The old-fashioned way…

I love the way my mum or for that matter, my grandma and aunties, cooked fish or prawns in their own kampung-style sort of way. Some may feel that it is actually assam (tamarind) fish or prawns but I would say that it is not exactly the same in that the end product would have nice clear sourish yellow-coloured soup like this…

STP's udang masak kunyit

This way of cooking is best with udang galah (freshwater prawns) or what the Chinese would call tua-thow hay (big-headed prawns)…

Sibu's freshwater prawns

…which cost a bomb these days, going up to over RM30-40 a kilo. Suitable alternatives would be fish like ikan buris or sai seng, tengirri or bay ka (mackerel) and others, even kembong.

It is very simple to cook really and all you need would be these ingredients…

STP's masak kunyit 1

– a bit of kunyit (tumeric), chili, one or two stalks of serai (lemon grass), some belacan (dried prawn paste) and a piece of assam keping (dried tamarind slice).

Bruise the ends of the serai and pound the kunyit and chili until they’re really really fine…

STP's masak kunyit 2

…or your soup will not be nice and clear.

Dilute the pounded ingredients in water and put the rest of the stuff in…

STP's masak kunyit 3

Hmmmm…it was a bit too red – maybe I added too much chili and there were little bits floating in the water – perhaps I should have pounded everything a bit more. Anyway, I would think that it looked a lot nicer than this assam fish that we had in KL…

Assam fish in KL

Bring that to boil and and simmer until the fragrance from the ingredients comes out and fills the whole house. Put in the prawns or the fish and simmer a while longer for the sweetness of the crustaceans to come out. Add salt and/or msg according to taste.

STP's udang masak kunyit

My attempt at cooking it in that old-fashioned way turned out quite well and I would think it was nicer than what we had before at a restaurant in town…

Claypot assam prawn

There is still room for improvement though – I would prefer it to be a little bit more sour so the next time around, I would add another piece or two of the assam slices and I also feel that a little bit more belacan would be nicer. Other than those, that huge chili that I used was absolutely hopeless – not pedas (spicy hot) at all. If I had known, I would have added a couple of cili padi for that sadly-missing extra kick that my missus and I would have loved.

Whatever it is, I certainly will try it again and again till I get it perfectly right – the way my mum used to cook it.

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

36 thoughts on “The old-fashioned way…”

  1. wow, udang galah eh, these freshwater prawns seriously cost a bomb.. but i used to have some over at Janice’s hometown which was pretty cheap but really nice.

    I envy you, you know how to cook virtually anything!

    Latest: Gyeongbokgung Palace Seoul Korea

    I learn…and I try and eventually, I can. You should too… Can help Janice sometimes and pick up a few tricks here and there. Yup…the prawns are expensive – around RM20 a kg when a lot…and when not in season, can go up to over RM40 depending on the size. 😦

  2. Whah, Arthur you are such a good cook! It sure looks way better than restaurant ones! That sets my tummy grumbling for food at this time of the night! I don’t mind having a big bowl of this for my midnight supper 😀 I remember those freshwater prawns. They are SO fresh and delicious…..mmm. I think I am going to dream of prawns tonight…haha

    LOL!!! You can try cooking this there – it’s so easy…but unfortunately, I don’t think you can get this kind of prawns that we have here. Sweet dreams… Hehehehehehe!!!! 😉

  3. This is great. Will give it a try over the weekend!

    The ingredients would be enough for anything around 500 gms. Have to double that if a kg. so as to be more soupy – my prawns almost a kg. I like drinking the soup and pouring lots of it on my rice. This one not much soup. 😦 That’s the trouble with traditional cooking – all agak-agak.

  4. wow, very nice and i can see how delicious the prawns are from the photo!! but the first photo is more appetizing because of the vibrant color, yours not so colorful leh.. maybe just the photo’s problem?? :p

    Ooi!!! You’re still half asleep, is it? The first photo is mine – one serving…of one prawn with a bit of the soup. Only the fish…and the prawn in claypot not mine. There, in your face, my friend! Hehehehehehehehe!!!!! 😀

  5. OMG! the freshwater prawns are sooo gorgeous! Oh, I love old fashioned recipes, authentic ones, recipes from our grandma and aunties are families best kept secret, thanks for sharing yours

    Yes, don’t we love everything that we grew up eating? Very sad that many never bother to learn and when the old folks pass away, they do not get to eat all those things anymore. All gone for good, all the old traditions! Young people these days are mostly not even interested – more into burgers, pizzas, pastas and the like. 😦

  6. i can imagine how yummy my mee hoon is gonna taste using those soup u have up there!!!

    Goes very well with rice – can make me want to have a second helping! Never ever tried it with noodles so dunno if it is any good.

  7. So this is how we cook kampung-style assam with seafood. When I was craving for this dish while pregnant, I requested for MIL to cook but I did not know the actual ingredients so just asked her to add tamarind and lemongrass into the soup. It tasted very different from what I have in Sarawak. Now I know I missed the most important ingredient: belacan.

    Hah!!! The missing link! The belacan… That is like chicken or ikan bilis stock granules or cubes – will add to the flavour of the soup.Now you can try cooking it. Hope it will be like what you had before.

