The Minimalist Cambodian Ginger Fry

Jinja tipped me off about a recipe in the New York Times for The Minimalist Cambodian Ginger Fry (login required). NYT’s coverage of Cambodia (and food) is always good for a laugh, so here is their version of trei chien chnay.

Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, as needed
½ pound ginger, preferably thin-skinned
1½ pounds snapper, sea bass, catfish or other firm, white-fleshed fillet, cut into large chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup flour
1 cup cornstarch
4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 tablespoon good soy sauce or fish sauce (nam pla)
Cilantro leaves for garnish.

1. Choose a pot that will accommodate the fish chunks in one layer. Add 2 to 3 inches of oil, turn heat to medium-high, and bring to 350 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, peel ginger (if skin is thin, this is best accomplished with a spoon) and julienne it, slice it thinly, or peel strips with a vegetable peeler. When oil is hot, fry ginger until lightly browned, about 10 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary so the temperature remains nearly constant. Meanwhile, season the fish with salt and pepper, and combine flour and cornstarch in bowl.

3. Remove ginger with slotted spoon and set aside. Dredge fish lightly in the cornstarch-flour mixture, tapping to remove excess, and slowly add pieces to oil, again adjusting heat as necessary so temperature remains nearly constant. Fry, turning once or twice, until fish is lightly browned and cooked through (a skewer or a thin-blade knife will pass through each chunk with little resistance). Remove with slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels.

4. Fry scallions for 15 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon; drain. Refry the ginger for about 30 seconds, then remove and drain. Put fish on plate and garnish with ginger and scallions; drizzle with soy sauce or fish sauce, top with cilantro, and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

I haven’t eaten the actual Cambodian reference point for this recipe. The closest thing that I can think of is much more similar to Mylinh’s recipe at Khmer Krom Recipes with the whole fish deep-fried and a good handful of non-fried ginger shards over the top. Interesting.

6 thoughts on “The Minimalist Cambodian Ginger Fry”


    I say that trying to introduce “salt and pepper” absolutely everywhere is a strong kind of ethnocentrism and so of cookery racism. Actually even in western country people have stopped to “salt and pepper” everything. It is reactionary cooking. Where is the fish sauce? Where is that incomparable deglazing smell around the apartment that makes you think “oh it’s Asian tonight”? Obviously not in New York…

    I shall boycott New York Time from now.

    Salt and pepper…

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