|Melaka 'Asam Pedas' Goes International
By Mohd Bakri Darus
MELAKA, Nov 1(Bernama) -- ''Asam pedas' is one dish synonymous with Melaka and it's so popular that it is even said that "a trip to Melaka is incomplete without savouring the asam pedas".
'Asam pedas' literally means hot and sour and it's basically a fish or beef in light gravy dish.
The ingredients are dried chillies, shallots, garlic, 'belacan' (prawn paste), ginger, galangal, fresh turmeric, lemon grass, 'daun kesum' (Vietnamese mint), 'bunga kantan' (torch ginger flower), tamarind juice, 'asam gelugor' (Garcinia atroviridis) and daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaves).
To make 'asam pedas', the dried chillies, shallots, garlic, ginger and 'belacan' are ground together, the 'bunga kantan' quartered and the lemon grass and galangal crushed.
The blended ingredients are sauteed with the galangal and lemon grass in a pot until the paste becomes aromatic. Tamarind juice is then added.
Next, the beef or fish is added with the 'daun kesum', 'bunga kantan', 'asam gelugor', 'limau purut' leaves and water. Simmer until the fish or beef is cooked and the dish is ready to be served.
MARKETING THE 'ASAM PEDAS'
Seeing its popularity among foreigners who have had a taste of this dish, a family living near Jambatan Duyung here has taken the initiative to commercialise Melaka's 'asam pedas' and spread the tantalising taste to the rest of the world.
At the outset, Fauziah Karim would only serve her 'asam pedas' for her family but now her recipe is not only widespread throughout Malaysia, but has reached the shores of Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Dublin, London, and South Africa as well.
Syarikat Fauziah Karim Sdn Bhd, established in 2004, is currently selling three types of 'asam pedas' mixture in powder form for fish, beef and the regular 'asam pedas'.
Fauziah, 47, the company's managing director, said her interest in preparing 'asam pedas' was first nurtured by her mother but soon led to a blossoming enterprise.
"Initially, I would cook it for my children at home. Because they have always been business-minded, they convinced me to market my 'asam pedas' as the taste is different from others," said the mother of five.
Consequently, Fauziah decided to share her 'asam pedas' recipe not only among her family members and neighbours, but with everyone else as well.
She said: "Malaysians may be more familiar with curry dishes but essentially these are not Malay dishes but of Indian origin. Hence, I thought, why not introduce 'asam pedas' to the world, especially since it is a Malay heritage.
"If curry and 'tomyam' ready-made condiments are doing well in the market, then why not the 'asam pedas'.
STARTING OFF BY MAKING CAKES
Before establishing her company, Fauziah had been making confections such as 'dodol', a sticky sweetmeat made from glutinous rice flour, coconut milk and palm sugar, to pass time and supplement the family's income.
During the early stages, Fauziah only sold her confections to her neighbours and relatives. However, from 1981 the market for her confections had spread throughout Melaka and to other states.
Because of the good packaging and quality of her products, Syarikat Fauziah Karim's Asam Pedas Powder and Dodol Melaka has successfully penetrated the market via well-known supermarkets and hypermarkets.
Fauziah has entrusted her eldest son, Halim Samsuddin, 27, a graduate of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), to develop the market for her products both in the country and outside.
Halim, the company's executive director, said at least 5,000 packets of their 'asam pedas' condiments were distributed domestically each month.
While their main target market is Malaysia and other Asean countries, Halim added: "In July, we transported a quarter of a container of our 'asam pedas' powder and 'dodol' to Dublin, Ireland.
''The demand from foreign countries is a result of promotional events such as 'asam pedas' cooking demonstrations that the company organises monthly in the respective countries."
AUTHENTIC MELAKA 'ASAM PEDAS'
Consumers need not doubt whether or not Fauziah's 'asam pedas' is a real deal, as her company spent one year researching consumer preferences and other factors before their products were sold to the public.
"We let the public sample our products and asked them if they were satisfactory. When they said our 'asam pedas' still fell short of the authentic taste, we revamped our recipe repeatedly until we struck a perfect formula.
"Sure, we might have already had a recipe in hand that fit our preference, but we also wanted to get feedback from the public so that we could improve on our 'asam pedas' to make it as tasty as possible," said Halim.
He disclosed that the company was contemplating building a bigger factory to accommodate the increasing demand for their products. In addition, it will also be opening an agro-tourism restaurant that emphasises 'asam pedas' to promote the dish to tourists.
The restaurant will be built with the 'Rumah Melaka' design and will have an area where patrons can choose their fresh fish for the 'asam pedas', as well as a room to promote cottage industry products, fresh fruits and vegetables.
"We have requested from the Melaka government a site in a strategic location for the restaurant. Hopefully, it becomes a must-patronise restaurant for people who want to savour 'asam pedas'," said Halim.
Besides that, patrons will also get to bring home a packet or two of the delicious 'asam pedas' from the restaurant.