Authentic Khmer Prahok K’tis Recipe. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Authentic Khmer Prahok Ktis Recipe for Cambodia’s Pork and Coconut Milk Dip

This post may contain paid links. If you make a purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

This authentic Khmer prahok ktis recipe makes the deliciously rich Cambodian dip made from fermented fish, minced pork and coconut milk that is served with fresh crispy vegetables. It also makes a great introduction to the use of Cambodia’s beloved prahok and the herb and spice paste called kroeung in authentic Khmer cuisine.

Made with prahok, yellow kroeung herb and spice paste, minced pork, pea eggplants, some chillies and coconut milk, this prahok ktis recipe – or more accurately, prahok k’tis – is as authentic as they come. But it is also a recipe where you can tone down the amount of prahok as a mild concession to Western palates.

One of the things that restaurants owners in Siem Reap have told us is that when tourists to Cambodia first try prahok ktis, if it’s too ‘fishy’ smelling or it tastes a little like an old French cheese, they automatically think there is something wrong with it, usually because you don’t normally associate pork mince with a fermented aroma.

Once they are assured that it’s fine, many go on to fall in love with the Cambodian dip, despite the fact that their ‘Western’-trained noses tell them the pork dip is ‘off’.

It’s one of the battles that the good Cambodian restaurants face here and it’s often the fault of the polite well-meaning staff who don’t go far enough to explain that it’s actually meant to taste like this. When we dine with visitors keenly interested in learning about Khmer food, we always order it as a great introduction to the key ingredients in this much misunderstood cuisine.

Authentic Khmer Prahok Ktis Recipe for Cambodia’s Minced Pork and Coconut Dip

There is a lot to be gleaned from deconstructing this dish and its combination of ingredients. An immediate reference point for me is the class of Thai relishes known as nam prik. The pungent, fishy, strong flavours of these dips served with either vegetables (raw, cooked or pickled) or rice is one very familiar to Khmer cooks, who have been doing it for many centuries – well before the Thais were.

Pla raa, the Thai version of fermented fish that’s similar to prahok, is said to have been introduced to the Thai by the Laotian people, which could be correct, but we have an inkling that the Khmer people made it first, given the historical timeline. The Thais carted much of the Angkor population, including the cooks, off to Thailand at the end of the glory days of the Khmer Empire.

However, it does make sense that the same practice of fermenting fish would have occurred centuries before in both Laos and the Isaan region of north eastern Thailand (which was for some time part of the Khmer Empire), where freshwater fish is seasonally abundant in the Mekong and many other rivers.

Most certainly there was an exchange of culinary ideas between the Laotians and the Thais, and if you’ve ever tasted the wonderful khao soi from Laos and nam prik ong (a dip with tomatoes and pork), you will taste the connection. Indeed, it is nam prik ong that represents the most obvious link between the Thai nam prik and the prahok based dips of Cambodia.

While nam prik ong uses fermented soy beans and fish paste, prahok ktis uses prahok to give the dish the pungency that Cambodians love so much. But it’s quite conceivable – considering the liberal use of pla raa throughout the nam prik repertoire – that fermented fish was once used to help create this flavour profile.

Take the pea eggplants out of the prahok k’tis and throw in some of those slightly sour tomatoes, and there is a case to be made that the two dips have the same parents. But there is one caveat: coconut milk.

Nam prik recipes do not include coconut milk as an ingredient. More research revealed that another Thai relish that also appears in Khmer cuisine, was closer to the mark: lon. Lon is a kinder, gentler dip than nam prik. ‘Lon’ or ‘lohn’ actually means ‘to simmer’ and that’s how these dips are made.

The creaminess of the coconut cream or milk in lon takes the edge off the harsher ingredients and certainly mellows out the pungency of the fermented fish. Chef David Thompson notes in his enormous tome to Thai cuisine, Thai Food, that tamarind water and palm sugar are often added to a lon, and that raw vegetables are the perfect accompaniment. Sound familiar?

Thais often call lon an ‘ancient’ dip from the central plains. Obviously, it’s not ‘ancient’ in the true sense of the word, however, if we assume they mean the Middle Ages, they would be referring to the very first Thai capital, Sukhothai, in the northern central plains.

Sukhothai was a Khmer capital when the chiefs of the Tai tribes, which had gradually been migrating south from southern China, ousted the Khmer commander in 1238. Prior to this the many settlements of mostly Mon-Khmer tribes were part of the Khmer Empire and their administrative centre was Angkor. If the dip existed in the 13th century then it most probably came from the Khmers*. (*Update: lons are far older and are Khmer. You’ll have to wait for my Cambodia culinary history to learn just how old.)

Authentic Khmer Prahok K’tis Recipe. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Notes on Making this Authentic Khmer Prahok Ktis Recipe

Before we get to the prahok ktis recipe proper, a few words on pea eggplants. I’ve now spent 30 years tirelessly removing tough, bitter pea eggplants from Thai curries, always deliberating why they were in there in the first place. When I arrived in Cambodia and saw pea eggplants in this dish, I thought I’d be doing the same. Not a chance.

