Apart from being defined by discernible differences in taste and textures, many cuisines are also distinguishable by looking into the ingredients and condiments used in their recipes. Miso is uniquely Japanese just as one would associate oyster sauce with Chinese cooking. Mention fish sauce and one immediately relates it to Thai and Indochinese cuisines. Middle Eastern cuisines, be it Arabian, Jewish, Turkish or Persian also have their own special range of ingredients. Turkish apricots and figs, Iranian pistachios, rose water, sumac etc… are just some of the things that reminds me of this group of cuisines which have influenced the structuring and development of one another for centuries. And just as with the sauces and pastes I’d mentioned earlier, Middle Eastern cuisines too have their own unique concoctions adopted to boost the rich and piquant flavours many dishes from this region are well-known for. Pomegranate molasses must surely be one of them.
We cook asam fish all the time at home. In fact, whenever the belimbing trees are laden with fruits, those few days are asam fish days. For us at home, Ikan Gerang Asam is the default way of cooking asam fish. But of course there are geographical variations to how asam fish is cooked. Ikan Gerang Asam, the Melakan peranakan of preparation depends heavily on the use of daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaves) amidst other fresh ingredients like lengkwas (galangal ginger) to work up the aromatics! And that most certainly helped to work up an appetite! When I was preparing Laksa Belut Perlis, the famous eel laksa from the most northern Malaysian state in the Peninsula, all the rempah (blended ingredients) were basically boiled together with the broth base without any sautéing. But yet, it was still very delicious. And this month’s MFF brings me down all the way to the far south, to the bordering state of Johor for Ikan Pari Asam Pedas.