Angkor Wat

angkor_wat
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
now a world heritage site
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Prahok Ktih
Coconut Pork Prahok Dip

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Trob Put-Nhorng
Pea Aubergine

Prahok is a fermented fish paste. Its grey colour, strong aroma and intense flavour can be overwhelming to Westerners. However, like fish sauce, the smell disappears completely during cooking. Its flavour, somehow, enhances any dish to which it is added.

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 Prahok
Khmer Fermented Fish Paste

In addition to being an important ingredient in Khmer cuisine, prahok can also be eaten raw or cooked accompanied with vegetables, as a main dish.

Did you know …
‘Prahok’ is nicknamed ‘Cambodian cheese’ by some foreigners who have experienced it in Cambodia. Despite its reputation, I can assure you that prahok’ is not (to Westerners’ nose) as smelly as the ‘durian’ fruit or the French cheese, ‘Vieux-Boulogne’. These two smell so bad that they are banned from public transport and hotels.

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Thourain
Durian

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Mteh Bok Korean
Korean Red Pepper Powder

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Plae Kra-saing
Wood Apple

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Sandaek Kour
String Beans
 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Coconut milk11 x 400ml tin (13.5 oz)
Kroeung (yellow curry paste) 2 Tbsp – recipe
Boneless prahok (Khmer fish paste)2 2 Tbsp, very finely chopped
Dried red chillies (dried Mexican chillies)3 4, soaked to rehydrate, drained, deseeded and finely chopped into a paste (alternatively, use 2 Tbsp of Korean red pepper powder)
Palm sugar or light brown sugar 2 tsp
Fish sauce 1 Tbsp 

Minced (ground) pork 450g (1 lb)
Pea aubergine2 1 cup, washed and dry-fried for a few minutes and set aside (do not use them raw as they can impart an acrid taste into the dish)Kaffir lime leaves 6, centre vein removed, rolled together and cut into very fine strips
Tamarind juice 1½ Tbsp – recipe (alternatively, use 1 Tbsp of concentrated tamarind juice4

Vegetables
White cabbage 4-5 small wedges
Cucumber 1, washed and sliced
Aubergine (eggplant)5 1, washed and cut into bite-sized chunks
Sandaek kour (string beans) 2, washed and cut into 4 cm (2 inch) pieces (French beans are good substitute)
Water spinach (morning glory)1 bunch, washed – or any of your favourite vegetables, raw or cooked
Lime or lemon 1, cut into 4 wedges
Bird’s eyes chillies – a handful 

Method 

1 - Separating & boiling coconut cream
Scoop out 180 ml (¾ cup – nearly ½ tin) of the thicker part known as coconut cream from the top of the tin into a wok or skillet (leave the coconut milk in the tin and set aside). Bring the coconut cream to the boil over medium high heat until you can see oil starting to separate from the cream – about 3 minutes (It should reduce by one third). 

2 - Frying kroeung & pork
Add in the kroeung, prahok, chilli paste, palm sugar, fish sauce and stir-fry until fragrant. Then add the pork and stir-fry until cooked (2-3 minutes) - make sure that the pork is well broken up. Stir in the roasted aubergine, half of the kaffir lime leaves, tamarind juice and the coconut milk, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to simmer for 12-14 minutes or until it thickens. Adjust to taste. 

3 - Serving
Transfer to a bowl, garnish with the rest of the kaffir lime leaves and place in the middle of a large serving plate. Then arrange all the vegetables, wedges of lime and chillies around it for all to share. Serve with steamed rice.

Tips

1   Freshly made coconut cream/milk extracted from ripe coconut fruit taste best. It is however a time-consuming process to make it. If you are a full-time worker, it is fine to use the tinned version. It tastes just as good but make sure it contains at least 60% coconut extract.

Although prahok is called ‘paste’, it is not the typical smooth type. Prahok can be bought at Chinese or Thai grocery stores. It is normally sold under the name of ‘Fermented fish’. Pea aubergine can also be found at Thai grocery stores – or you can use frozen peas as a substitute.

3 Dried red chillies or the Korean red pepper powder can be bought at Asian grocery stores. If not available, 1 Tbsp of paprika (plus 1 tsp of chilli powder) is a good substitute.

Both types of tamarind juice can be found at Asian food stores. In Cambodia, when in season, some prefer to substitute 3 Tbsp of wood apple flesh for tamarind juice.

People in the northern part of Cambodia prefer their aubergine (eggplant) fried (recipe). I must admit, if you have time, it is worth the trouble as this adds an extra depth of flavour to the dish.