Babi assam – meaning tamarind pork – is a prime example of how the Straits Chinese or Peranakans combine Chinese and Malay flavours.
Fermented soya beans from China are melded with common Malay ingredients – tamarind, shrimp paste and chillies – in a slow, long simmer.
The heat and tangy tamarind tenderize the pork belly till it melts in the mouth. The mix of lean and fat pork is juicy and moist, and the pork rind is soft and gelatinous. The spicy and tart flavours really whet my appetite, even when the weather is super hot and saps my energy. In short, it's sheer heaven. This is fusion cuisine at its best, first created decades ago before anyone invented the phrase.
|TAMARIND PORK (BABI ASSAM)|
Source: The Best of Singapore Cooking, Mrs Leong Yee Soo
(Recipe for 6 persons)
90 g shallots
1 tbsp belachan
4 tbsp oil
2 tbsp fermented soya beans, pounded or blitzed in a chopper
½ tsp salt
1 chicken cube
2 tbsp sugar
570 g pork belly, cut chunky about 4 cm (1½ inches) thick
30 g tamarind, mix well with 285 ml water and strain
8 green chillies, slit halfway lengthwise
6 red chillies, slit halfway lengthwise
Pound or grind candlenuts, shallots and shrimp paste till fine. Heat oil in a wok and and fry the mixture till fragrant and light brown. Add fermented soya bean paste, salt, chicken cube and sugar. Stir over low heat for a short while.
Add pork with ⅓ of tamarind juice. When pork begins to change colour, add red and green chillies and remaining tamarind juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer till tender, 45-60 minutes. While cooking, add a little water if gravy is too thick. Serve hot.