Thursday, 3 May 2012

The story of Daun Kesum

"don't forget daun kesum", echoed my husband if he knew I'll be cooking masak asam tumis Melaka. It's one of his favorite dish. The thing is I always forget to include this herb in this dish and he was my constant reminder. This herb is a must for its aroma and taste. And I'm surprised at myself as to why I keep forgetting this herb and not the rest. Funny though, but that's me. I now have a pot of daun kesum in my herbs collection so I shouldn't forget again, insha'Allah :)

Daun Kesum 

I have read somewhere in the internet that they propagate through cuttings. Roots will form between the nodes (see pic below) when soaked in water for a few days. I tried a number of times but no sign of root forming at all. Probably, it works for fresh and newly-picked daun kesum and not the ones which I bought from the supermarket shelves. Anyway, since I was passing along Sg Buloh area the other day, I stopped by at Delima Tani and brought home a pot of beautiful fragrant daun kesum :) Problem solved. Just need to water it twice daily. Not so much water though.

Nodes of daun kesum

The dish "masak asam tumis Melaka", is synonym with Melaka. When Melaka is mentioned, the first thing that comes to most Malaysian mind is masak asam tumis. The way my mom used to cook it was to sautee chili paste (blend of dried red chillies with belacan, shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric) with salt and lemongrass till fragrant. When the paste changes color to dark red, thick tamarind juice is added followed by daun kesum and water. Bring to boil after which vegetables (ladies finger or 'choy sum') are added. Let it boil before adding in your favorite fish (mine would be mackerel or red snapper). Simmer until the gravy thickens and taste it before adding in more salt (if necessary).

Alternatively, you may cook with chicken or beef but omit vegetables totally. Extra ingredient, galangal, needs to be added to the chili paste.
Truly, a mouth-watering delicacy which you wouldn't want to miss on your next trip to Melaka :) My husband would drive all the way to Melaka, which is 90km from Kuala Lumpur, just to savor this delicacy for lunch. Can you believe that?

If you are not familiar with Melaka, it is the historical city of Malaysia. Significant historical events happened here. Most fascinating city with rich heritage of culture and cuisine from the many ethnic groups of people there. Malay, chinese, indians, nyonya-baba, portuguese,  javanese, to name a few.

If you have not been there, make her your next holiday destination. You will never regret it. And what do you know? HRH the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Princess Kate will be coming to Melaka in early 2013! Instead of HRH Queen Elizabeth II who is too weak to travel long distance. I remember shaking hands with HRH the Queen when she came in early 70s and I was very little then. I'm from Melaka, you see. For more information on Melaka, check out lonely planet recommendations here :)


  1. Aha, fresh daun kesum plucked from your pot of herbs, just like Jamie Olivier style ;P

    I like daun kesum in asam laksa; a must have for me. Wow, Ash, you are certainly a great cook. My mouth is watering as I read your description of the cooking process.

  2. Actually, I'm turning into Jamie Oliver now I guess haha.. With pots of herbs and recipes to go with it, wow, like 'happening' only :D
    Recipes are all my mom's. Try it. She was the Iron Chef! She didn't cook laksa so much so that's why I'm not good at it.


Thanks for your lovely words...