Recipes // Food from the trail
By Keith & Corallie
There's only one type of amok in Cambodia we were informed, with equal measures of humour and seriousness, and that's a river-fish amok; you go into the tourist places and they try to sell you chicken or beef amok or whatever, it's not amok!
In an attempt to get a handle on Cambodian cuisine we had enrolled ourselves for the afternoon at Nary Kitchen cooking school, and so far we had mostly been surprised by the absence of chilli, a staple in Thailand and what we had wrongly assumed to be the case for south east Asia in general.
Cambodian food is therefore generally milder and given the inclusion of sugar (palm or otherwise) in most recipes, sweeter than what we were expecting. Amok, being one of their national dishes, was no exception and a very delicious creamy, mild curry at that. Very fresh coconut milk is one of the key ingredients to the dish and so that's how our cooking lesson began, at the local market getting ourselves some before heading back to the kitchen to create - hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
For one portion;
- 100g white fish fillet - fresh water in our case, quite meaty! (Salmon is a good substitute apparently)
- 1 stalk fresh lemongrass
- 1 Kaffir lime leaf
- 1 cm fresh galangal
- 1 cm fresh turmeric (¼ teaspoon powder)
- 1-2 cm fresh finger root (Chinese ginger)
- 1-2 dried paprika peppers (1-2 teaspoons powder)
- 150 ml coconut milk
- ½ teaspoon chicken stock powder
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 1 Noni leaf (large spinach or kale leaf good too!)
- 2 pieces of banana leaf (if you fancy making a bowl, if not, a small ceramic bowl is a good substitute!)
- pinch of cornflour
The first step is to make the lemongrass paste; rince and soak the dried paprika (if you are able to find!) for a minute to soften; thinly slice the lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaf, turmeric, galangal, finger root and garlic. Place your sliced goodness into a morter and pestle with the shrimp paste and pound for about 10 minutes into a smooth paste (or until your arm feels like it's about to fall off).
Slice the fish fillet (1-2 cm thick pieces) and place into a bowl with the chicken stock, salt, sugar, 100 ml of coconut milk and 1 tablespoon of the lemongrass paste. Stir together until well marinated and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Using your ninja skills, fold the banana leaf into a neat bowl (pro-tip: use toothpicks to hold the corners together and trim the edges once complete).
Remove the bitter stem from the Noni leaf (if you are using) and tear your chosen leaf into small pieces to line the bottom of the bowl. Transfer the marinated fish into the bowl and steam for 15-20 minutes (may take longer if using a non-banana leaf bowl).
Meanwhile prepare some coconut cream; pour 50 ml of coconut milk into a pan and add the cornflour, simmer over a low flame for about a minute whilst stirring until thicker. Once your fish is ready, apply 1 tablespoon of coconut cream to the top and garnish with your thinly sliced Kaffir lime leaf and a few slices of fresh red chilli for colour.
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