Make a bowl of Penang Asam Laksa with Trevally Fish

Yes, we are talking about the rich in history bowl of Asam Laksa! There are many forms and layers of Laksa that were created in various generations of Malaysians or other parts of Southeast Asia. But this dish found its roots from a place where holds many delicious delicacies (Penang, Malaysia) and Penang Asam Laksa is suspected to be introduced by the Peranakan Nyonya folks. This dish is said to be enjoyed by many Malay and Chinese fishing community in the past, as this was probably a dish where they get to use almost every inch of the fish and even throwing in the small bony fishes that where caught together with the other bigger fishes in their fishing net.

You are probably wondering by now, what’s with the trevally fish of all other fishes to be used for Asam Laksa. A typical fish used for cooking this dish is mackerel (Ikan Kembong) but after going on a “fulfilling” fishing trip recently where we caught a good 60 plus trevally fishes. The amount of trevally caught, meant that I had to explore other ways of cooking this particular fishes. As we often prepare this fish dish either by HK style steam, Asam fish with vegetables or pan fry fish. And unknowingly, the craving for a cold bowl of chendol has derive my thoughts of another Penang classic. Which is the flavorful Penang Asam Laksa. This dish is simply flavorful as you get to taste a nice balance of spicy, sweet, sour in a single bowl, the ingredients also allows the taste of the fish to be pleasantly pungent.

So where did this recipe came from, it has to be my Nyonya grandma Susan who cooks this dish for the family aleast once a month or two. Here it goes!


1 Clove of Garlic

500g (16oz) Shallots

1 Thumb-sized Piece of Turmeric

1 Tablespoon of Shrimp Paste (Blachan)

1 Tablespoon of Chilli Paste
10 Stalks Lemon Grass



2 Tablespoon of Salt

6 Tablespoon of Sugar

8 Slices Dried Tamarind (Dried Assam)

30 Stalks Polygonum (Laksa Leaf)

2 Stalks of Phaeomaria cut into halves (Rojak Flower)



1-2kg Trevally Fish (Cleaned)

2-4kg Fresh Coarse Rice Vermicelli (Noodles)

6 Tablespoons of Prawn Paste (Black Rojak Paste), mixed with ¾ cup of warm water.



1 Pineapple, diced

900g (32oz) of Cucumber, thinly shredded without skin and centre

55g (2oz) Mint Leave, Picked

225g (8oz) onions, cut into small cubes

15 Green Chilli, sliced

12 Red Chilli, sliced

115g (4oz) Preserved leeks, sliced thinly

170g (6oz) Tamarind

4.5 Litres (160 fl oz) Water



Step 1

Soak Tamarind in 455ml of the water, squeeze and sieve into an enamel saucepan. Repeat the process for three times with the rest of the water.

Step 2

Grind Ingredients A to a fine paste

Step 3

Bring tamarind water to the boil with Ingredients A and Ingredients B

Step 4

Boil for 10mins, add the trevally fish and let the gravy simmer for 15minutes till the fish is cooked

Step 5

Remove the fish and place it to a plate to cool, remove all the bones. Place the “flaked” fish meat in a bowl and set aside.

Step 6

Let the tamarind gravy simmer for 1 hour. Remove the polygonum and phaemomaria.

Step 7

Pour the flaked fish meat back to the gravy to boil and serve.



Step 1

Bring a saucepan of water to a rapid boil. Scald the rice vermicelli and drain a colander.

Step 2

Place a handful of rice vermicelli in a medium size bowl, pour the hot tamarind gravy into the bowl together with some fish over it.

Step 3

Add some garnish on top of the dish and 1 Teaspoon of the diluted prawn paste.



Yes there are three parts to why I love fishing, happy SHOPPING happy FISHING happy EATING! Hope you try out this dish soon and do share a photo of your bowl of Penang Asam Laksa on Instagram by hashtagging #thefishingmarathon

TFM Writer: Gabriel Lin / Home Chef Recipe by:Susan Ho