Prepared correctly, the pea eggplants are delicious in this dip. The secret is – according to some lovely old ladies we have been learning the secrets to Cambodian cooking from – to really cook the eggplants out, either over a charcoal grill or in a pan, with some oil and chillies. Then, after they’ve softened, cook them further in coconut milk or cream to to reduce the bitterness. The pea eggplants add a little smoky bite of texture to the dip.

Also of note in this dish is that it uses prahok sach, made from larger fish, but you could use prahok ch’oeung – not chopped, but soaked in hot water to make a ‘stock’. You could quite easily use Thai pla raa if you’re not in Cambodia and that’s easier to find than prahok. Try just one tablespoon of prahok or pla raa the first time you make it if you’re worried about it being too ‘fishy’ tasting.

One last note: some wonderful, very old versions of this dish use wood apple – it’s a hard-shelled fruit we have here in Cambodia that’s also found in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India, where it probably migrated from to find its way into Khmer cooking. Its sour notes can be replicated by using tamarind water, included in this recipe.

Authentic Khmer Prahok Ktis Recipe for Cambodia’s Minced Pork and Coconut Dip

Authentic Khmer Prahok K’tis Recipe. Copyright © 2022 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

An Authentic Khmer Prahok Ktis Recipe

Made with prahok, yellow kroeung, minced pork, pea eggplants, some chillies and coconut milk, this prahok ktis recipe – or more accurately, prahok k'tis – is as authentic as they come.
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes
Course Dip
Cuisine Khmer
Servings made with recipe4
Calories 647 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 500 g minced pork
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp yellow kroeung
  • 2 tbsp tamarind water
  • 1 tsp palm sugar
  • 4 medium dried red chillis - soaked for 15 minutes in hot water
  • 2 tbsp prahok sach - chopped finely
  • 250 ml coconut cream
  • 75 g pea eggplants
  • 4 Kaffir lime leaves - centre vein removed and chopped finely

Instructions
 

  • Dry roast the pea eggplants over medium heat until the exterior is wrinkled and slightly blackened. I like to add a couple of lightly crushed birds-eye chillis to the pan and keep the pan moving.
  • In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, add half of the coconut cream and the pea eggplants.
  • Add the kroeung and mix through thoroughly, then add the pork mince.
  • Cook the mince through then add the prahok, palm sugar and tamarind water. Chop up the chillis and add to the mix.
  • Add a little more of the coconut cream, stir and taste. If it’s too sour you can now add more palm sugar, if the flavours are not coming through enough, add a pinch of salt.
  • Add half of the kaffir lime leaves and stir through.
  • Serve with chopped fresh vegetables such as cucumber, carrots, cabbage and long beans. Top with the rest of the lime leaves and drizzle with more coconut cream for presentation.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 647kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 26gFat: 56gSaturated Fat: 35gCholesterol: 92mgSodium: 83mgPotassium: 634mgFiber: 4gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 1772IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 3mg

Do let us know if you make our authentic Khmer prahok ktis recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.

SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Lara Dunston Patreon
Advertisement

Find Your Cambodia Accommodation

Booking.com

AUTHOR BIO

Photo of author
Terence Carter is an editorial food and travel photographer and infrequent travel writer with a love of photographing people, places and plates of food. After living in the Middle East for a dozen years, he settled in South-East Asia a dozen years ago with his wife, travel and food writer and sometime magazine editor Lara Dunston.

38 thoughts on “Authentic Khmer Prahok Ktis Recipe for Cambodia’s Pork and Coconut Milk Dip”

  1. Excellent post! Love the fusion between recipe deconstruction and cultural influences. Looking forward to reading more.

  2. Interesting read! I love me some prahok k’tis from time to time. And i think it’s about time for some as we speak Lol

  3. This sounds so delicious. I love this kind of flavor profile. I’ve never had it, but I think I will try my hand at this recipe. Thanks!5 stars

  4. It’s very delish! Though it could be tricky for you to find the prahok – fermented fish. You’ll have to look for an Asian grocery story or head to an area where Cambodians live. Let us know how it turns out. Would love to see a pic!

  5. A great recipe! It’s difficult to source the Prahok but I have found a great little Asian Grocer who is only too eager to help me experience her culture too. She thinks your recipe is amazing also.5 stars

  6. Whoa, super impressed by the accuracy and historical facts provided by this write-up. I was googling nam prik and prahok to see if anyone has compared the two and landed on this recipe, as I thought nam prik looked similar to prahok (I’m Cambodian-American). Thank you for presenting it so beautifully and preserving Khmer culture!5 stars

  7. Hello Kevin, thank you so much for the kind words about the post. Sorry but I’ve just seen this comment. Life has been hectic.

    The Thai equivalent of Cambodian prahok (fermented fish) is pla ra / pla daek (padaek in Laos). A nam prik is a dip/sauce, sometimes called a relish by some chefs/writers, and there is an infinite array of them in Thai cooking. There are some nam priks which are similar to prahok k’tis, the Cambodian dip above, but I can’t say that I’ve tried one that is exactly the same, but I’m going to investigate for you.

