Part of the fun of travelling is visiting local markets and sampling the local cuisines.
Cambodian cuisine is traditionally simple and fresh with an emphasis on layers of flavours from fresh herbs and spices, resulting in dishes with delightfully contrasting textures and flavours.
When we were in Cambodia in June 2018 we participated in a cooking class. A wander around the garden to identify the various herbs and spices we were going to use was followed by the preparation of three dishes, under the guidance and watchful eye of the local chef, which we then enjoyed for lunch.
Amok Trei or Fish Amok was a favourite dish we created. This is a Cambodian fish curry cooked in a paste made from fresh lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaf, garlic, tumeric, chilli and shrimp paste. The paste and fish were then cooked in coconut cream and egg resulting in a lovely, fragrant dish without being spicy hot. Here’s the full Fish Amok recipe from the Cambodian Cooking School, run by Beyond Unique Escapes:
- 100g firm white fish such as warehou
- 10g fresh spinach, or thinly sliced broccoli or silverbeet leaves
- ½ cup coconut cream
- 1 tsp dried chilli paste or fresh chilli deseeded, chopped, and pounded
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 small piece galangal
- 1 stick lemongrass
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp oil
- ½ tsp shrimp paste
- 1 shallot
- ¼ cup water
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 kaffir lime leaf
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp vegetable stock powder
- Slice and chop the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaf, garlic, and shallot. Pound until very fine, add turmeric powder, shrimp paste and dried chilli and continue to pound until they are well mixed into a paste. This can be done either with a mortar and pestle or a food processor.
- Heat a pot on low heat, add the paste and stir until fragrant. Add half of the coconut cream and when it boils add the fish (or chicken). Cook for several minutes before adding the remainder of the coconut cream, and water.
- Cook on a low heat until the meat is cooked. Add the fresh spinach/broccoli/silverbeet leaves.
- Add vegetable stock, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pepper, and egg. (Use chicken stock for Chicken Amok.)