I’ve been having an argument with a few other Khmer cuisine aficionados that “Royal Khmer Cuisine” never existed before the 1950s and was an elaborate confection of the post-colonisation royalty both as a response to Royal Thai cuisine and France’s desire for Cambodia’s cultural history to mirror its own.
I’ll happily admit that I’m wrong and I am being too much of a smartarse about food and culture.
In part because I recently received a copy of The Cambodian Cookbook of HRH Princess Rasmi Sobhana from reader Jo, originally sold in the 1950s “for the benefit of the Cambodian Red Cross by the American Women’s Club of Cambodia”. It is packed full of recipes for Royal Cuisine, which as far as I can analyse, means that everything contains either three different meats at the same time or veal.
The amok recipe for a “pork amok” is particularly intriguing involving chicken, pork and a pound of crab. The spices are inconsistent with my scant knowledge of amok because I suspect that the ingredients were both Westernised in the translation and by HRH Sobhana’s royal upbringing. Lining the cups with basil is certainly a response to the difficulty of finding slok ngor leaf outside Cambodia, and I suspect that by “citronella” they mean “lemongrass” and “citron” to be substituted by kaffir lime. I have not cooked this amok and will leave to your discretion as to whether it is a futile waste of crab or not.
HRH Princess Rasmi Sobhana’s Amok Chrouk
10 ½ oz pork
10 ½ oz chicken
5 large pimentos
2 T. shelled garlic
2 T. shallots
1 t. romdeng
2 T. chopped citronella
2 t. fennel roots
½ t. zest of citron
Pound the condiments to a paste. Chop fine the pork and chicken. Boil 1 lb of crab and add to the chopped pork and chicken. Add a beaten egg, several T. of coconut milk, salt, pepper, sugar, nguoc-mam. Put into molds or cups, the bottom of which are covered in basil leaves. Cook in a double boiler. Garnish the top with fennel or parsley leaves, and chopped red pimentos.