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A different kettle of 'asam pedas'

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FISH FOR COMPLIMENT: Restoran Anisofea Asam Pedas Johor Asli offers the ‘real thing‘

THE mere mention of asam pedas is enough to cause many to salivate, and countless debates have arisen as to which state has the best.

Till today, however, a winner has yet to be declared as every asam pedas is unique.

Just the one state of Johor offers several interpretations of the Malaysian favourite.  There are the Batu Pahat version, Muar version, Kluang version and the Segamat version, just to name a few.

Johor Baru, meanwhile, has more than just one variation of the asam pedas. There is the Malay-style Chinese-style and even Minangkabau-style version.

The main ingredient is fish or meat, but it is the gravy that makes all the difference.

Tastes for the dish differ also. Some like it  thick, some soupy, some well-spiced and some, hot and fiery.

In a state swimming with dozens of interpretations of the asam pedas, Datin Salbiah Harun has bravely steped forward to declare her version the original, as the name of her outlet, Restoran Anisofea Asam Pedas Asli, would suggest.

So what constitutes the original asam pedas?

According to Salbiah, that depends on one's tastes, but what is most important is that all the gravy must be made from scratch.

In other words, the ingredients such as chili, ginger, onions, garlic and spices must be freshly blended right in the kitchen -- none of the ready-made pastes, if you please.

At Restoran Anisofea Asam Pedas Asli, the gravy base is made of dried chilies ground into a paste with herbs.

Salbiah, a mother of two, said her family were all asam pedas lovers who had travelled all over in search of the perfect asam pedas -- which ultimately was only to be found at home.

Salbiah's late mother, who was from Kluang, was a good cook and her asam pedas was a much sought-after dish during special occasions.

The recipe has been with Salbiah's family for several generations.

Salbiah is blessed with the ability to cook the asam pedas exactly like her mother did. During festive occasions, requests would pour in for her special dish and she was finally persuaded by her husband, Datuk A. Aziz Ahmad, to open a restaurant, since their children were all grown up.

The restaurant was established about four years ago  at G-07, Block 4, Jalan Mutiara Emas 9/3, Taman Austin Boulevard, here.

The asam pedas with a thick delicious gravy comes in  three sizes. Only the freshest fish are used,

Asam pedas with fish head is priced between RM30 and 35, the tail between RM20 and RM25, and the body between RM16 and RM20.

One has a choice of ikan merah (red snapper), jenahak (golden snapper) and tilapia.

Also available are Johor specialities such as tempe goreng berempah (fried fermented soya bean cakes marinated in herbs) at RM3 per set,  tauhu goreng sambal berkicap (fried bean curd in soy sauce) at RM3 per set, fried herbed quail  at RM7 per set, and ikan tenggiri masin (salted mackerel)  at RM5 a piece.

There are also special blended fruit juices such as air kedondong madu (ambarella  juice with honey). Priced at RM6, it is said to be the perfect pairing for the asam pedas.

Kerabu mangga, or mango salad with sugared squid floss on top, priced at RM6 per plate, is also a dish not to be missed.

For dessert,  try the serawa durian, which is actually durian pulut, priced at RM6.

Most of the dishes at the restaurant are local Johor delicacies made  fresh from home recipes.

For details, call 012-717 3477 or 019-730 6207.

Datin Salbiah Harun serves mostly dishes made according to home recipes. Pix by Jassmine Shadiqe

Datin Salbiah Harun (in black and white tudung) with her daughter (in black tudung), son (in striped shirt) and her staff, who are like family.


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