The asam paya is not available the whole year through. But it is a pleasure to see lots of it in the indigenous market.
today Asam Paya is found as bottled or canned drinks. And there is also bottled asam paya pickles. But nothing is as good as freshly plucked asam paya.
Paya means swamp in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Iban. Asam means sour or acid.
The fruit as show in the photo is pretty and is similar to buah salak (a kind of tropical fruit). It is shiny and juicy when fresh. When exposed to the elements for many days the asam paya fruit shrivels up and the skin cracks. Always buy the freshest of the fruits whenever possible. Old ones are very light and would not give you enough juices. Each tray below is RM 1.00. When ever there is a shortage of asam paya the consumers have to pay up to RM3 or RM 5 ringgit per tray. Actually it is very difficult to harvest these fruits in the swamps. Think of snakes and other dangers lurking in the wild!! And of course some crocodiles in the river.
Umai Recipe (Sarawak Shashimi)
1 kg.ikan tenggiri or fresh squid
1/2 kg Asam Paya
10 chillies (pounded fine)
a small knob of young ginger
a little bit of belacan
one small young yellow ginger (kunyit) leaf
some salt to taste
some sugar to taste
juice from five young calamansi
thin slices of calamansi skin
(optional : a bowl of cleaned bean sprouts)
Method of preparation
take away the skin of the fish and take only the flesh and slice thinly. Wash fish slices with some water and marinade with onions and yellow ginger leaf. Add pounded chillies.
Clean squid and slice thinly. Blanche in hot water until fairly cooked. Marinade as for fish above.
3. How to prepare the asam paya
Take away the hard skin and slice the flesh thinly. Throw away the seed.
4. Final preparation
Place fish slices in a fairly big bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients. Finally add the asam paya slices and mix well. Add salt to taste. Finally squeeze some lime juice into the mixture. Add thin slivers of the calamansi skin and the thin slices of yellow ginger leaves a garnish.
p/s If asam paya is not in season or not available in your part of the world use calamansi juice as a substitute. I have prepared umai using a whole grape fruit too to make a very delectable raw fish dish (with calamansi juices also)...it was a great fusion...Western Umai?
It is good to improvise at times when friends around you are appreciative and not critical. A hungry bunch of friends is the best when you are short of some ingredients and your creative juices start to flow.