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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Samlor Kako
Khmer Ratatouille Soup

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Samlor Kako

This is another Cambodian signature dish. Due to the sheer variety of nutritious vegetables used in it, ‘samlor kako’ is considered a health-giving soup. Unlike other Khmer dishes, this can be served as a one-pot dish because it is a reassuringly well balanced meal on its own. Some prefer it as a vegetarian dish where the fish and meat are omitted and replaced by coconut cream and vegetable stock.

Little story
Although this dish is now known as ‘samlor kako’ literally translated as ‘stirring soup’, a Khmer legend called it samlor samlab pdei’ (husband killing soup). 

The legend tells of a woman with a cruel husband. After many years of suffering from being beaten and abused daily by her drunken husband, she wanted to get rid of him. Hoping to poison him, she picked as many varieties of leaves, fruits and roots as she could find from the hedges around their house and used them to make this soup for him. To conceal the bitterness of some of the leaves, she added ground roasted rice; and kept stirring so no ingredients could be identified. When her husband came home, drunk as usual but hungry, he ate the soup she offered him … and a lot of it … then, silently off he went to bed …. She kept her fingers crossed …. The next morning, she was surprised to find that he was still alive and was even in a good mood. He then went to work, came home earlier, was unusually sober, and lovingly asked if she could make the soup for him …. Not yet quite trusting him, she tried the same trick a few more times. The more he ate the soup, the healthier he became and the better he behaved. As a result, she was surprisingly delighted. And, they lived happily together ever after. Take note ladies!

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Trob Put-Nhorng
Pea Aubergine

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Sleuk Ma-raeh
Bitter Melon Leaves

 

 

Serves 4 

Ingredients
Vegetable oil 2 Tbsp
Pork belly
200g (7¼ oz), cut into juliennes
Cat fish (or any firm-flesh fish) 450g (1 lb), scaled, gutted, washed and sliced into 2.5 cm (1 inch) steaks
Prahok(Khmer fish paste) 1 Tbsp, finely chopped (use salted anchovies as an alternative)
Green kroeung1 (green spice paste) 3 Tbsp/70g (2½ oz) see recipe
Tik trei (fish sauce) 2 Tbsp
Palm sugar or light brown sugar 2 tsp
Salt 1 tsp or to taste
Ground roasted rice 4 Tbsp – see recipe
Water 5 cups (alternatively, use fish or chicken stock as it gives more depth of flavour and body to the soup) 

Vegetables2
Pumpkin 1 wedge about 200g (7¼ oz), peeled, seeds removed, cut into bite-size chunks
Green papaya3 1 wedge about 200g (7¼ oz), peeled, washed, deseeded and shredded
Long beans or French beans 2 handfuls – 200g (7¼ oz), washed, top-and-tailed, cut into 3 cm (1¼ inch) lengths 

Green bananas3 2, washed, outer filaments removed (not skin) and shredded (alternatively, use 1 green plantain)
Trob Put-nhorng (Pea aubergine)3 1 pack, stalks removed and washed (about ½ cup), slightly crushed just before using to prevent browning
Small aubergine (eggplant) 1 about 200g (7¼ oz), washed, trimmed, quartered and cut diagonally into 1¼ cm (½ inch) thick
Sleuk ma-raeh3 (bitter melon leaves),) 2 big handfuls, removed from stem and washed (use spinach leaves as an alternative)- insert pic
Bird’s eye chillies3 a few, for garnish 

Method 

1 - Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the pork and stir-fry until light golden brown – about 2 minutes. Then add the kroeung (green spice paste) and then stir-fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Take care that it doesn’t burn. Then stir in the fish and prahok, and continue to fry for a further 2-3 minutes or until the fish is well coated.  

2 - To prevent the fish steaks from breaking, lower the heat, remove them from the saucepan, cover to keep warm and set aside. 

3 - Turn the heat back up to medium, stir in the pumpkin, green papaya and long beans into the saucepan and mix well.  Then pour the water/stock and the roasted ground rice into the mixture. Bring to the boil and cook for 4-5 minutes.  

4 - Return the fish to the saucepan, add green bananas, crushed pea aubergine and aubergine, and bring back to the boil. Lower the heat slightly and continue cooking with lid on for a further 10-12 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the fish is cooked through. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.  Adjust to taste. 

5 - Finally, stir in the bitter melon leaves (spinach) and remove from heat immediately. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with chillies and serve hot with steamed jasmine rice. 

Tips 
1 If short of time, you can use Thai green curry paste which is available at Asian grocery stores. However, you may need to use slightly less as it can be very hot. 

2 This is an extremely versatile dish. Depending on what is available or in season, you can include any of the following:

a - Any type of fish or meat: chicken, pork, quail or partridge (kruoch eut), turtle-dove (lolork trou), pigeon (preab), tortoise (on-doeuk), frog (kang-kep), eel (on-tuong), etc …

b - Any vegetable such as: carrot, courgette, squash, green leaves, Swiss chard, green plantain, any type of aubergine, chayote (shu shu), palm sugar fruit (plae tnaot), moringa oleifera leaf (sleuk marum), sesbania grandiflora (pka angkia-dei), green jack fruit (kna-oh kchey), tips of tomato plant, chilli plant or snowpea (trouy peng poh, trouy mateh, trouy sandaek), ivy gourd leaves – coccinia grandis, etc… 

Prahok, green papaya, green bananas, green plantain, pea aubergine, bitter melon leaves and bird’s eye chillies are available at Asian grocery stores.