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the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
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Samlor Mchou Kroeung Sach Ko
Tamarind Beef Soup


This is one of my favourite soups. Its sweet, tangy, spicy taste is enhanced by the distinctive aroma of curry leaves – ‘sleuk kantrob’. Stewing/braising beef is commonly used, though there are a few regional variations of this dish. For example, some omit vegetables; some use a different souring agent krasaing’ (wood apple) or ‘sleuk tnung’ (a type of vine leaf with a taste similar to  sorrel) instead of tamarind; others prefer it with coconut cream.

 Sleuk Kantrob
Curry Leaves

Plae Krasaing
Wood Apple

Did you know …
Cuts such as chuck steak,round, flank and brisket are classified as less tender meats, but they are the most flavourful. In the West, people use the acidity of wine and beer to enhance the tenderizing effect during cooking in dishes such as ‘boeuf bourguignon’ and ‘Irish stew’. In Cambodia, we use the juice of pineapple or green papaya to tenderise meats. Kiwi juice can also be used for this purpose. However, make sure that you don’t use these on chicken as the bromlain, papain and actindin enzymes in these fruits will turn it mushy.

Sleuk Tnaing
Khmer Sorrel Leaves

Serves 4 


Vegetable oil 3 Tbsp
Kroeung samlor machou1 (yellow spice paste) 3 Tbsp about 70g (2½ oz) – see recipe
Stewing or braising beef 800g (1¾ lb), thinly sliced ½ cm (¼ inch) thick
Fish sauce 2 Tbsp
Prahok2  ½ Tbsp, finely chopped (use anchovies as an alternative)
Palm sugar or light brown sugar 1 Tbsp
Beef or chicken stock 4 cups (1.8 lb) – water can be used as an alternative
Concentrated tamarind juice3 3 Tbsp 
Salt ½ tsp or to taste 

Large aubergine4 (egg-plant) 1, washed, cut into batons of 4 cm x 1.5 cm (1¾ inch x ⅝ inch)
Trakuon2 (Chinese watercress/water spinach) 1 bunch, washed, cut into 5 cm (2 inch) lengths, soaked in water, drained just before cooking to prevent browning
Sleuk Kantrob2 (curry leaves) 1 handful (about ¼ cup)
Bird’s eye chillies a few, sliced into rings or whole for ganish 


1 - Stir-fry the oil and yellow spice paste in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium low heat for 1 minute or until fragrant. Take care to avoid burning. 

2 - Add the beef, fish sauce, prahok, salt and sugar, and stir-fry for another 2 minutes or until the meat is well coated. Then, add the stock (or water) and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes with the lid on - or until the beef is tender5

3 - Meanwhile, heat a wok over high heat until very hot and dry-fry the curry leaves until they become slightly brown – about 30 seconds. Remove from heat immediately, transfer to a bowl and set aside. 

4 - When the beef mixture has finished simmering, stir in the aubergine, water spinach, tamarind juice and half of the curry leaves. Bring to the boil and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are tender – stirring occasionally. Adjust to taste. 

5 - Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the remaining curry leaves and chillies. This dish pairs well with cooked jasmine rice. 


1 If short of time, use Thai sour curry paste (Kaeng Leung) which can be found in supermarkets or Asian food stores. 

2  Prahok (fermented fish paste), Chinese watercress and curry leaves are available at Asian food stores. 

Concentrated tamarind juice is available at Asian food stores, and so is a tamarind block from which you can, if preferred, extract fresh juice - see technique

4  If preferred, you can use ‘trob sruoy’ (a type of small round Asian egg-plant)  which is available at Asian grocery store. 

5 To help tenderise the meat, if you like, substitute 1 cup of pineapple juice drink instead of one cup of stock (or water) and 1 Tbsp sugar.