Fish Amok (Amok Trei)

This fish amok recipe is one that I partly ripped off from Frizz Restaurant’s cooking class with a bit of modifying. Usually a small piece of grachai rhizome is added to the spice paste (kroeung), but I’ve left it out to keep things simple. I think you would struggle to find a canonical version of amok: practically every Khmer restaurant cooks a version of it with whatever they have on hand. To cook a fully vegetarian version, use tofu instead of fish, and leave out shrimp paste and fish sauce.

Normally fish amok is steamed in a coconut shell or banana leaf package, but when I’m cooking at home I can’t be bothered fooling around with it, and end up steaming it in a bowl in the steamer.

Ingredients

* 400 g meaty fish or firm tofu
* 1/2 cup coconut cream
* 2 cups coconut milk
* 1 tbsp fish sauce to taste

Kroeung:

* 2 red chilies
* 2 cloves garlic
* 2 tbsp galangal, cut small
* 3 tbsp lemon grass stalk
* zest of ¼ kaffir lime
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tbsp kapi (or any shrimp paste)

Garnish
* 3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly
* 3 cayenne peppers or red capsicum

Make the kroeung by pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, working from driest ingredient to wettest. Slice the fish thinly (or tofu into blocks) and set aside. Slice the kaffir lime leaves and cayenne peppers thinly.

Stir the kroeung into 1 cup of coconut milk, and when it has dissolved, add the fish sauce to taste and sliced fish. Then add the remaining coconut milk and mix well.

Place fish mixture in a small bowl. Steam for about 20 minutes or until the coconut milk is solid, but still moist. Before serving top each bowl with a little coconut cream and garnish with kaffir leaf and cayenne peppers.

Serve with steamed rice.

Addendum (22 March 2006): Try the more recent fish amok recipe for more authentic results.

7 thoughts on “Fish Amok (Amok Trei)”

  1. Dear Phil

    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 you 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 shouldn’t advice not to use it or you amok won’t taste much different than Samla kti (and that we don’t want, damned no)

    Amok paste is nothing but Khmer yellow curry paste mixed with krachai.

    Here is a recipe:
    Yellow paste
    1 small piece of fresh turmeric
    1 small piece of galangal
    2 stem of lemongrass (no green on)
    4 shallots
    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 you’ll see that you should use prahok (I recommend some good prahok trey compliegn 10000 riel/kg if it’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 don’t. What is sure is that is shouldn’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 sugar…

    Amok is amok because it is made with slok gno (a leaf from a tree that doesn’t seem to have a god name in English or French. Morinda Citrifolia in Latin.) It’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 doesn’t have to be ruined with that kind of things. Let’s just leave it to the Thai.

    Sorry for that. It had to come out. Have a good day.

  2. Say hello to my little friend the fifth taste

    I would just like to point out to Jo “Global defender of Khmer recipes” and to Phil (creator of possibly the most up beat and positive Cambodian Blog on the internet) that you are both missing the vital ingredient, the salt of life, the white crystal of flavour, the securer of Ministerial votes (in smaller villages anyway), the big M, the Mono, the Glu that binds all Amoks, M to the S to the G i Izzy.

    “MSG”

    http://www.ajinomoto.com/social/index.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monosodium_glutamate

    Case in point

    http://tools.wikimedia.de/sixdeg/index.jsp?from=MSG&to=Khmer+cuisine

    sorry its Sunday and I am bored……..

  3. I originally wrote the recipe for some friends in Australia: so chances of getting krachai and prahok were pretty low (at least, without some serious hunting). I’ll post a much better, less barang-ised amok soon. cheers.

  4. Food for the God’s………….and its the Lemon Grass that makes it so special.

    I have eaten it on numerous visits to Cambodia and I make it at home in Australia. Everyone loves it.

  5. I had it 5 days in a row when i was in cambodia. Its the best dish in the world ever in the universe. I want some now !!!!!

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