Jo, one of my readers, is much more hardcore about fish amok than me. Frankly, I respect that.
Please just allow me to be a French bad surrender monkey and give you a lecture about Amok by correcting a few things. If I agree that there is about one recipe of amok per cook in Cambodia there are some rules so you can call your dish amok.
First of all the krachai (in Thai, ktchey in Khmer, Kaempferia pandatura in Latin, zedoary in English) is the most important spice in amok. You shouldnâ€™t advice not to use it or you amok wonâ€™t taste much different than Samla kti (and that we donâ€™t want, damned no)
Amok paste is nothing but Khmer yellow curry paste mixed with krachai.
Here is a recipe:
1 small piece of fresh turmeric
1 small piece of galangal
2 stem of lemongrass (no green on)
2 garlic cloves
2 kaffir leafs
To turn it as amok paste, just add 3 pieces of krachai.
Second weird thing, shrimp paste: ask any Khmer female cook and youâ€™ll see that you should use prahok (I recommend some good prahok trey compliegn 10000 riel/kg if itâ€™s from the year). A small spoon will do, thinly chopped before being used. Kapi! And why not barbecue sauce too???
Chili? Some people use it for amok. Others donâ€™t. What is sure is that is shouldnâ€™t be fresh chili but always dried (fresh chili is only for salad or Thai curry paste.) Just soak them and chop them thinly, using a bit of palm sugar to make a paste.
Amok is always sweet. So trust me, palm sugar, palm sugar, palm sugarâ€¦
Amok is amok because it is made with slok gno (a leaf from a tree that doesnâ€™t seem to have a good name in English or French. Morinda Citrifolia in Latin.) Itâ€™s available on every local market. The fruit of the tree once ripe has an interesting smell of old spoiled French cheese. The leaf brings a little bit of bitterness and the characteristic taste of Amok. When I go home I usually replace it with Swiss chard green (or spinach at least)
How is your amok going to hold without eggs once you steamed it? If steamed amok is quite popular among expatriated and tourists I would believe that among Khmers the liquid version is the most cooked and ate. The steamed one is originally made to be taken away when people go the rice field.
One last thing. Could we stop decorating amok or soup or whatever with kaffir leafs and chili julienne? Khmer food is delicate and complex enough so it doesnâ€™t have to be ruined with that kind of things. Letâ€™s just leave it to the Thai.
Sorry for that. It had to come out. Have a good day.
(Addendum, 13/03/06, Mid-morning: Jo is a man. Sorry.)