Recipe corner: Fish amok

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We asked some of our travel blogger friends for their favourite dishes and food experiences across Cambodia, and here’s what they told us. Scroll to the bottom for Johanna’s tasty fish amok recipe!

Yao hon hotpot

Eating is a very communal activity in Cambodia. Dariece Swift from Goats on the Road recounted her favourite meal in Cambodia, made all the more special because of the shared experience:

“By far, our favourite meal in Cambodia was their version of the hot-pot, yao hon. We ate this meal on numerous occasions and love how communal it is.

“Sitting around a bubbling vat of flavourful broth, while cooking various pieces of meat and vegetables was a fun and interactive way to eat with friends.

“I’ll never forget the night we invited our tuk-tuk driver from Siem Reap out for this meal! We chatted about his home life in Cambodia, we feasted on the hot-pot meal until we couldn’t move, and we drank numerous cheap beers.” – Dariece Swift

Eating in Cambodia (Photo: Goats on the Road)
Eating in Cambodia (Photo: Goats on the Road)

Cambodian BBQ

Food in Cambodia can also be a little unusual if you’re used to Western sources of protein! JB and Renee from Will Fly for Food relived their most memorable dining experience on their recent trip to Cambodia:

“Cambodian BBQ was easily our most memorable [meal]. Similar to Korean BBQ, different types of proteins, vegetables, and noodles are cooked tableside on a small burner. Usual proteins include chicken or beef, but we wanted something a little more exotic so we opted to try kangaroo, crocodile, and snake.  The meat was a little tough but it made for an unforgettable dining experience!” –  JB & Renee

Crocodile meat (Photo: Goats on the Road)
Crocodile meat (Photo: Goats on the Road)

Fish amok

“In Cambodia, we discovered fish amok, a thick, fish-based curry, also very popular in neighbouring Laos and Thailand. It usually contains freshwater fish, lemongrass, chilli, turmeric and coconut milk. It is served in a banana leaf with rice and sometimes a fried egg. A beef, chicken or vegetarian variant (with tofu) can be made. The most unique thing about Cambodia is they make full use of everything, including bugs – full of protein and very easy to maintain. Barbecued tarantula anyone??”Nomadic Boys

Barbecued tarantula (Left: Nomadic Boys; Right: a vendor in Phnom Penh)
Barbecued tarantula (Left: Nomadic Boys; Right: a vendor in Phnom Penh)

Johanna Read at Travel Eater kindly provided us with her recipe for fish amok, which she adapted from the cooking schools of two Siem Reap hotels: The River Garden Hotel and Sojourn Boutique Villas. This recipe first appeared on WorldNomads.com, see the full article here.

In Malay, amok means “to rush into a frenzy” – much as your taste buds will once you try this yummy curry!

Ingredients:

  • Small handful of bitter greens (the leaf of the noni tree, slok ngor, or morinda citriflora, is traditional; but you can substitute Chinese broccoli/kale, spinach, or really any green you like from the Asian grocery)
  • 3 or 4 makrut lime leaves
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves and base removed
  • A baby-finger-sized piece of galangal, peeled (try not to substitute this one as galangal really makes the dish stand out; but if you can’t find galangal, use fresh ginger)
  • A slightly smaller piece of turmeric, peeled (fresh is lovely, but you can substitute 1 1/2 tsp dried)
  • Optional: 4 to 6 dried chili peppers, soaked in water, stems removed (substitute fresh chilli)
  • 1 shallot, peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1-2 tsp sugar (ideally palm sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp fish (eg anchovy) or shrimp paste
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • approx 2 tsp fish sauce, adjust to your desired level of saltiness
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 100ml (1/2 cup) coconut cream (or thick coconut milk), preferably fresh
  • 400g fish, in large chunks (bar fish is traditional, but any firm, white, non-bony fish will do – like sole)
  • 50ml (1/4 cup) chicken stock
  • 50ml (1/4 cup) water

Method:

1. Prep your greens
Cut or tear out the spines of the lime leaves and, if necessary, of the bitter greens you’ve chosen. Roll them up (separately) and then chop into strips about 0.5 cm in width. Use the lime leaves in step two and the bitter greens just before serving.

2. Make a paste
If you’re using a food processor: toss your aromatics (strips of lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, chilli peppers, shallots, garlic) in the machine and process until they become a paste. Stir in the sugar and fish paste.

If you’re using a mortar and pestle: finely chop the lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, chilli peppers, and shallot; grate the garlic. Pound them with the strips of lime leaves until a paste forms. Stir in the sugar and fish paste.

You can use this paste right away, but if you set it aside for an hour or so the flavours make even more magic.

3. Prep your emulsifier
Beat the egg, add the fish sauce and a couple teaspoons of your paste. This will help emulsify your amok and give it a silkier texture.

4. Start cooking
Heat a wok, pot or a large deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the cooking oil. Once hot, add the remaining paste and stir. After a minute or two, your kitchen will fill with a deliciously intense smell.

Once this happens, stir in half the coconut cream. When it boils, add the fish. After a minute or two, add the remaining coconut cream and the egg mixture and stir. Thin to desired texture with the chicken stock and water. Heat on low until the fish is cooked through.

5. Serve
Off the heat, add the strips of ngor or bitter greens. Serve piping hot in individual bowls, with rice on the side.

Cambodian amok (Photo: Travel Eater)
Cambodian amok (Photo: Travel Eater)

Inspired to learn more about Cambodian food? Check out the “Culinary Traditions” section of our website to find out more!

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