Last Saturday, from the early hours of the morning, our whole house was abuzz with activity. The reason for this was because we were expecting a very important group of people to come over to our house for lunch. The hustle and bustle did not end until our guests had their lunch and left.
We prepared four dishes for our guests that day. Among those dishes was one that I had always wanted to try and make for quite a long time; twenty-six years to be exact. Indeed that is a very long time. There was always some kind of reason or excuse that stopped me from preparing this dish.
But that Saturday, since our guests are from Johor, the state that is famous for her Asam Pedas, I decided to try and make (replicate more like it!) Chicken in Assam Pedas Gravy or Asam pedas Ayam. I say replicate because, the first time I had it was in 1988. A bowl of the dish was given to me by a neighbor and since then I fell in love with it. I never got the chance to ask my never for her recipe, so I guess this is my version of the dish, as much as I can remember (the taste)
Anyway, I did apologise to my guests just in case the dish I prepared did not come up to the standard of asam pedas made by a Johorean. The lady in the group kindly said that there is a new version of asam pedas born every day, and that day was the day for my dish to shine!
- 1 chicken, cut into 16 pieces
- 5 pieces kaffir lime leaves
- 4 ginger torch buds ( 2 halved; 2 sliced)
- 1 cup tamarind pulp
- 5 cups water
- 1/4 cup kerisek
- 1 cup vegetable oil
For the spices (to be finely ground)
- 2 lemongrass, sliced
- 4 shallots, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 cm fresh turmeric, sliced
- 3 tbs chopped galangal
- 1 tbs chopped fresh ginger
- 4 tbs dried chili paste
- 1 heaped teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 cm shrimp paste
Heat the oil in a pot then saute the ground spices until cooked and aromatic. Put the chicken pieces and allow to cook until the chicken pieces look firm and are almost cooked. Mix the water with the tamarind pulp, squeeze the tamarind juice (discarding the seeds) and pour the juice into the pot with the chicken and spices. Bring to the boil, stir in the kerisek, season with salt and sugar and allow to simmer for ten minutes. Right before turning off the heat, put in the kaffir lime leaves and the halved ginger torch buds. Serve hot with a sprinkling of the sliced ginger torch buds.