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Friday, April 25, 2014

Sambal belacan terung asam: Sharing a nyonya recipe

Sambal belacan terung asam: Sharing a nyonya recipe

Recipe contributed by Teck Neo

Back in the 1950s, our family used to live in a small kampung ( village ) in Batu Berendam, Melaka. We, kampung kids, would spend a great deal of our free time roaming and exploring the neighbourhood. We would scour the nearby jungle for edible berries and fruits and gather the young shoots of edible ferns such as paku pakis that grew in abundance at the edge of the mangrove swamps. I remember, among the wild fruits we used to gather were the terung asam or sour eggplant. Mother would use the fruits to prepare a nyonya condiment called sambal belacan terung asam.

A terung asam plant

The terung asam plant ( solanum lasiocapum ) is a woody, thorny, perennial herb with broad leaves that grow to a height of one to two metres. 

The green immature fruits and the orange ripe fruits

The terung asam plant  bears round sourish fruits which are green when immature and turn yellow or orange when they are ripe. 

The thorny stems with orange fruits

Today, with rapid development and urbanisation it is rather difficult to find the terung asam plant growing in the wild.

Recently, my wife and I dropped in at my sis place in Ujung Pasir, Melaka and my brother-in -law showed us a terung asam plant growing wild in their backyard and helped to pick some ripe fruits for us.

Picking terung asam fruits

We were pleasantly surprised to find out that my sis had also prepared the essential ingredients for making sambal belacan terung asam. She then took the time and trouble to show my wife how to prepare the condiment.

Showing the procedure for making 'sambal belacan terung asam'.

When, we left the house we were not only presented with the sambal belacan terung asam which she had prepared, but also 'tapau'  for us a container filled with lemak sayur made from various vegetables such as pucuk kaduk, pucuk keledek, bayam and daun kunyit  to go with the sambal.
Later in the day, as our fingers dug into steaming white rice, topped generously with the lemak sayur and perfectly complemented by the sambal belacan terung asam, I began to reflect about those distant days when mother would use her culinary wizardry to whip out mouth-watering dishes from ordinary plants and herbs that grew in the wild. These wild food ought to be recorded and preserved for posterity and their 'secret' recipes shared with others, before they are lost and forgotten.

Below is the recipe and procedure for preparing the sambal belacan terung asam.


1.  An inch cube of  belacan ( dried shrimp paste )
2. 6 fresh red chillies
3. About 10 ripe terung asam fruits
4. 1 stalk torch ginger flower bud ( bunga kantan )
5. 1 large red onion
6.  Sugar


Belacan ( dried shrimp paste) and fresh red chillies

The sambal belacan paste

1. Heat up a wok or pan on low heat and toast the belacan until 
    aromatic. Pound or grind the toasted belacan and red chillies into
    a coarse or fine paste, according to preference.

Terung asam fruits, torch ginger flower bud and large red onion

A bowl of sliced terung asam, torch ginger and red onion

2. Peel the terung asam and slice thinly.

3. Slice the onion and torch ginger flower bud ( bunga kantan )

4. Mix well the sambal paste together with the sliced terung asam,   
    onion, and torch ginger flower bud.

5. Add sugar to taste

My sis, preparing the sambal belacan terung asam

The yummy sambal belacan terung asam

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