  8. Wow!!!….I like the way you cooked your prawns, kampung style. Looks so awesome!!!!. Hmmm…now I can feel the sourish taste in my mouth. Definitely goes well with a plate of hot plain rice. Yum!!!!,,,,Yum!!!…

    It certainly is. Have to control…or I would definitely go for a second plate of rice when there’s this! So fat already, mustn’t eat so much…

  9. Somehow we can never master the cooking skill of our elderly. I try to follow my mum’s recipe before, but end up it tasted different. hehehe! maybe the “wok hei” (heat)

    Not really. Maybe it’s the devotion…the love for what they do best…so whatever they cook would be a whole lot nicer than what the children dish out. Another thing is the feel for it! They never follow recipes and cook following their instincts…and somehow they know what is just right, no more…no less. The younger generation do not seem to have inherited that “gift”.

  10. Just looking at the photos and reading your step-by-step recipe make me salivate…can already taste the sourness and spicy in my mouth…hehe. delicious and appetizing 🙂

    Yummmmmm!!!! Give it a try! I’m sure you’ll love it. It’s nice, very very nice! 😉

  11. Yes, definitely more assam and chilli please. I geli a little, looking at those prawn eggs (roe?) 🙂

    Ooooooo….that’s one of the best parts of the prawn, other than the gooey orange red brains! Suck! Suck! Slurpsssss!!!!! So nice! LOL!!! 😀

    P.S. Don’t let your imagination run wild now, eh? 😉

    1. My imagination is very good – no, I won’t let it run wild, just let it run waywardly…and I read between the lines a lot, too! heh heh heh!!

      Don’t we all know that…only too well? 😉

  12. It looks delicious and I’ll love to try it out! 😀

    Where’s the rest of the prawn’s head? It’s the best part, I love it!

    Let’s see how…the next time you come back to Sibu. We usually cut off the top of the prawn’s head…to remove that black thing inside – it is very very bitter, not palatable at all. Have to remove carefully though in case there’s the gooey orange red brain inside – that’s the best part of the prawn. Slurpsssss!!!!! Wouldn’t want to lose that… 😉

    1. Hi Huai Bin 🙂 Haha! you’re another one who eats prawn heads! My hubby eats the entire prawn (deepfried prawns) – head, tail, shell..!

      I eat the shell if it’s fried till very crispy. Chitosan, they say – slimming! Hehehehehehe!!!!!

  13. Arthur, will it taste as good if no belacan is used?

    I don’t think so. But do not add too much or the colour will not be so nice and the taste may be a bit too overpowering…

  14. hubi borong a lot of big head prawns from Tawau last time. I still preferred the other type of prawns

    Tawau? Sea water? Ours here are fresh water prawns…and people here prefer these but many cannot afford them anymore. Too expensive…so we just have to be happy with the sea water prawns. 😦

  15. Looks good! How about adding some lime juice for the sour taste? I love eating spicy dishes with a kick too! Next time must add cili padi! hehe

    Never tried. This is a traditional recipe and originally it was not cooked with assam keping. We used the sun-dried skin of a fruit here called buah alung – red colour with orange flesh inside. Most of us did not like to eat it as it was very very sour…so we just removed the flesh and throw that away…and we dried the skin in the sun to use for cooking dishes like this one. These days, we do not get to see the fruit anymore – near extinct, I guess… 😦

  16. Never mind.. I dont think we mind eating the STP’s style of cooking.. hahahaa.. and my cholesterol reading will naturally be forgotten when I reach there.. 🙂

    You don’t like this kind of cooking leh? No western for you either… I think you prefer Chinese so Chinese, you will get.

  17. So tembam those prawns and you don’t stinge on the prawns either..hehehehe. Hey, this is pretty similar with the Nyonya’s Masak Pindang or the Malay’s Masak Singgang. Use the same rempah and all. I love the gravy and I can just hirup it like that. Most people would eat this whenever they are on a diet or when pantang beranak or some kind of operation. Just omit the belacan and you’ll get a healthy dish….although your prawns tu is not exactly healthy..hahahaha. Nice!

    Without the belacan, will not taste the same anymore. Not as nice, I’m sure…

  18. Hey Arthur, please accept my apology for not visiting you of late, been busy ya… soon will be back

    No worries. Drop by anytime. Always welcome…

  19. This look good! I think i will like it, although they are some belacan in it. Nice to go with a bowl of hot steaming rice. Slurp!

    I’m sure you’ll love it. Can hardly taste the belacan…just a bit of its sweetness – not like those veg fried with belacan – that one very strong. Next time you come back to Sibu, I cook and give to you to try… 😉

  20. i absolutely love hot and sour food. always love tom yum and assam-sorta soups and dishes as they’re so appetizing and tend to make you eat more and more! and they make you easily hungry too. 😉

    and yes, cili padi is a mustttt! it just gives the dishes the extra umpphhhh.

    My missus will agree with you 100% – she can’t eat withou cili…and cili padi some more. Not really crazy about Tom Yam, just ok with it…too many things in it. I like clear soup…and cooked this way, the soup is clear except for the yellow colour.

  21. Damn… udang galah… just the way my mom likes to cook it too. sometimes she used asam telunjuk (small round asam like fingers) to make it sourish.

    I wonder what those are? Definitely not assam paya (like buah salak)…or assam jawa. Are they anything like what the Melanaus call buah alung? In the past, we used the dried skin to cook this – very nice. Not easy to get those here anymore… 😦

All opinions expressed in my blog are solely my own, that is my prerogative - you may or may not agree, that is yours. To each his/her own. For food and other reviews, you may email me at

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: