t human born to live like that?
Anyway, to keep this post short and to rumble back to my busy dailies, I would continue on about the main thing you must be asking, “Where is the herb?” Pardon my long windedness, so here goes this week’s herb, Lemongrass (Serai).
This particular herb is featured mainly in Thai, Malay and Nonya cuisines, giving an instant lift to any food. Lemongrass is one herb that leaves a sweet lemony smell to your fingers after you cut it and it will instantly jazz up your spice mixes once grinded or pounded to release the aroma. It is widely used especially in cooking curries, soup (like the famous Thai Tom Yum soup that relies practically on this herb) and other spice mixing recipes. It can also be used in making of drinks like tea or honey. I once had honey lemongrass drink with the herb stalk itself used to stir the drink, exotic and certainly refreshing.
The recipe that I will be showing using this sweet herb is from the Nonya cuisine. Nonya is basically the people from the marriage between the Chinese and Malay, creating a new generation of Peranakan. Although they are half Chinese, these Peranakan had adopted Malay culture wholly with a little of their own influences, causing a new hybrid of culture that they call their own. These generations of people are prominent from Penang and Malacca but it is in Malacca that is left with many remnants of it. When one culture is created, most certainly a new cuisine of its kind emerged. Nonya cuisines are fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisines with Thai and Indonesia influences. There is an extensive explanation of Nonya cuisine over at Malaysian Food, if you are inclined to know more.
Well, I suppose this following recipe of mine must be of Thai influence with the usage of lemongrass, and it is a little bit spicy with a strong smell of belachan(shrimp paste), another acquired taste food. When frying the belachan, one is bound to be caught up with the strong aroma rising which would choke right up the nose, down the nasal to the throat. I’m not kidding here! I can still remember the days when my Nanny cook up a storm of Sambal Belachan (chilly fried with belachan paste), the whole house would be choking in the strong aroma. But secretly we would be smiling with glee anticipating what would appear on the dinner table next. Well, after a nasal war just now, I whipped up a sour fishy Nonya dish.
Ikan Assam (Spicy Fish in Tamarind)
Source: Female Appetite (Edition 1)
I did not have ginger flower and had omitted eggplants and lady’s fingers, adding more tomatoes instead, but I guess with those, it would had been much more flavourful and of course much more colourful. I ran out of lime thus added more tamarind for the sourness. I had also added 1 inch of Galangal (Lengkuas) just for fun, as I feel it would be appropriate, ah a cook’s whim.
4 tbsp oil
15g tamarind paste
1 eggplant, julienned
1 tomato, cut in wedges
4 lady’s fingers
400g fish fillet
2 tbsp lime juice
Salt and sugar to taste
30g dried prawns
2cm belachan (shrimp paste)
20g dried chillies
20g red chillies
1 stalk lemongrass
1 stalk ginger flower
Heat wok over high flame, add oil and lower the flame.
Sitr in grounded ingredients and tamarind paste until aroma arises
Add water and bring to boil
Reduce heat and add eggplant, tomato and lady’s fingers. Cook for about 10 minutes before adding the fish.
When fish is cooked, add lime juice, salt and sugar.
Serves 4 - 6 (depending on edacity of guests)
Note: This spicy dish tasted much much better overnight (we got plenty leftovers) and reheated, the complex flavours developed more and had taken it to a whole new level. So next time, I would cook it and leave it soaking at least few hours first before devouring.
Update: Check out the list of herbs for this week over at Kalyn's.