Angkor Wat

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Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
now a world heritage site
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Kroeung Kary Saraman
Saraman Curry Paste

 

 

Kroeung is one of the many pre-prepared ingredients in Khmer cuisine. Unlike other Khmer kroeungs which can be used in several dishes, this one is specifically for  'saraman curry'.

One advantage of kroeungs is that they can be  prepared before hand and refrigerated or frozen.

In the past,  most Khmer wives did not go out to work.  They stayed at home to raise kids and cook to feed the family. As kroeungs are the essence of Khmer cooking, knowing how to make good kroeungs was one of the criteria used by mothers to choose  prospective  daughter-in-laws for their sons.  The way to identify this quality in a girl would  be to listen to the sound of the pounding when  she makes her kroeungs. If she can produce a quick pounding sound in a steady rhythm,  the mothers would know that her kroeung is very smooth, and so she should be able to produce good food for their sons. 

With the help of modern kitchen utensils, that time has gone.  Kroeungs can be easily made using much less time providing we have all the fresh ingredients at hand.  

However, if you are like me, working full time and coming home exhausted, making kroeung can sometimes be the last thing on your mind. Although  nothing can beat freshly home-made kroeung, commercial alternatives can be just as good. I sometimes use the Thai masaman paste - though do be cautious as some brands can be very spicy and may contain monosodium glutamate. 

Galangal

 Galangal Bush

 

Makes about 300g / 10oz of kroeung
                                                                                                                                                  

 Ingredients:

100g / 3½ oz dried large red chillies[1] seeded, 
   soaked, drained, and finely chopped (or 1tbsp of 
   cayenne pepper powder)
150g / 5oz lemon grass or 5-6 stems, very thinly  
   sliced[2] 
10 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
6 Asian shallots or 4 European ones, peeled and
    roughly chopped 
2 tsp coarse sea salt
2cm galangal, peeled, sliced and chopped
6 kaffir lime leaves or rind of half a kaffir lime,
   sliced and chopped
1 heaped tablespoon ofkapi (shrimp paste) 

Dried spices:
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (cilantro seeds)
star anise
cloves
2 cm cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
6 cardamoms pods, crushed,  keep the seeds and  
    discard the shells

Kroeung photo to come...

Method:

1. In a wok, dry-fry all the dried spices over a low heat, tossing them constantly for about 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from heat and while it is still hot, use a mill / grinder or a pestle and mortar to turn it into powder. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2. If using a mill or a small grinder, process all the fresh ingredients first until smooth, then add the ground dried spices. Continue to process until fully mixed. 

3. Using the unwashed pestle and mortar, add all of the fresh ingredients[3]except Kapi to the mortar, pound them until smooth; then add the dried ground spices and kapi; continue pounding until you have a smooth paste.  This can be kept refrigerated[4] for a few days.

4. As a guideline, 50g of kroeung is sufficient for 200g of beef, pork or chicken. If you prefer a stronger curry, use more. 

     

Note:  Making kroeung, especially this type, is a time-consuming process.  Therefore, when time permits, it is a good idea to make larger quantities; pack it in small individual plastic bags or boxes, and freeze them for when needed. 

Tips:
[1] Dried large red chillies can be bought in Thai / Chinese food stores - or can be substituted with dried California chillies if you live in the USA.

[2] Trim off the hard part at the root end of the lemon grass. Remove outer layers of the stems. Use about 12cm / 5 inches of the thick part of the stems. To save time, frozen sliced lemon grass can now be bought in Asian food stores.

[3] If using a pestle and mortar, start with the hard and tough ingredients such as lemon grass and galangal;  followed by soft ingredients such as shallots and kapi. If using a grinder or food processor, do it the other way round - soft and watery ingredients first. If the mixture is dried, adding a tablespoon of water will help.

[4] When refrigerating the kroeung, add a thin layer of oil on top of the kroeung to maintain its freshness.