Amok in the Khmer Kitchen
While in the bustling capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, we had the opportunity to learn a bit more about one of our favorite Khmer dishes, traditional Amok, which refers to the process of steam cooking curry in banana leaves. While popular throughout Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, we really enjoyed fish amok prepared in southern Cambodia with the catch of the day and were especially curious to learn how to prepare this in the traditional Khmer way.
After a shopping tour of the Boeung Keng Kang market, where locals were picking up ingredients for their daily meals, we made our way to the lovely Le Table Khmere restaurant and workshop for our lesson with the wonderful instructor, Khai. We started with shredding green mangos and carrots for a Green Mango Salad, moved on to preparing the main course of Traditional Amok, and finished with a Banana and Coconut Tapioca Pudding. Almost as much fun as learning the Khmer cooking techniques, we end the class by sitting down together to enjoy our delicious creations.
Recipe of Traditional Amok
From Le Table Khmere restaurant, Phnom Penh
2 cloves, chopped garlic
1 pcs, chopped shallot
2 pcs, finely chopped, kaffir lime leaves
~ 1cm, peeled & chopped galangal
~ 4cm turmeric
depending on how spicy you want, spicy chili
4 stalks ends trimmed, inner tender stalk only, finely chopped, lemongrass
3 pcss grilled big chilis, soaked in water and seedless, wrapped with a palm sugar heart, finely sliced
Place the six first ingredients of the curry paste in the mortar and grind them to a paste. Then add the lemongrass and grind it again. Finally add the grilled big chili and grind it until all spices are well incorporated. Alternatively, you can use a food processor, even though the mortar and pestle will give the curry a deeper flavor. Galangal can be replaced by ginger, and fresh turmeric by 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder.
300g firm, mild white fish filet (e.g. halibut, haddock, true cod or mahi mahi) skin removed, sliced into bite size pieces
300g chicken breast, sliced into bite size pieces
2 knife points shrimp paste
2 tbsp coconut milk
2 egg yolks
4 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp (palm) sugar
2 pinches salt
In a bowl, whisk the curry paste, shrimp paste, coconut milk, egg yolks, fish sauce, palm sugar and salt to combine. Add the fish or chicken and gently folding it into the curry sauce. Take the banana leaves and cut 4 rounds with a diameter of 20 cm. Fold them to a basket by using two rounds per basket. Pour the amok into the baskets and have them steamed for 20 minutes. Serve the amok with a spoonful of coconut cream (the thick cream that rises to the top of the remaining coconut milk) and a few big chili strips as decoration.
Le Table Khmere
11E street 278, Phnom Penh
open from 11am to 11pm
tel +855 (0)12 238 068