Asem-asem buncis represents the perfect harmony of sweet, sour and salty. The dominant flavor here is tamarind, or asem, which also means “sour” in Indonesian – no wonder we call this soup asem-asem!
Tamarind has distinctive flavour and should not be substituted with other sour ingredients such as lemon or vinegar. The latter will produce vastly different results and will significantly alter the taste of the dish. Tamarind is used throughout Southeast Asia and South India, and should easily be found in your local Asian grocer’s. It usually comes in small packs that can be kept for ages.
This recipe calls for a few whole bird’s eye chillies to be added toward the end of the cooking process. They won’t make the soup spicy unless the chillies are broken. If you don’t want to risk it, you can omit the chillies. Do be warned that you will lose the beautiful bright red colour that contrasts with the rest of the ingredients to make the dish pop.
For an extra kick, transfer the chilli to your serving plate and crush it using the back of your spoon. Be extra careful as it may squirt, and chilli juice is a lethal weapon! Put steamed rice on it and ladle the soup. Mix and enjoy!Print
This tamarind-flavoured soup is a perfect balance of sweet and sour. Although green beans are the main ingredient, the soup is given warmth and fullness with beef trimmings or beef chunks.
- 300 gr green beans, cut into 3 cm lengths
- 200 gr baby corn, cut into 2 cm lengths
- 500 gr beef trimmings or chunks of beef
- 7 medium shallots, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 50 gr tamarind
- ⅓ tsp shrimp paste (optional)
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- 4 cm galangal, bruised
- 1.5 ltr water
- 5 tbs sweet soy sauce
- Sugar to taste
- Salt to taste
- 2 red tomatoes, quartered
- 10 bird’s eye chillies
- 3 tbs vegetable oil
- Place all the tamarind in a small bowl, add ⅓ cup of water, rub the tamarind to dilute it in the water to make tamarind juice. Sieve the juice using a fine strainer, then keep aside.
- In a pan, put the beef, salt and water, then cook on high heat until it boils. Once it’s boiled, lower the heat to a small-medium flame. Cover the pot and continue cooking.
- Put the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute the sliced garlic, shallots, shrimp paste, galangal and bay leaves until fragrant, around 4 minutes.
- Add the sautéed spices to the soup.
- Add tamarind juice, sweet soy sauce, sugar and salt to the soup.
- Simmer the soup further for around 45 minutes or until the meat is tender. Adjust the seasoning. It should be a balance of sweet, sour and salty.
- When the soup is ready, add the green beans, baby corn and bird’s eye chillies. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and turn off the heat.
Keywords: Beef, Soup, Green Beans, Tamarind