    Thanks again for the kind words and for dropping by!

  8. I love to read the history behind certain foods and regions. Thank you for acknowledging the uniqueness in different ethnic cooking!5 stars

  9. This is a very delicious dish if made correctly thank goodness my friends are mostly Cambodians so I get a chance to taste everything and I have not been disappointed yet ?.

  10. Hi
    I know this is a really old post by Internet standards lol .. but I have recently been investigating and learning to appreciate the nuances of SE Asian cooking. I like the way you link the same core ingredients and show how they “travel” and mutate from one culture to another while STILL retaining their roots. That being said, I live in the US and want to make prahok k’tis as I’ve seen in many youtube videos (and some cookbooks) … but which brand is good to work with … 1. ground or filet, 2. specie (e.g. gourami vs channa vs a mix of Nile Perch & snakhead) … Google translate does a horrendous job calling mam ca (forgive the improper characters) … “fish sauce” … that’s like calling all sodas a “coke”. Any help would be greatly appreciated so I do it right and find the inspiration to get more daring and dive deeper into the culinary delights.

  11. Hi Daniel, the age of the posts don’t impact the quality of the recipe :) Grantourismo is a 14 year old site and some of our most popular recipe posts date to 2010 and they’re still great recipes. The prahok ktis recipe is actually #1 on Google and remains a great recipe, so don’t worry :)

    Thanks for the kind words – I’ve been researching the history of Cambodian cuisine and mainland Southeast Asian cuisines for a decade and writing a Cambodian cookbook and culinary history, in which I delve into that a lot more deeply, so that will probably interest you when it’s published.

    What do you mean by which ‘brand’ to work with? You mean an American brand of prahok? I have no idea about brands of prahok in the USA, sorry, but I will ask my Khmer-American friends for you. Here in Cambodia we buy prahok from the markets – it’s sold from big buckets and the seller scoops out how much we want – or from the supermarket if the market is closed. But no brands, as such, just containers without labels (probably bought from the markets).

    Re “1.ground/filet” – do you mean which of the types of prahok you should use in the prahok k’tis? To clarify: prahok is a pounded fermented fish paste, so it has either a creamy texture or chunky pieces of fish in it and the size of the pieces of fish varies from small pieces to big fillets (and with or without bones/guts etc) – is that what you meant? You can use either for prahok k’tis as you’re not adding a whole lot. It’s very different to grilled prahok. But I’d probably go for the smoother textured prahok, because if you have chunkier pieces of fish you’ll have to pound them quite a bit and that will be smelly/messy work that others who use the same kitchen might not appreciate it ;)

    Re species – the creamier prahok is made with tiny fish called trei riel here, which is apparently tiny fish from the Cyprinidae I’ve never seen/heard of gourami being used here. Snakehead is mostly used in the chunkier fermented fish products.

    But mam (in Khmer) or mắm cá lóc (in Vietnamese) is different again. It’s definitely not prahok. Mam consists of fish fillets (usually snakehead) that are salted and fermented with palm sugar and red sticky rice, which gives the fish fillets an orange colour and when more mature a deep rich red colour. A friend who found a jar in Australia said they translated it as ‘Cambodian pickled fish’. But mam is not used for prahok.

    These days there are actually so many different variations of both prahok and mam, as the makers/producers get more creative, and combine them with everything from eggplant to chilli peppers and all sorts of spices. I’ve been planning to do a post on that.

    Fish sauce is a different product yet again. They say that in the old days they’d use the by-product of prahok to make a rough and ready kind of fish sauce, not the good quality stuff.

    And, yes, Google is terrible at translating Khmer to English.

    But back to brand of prahok – generally, I’ve heard good things about Angkor Cambodian Food, which I think is based in the San Francisco bay/Oakland area, but have no idea about their prahok. I’ll ask my Khmer-American friends. But you could also join one of the Khmer food FB groups and ask there. More soon!

    Prahok is made with fresh ‘trey riel’

    Prahok

  12. Wow thanks for all the great information … I was going to order Angkor brand prahok but they were sold out. I watched a few videos yesterday and it seemed as long as it’s “cream” style for the prahok k’tis the brands used varied (Angkor is the only brand I’ve seen specifically called prahok)… I’ve seen a few sellers on ebay and other places selling homemade prahok k’tis but having had food poisoning a long time ago I’m leery of buying homemade products online and it’s really not that complicated to make myself (aside from gathering the proper ingredients). Looking at online stores it seems living in Australia has greater access to SE Asian ingredients than we do here in the states. I will go ahead and purchase the cream style and let you know how it turns out. By the way, it’s amazing to me that there are so many species of fish used in the different products.

    This is a picture of the product I’ve seen used …. i know this says mudfish but when i googled trey riel they are described as “small mud carp” … other than authenticity does the type (trey riel or mudfish (channa) matter as long as it’s not the pickled type? Sorry for the long post but I really want to spend my money on the right products.
    Lol don’t even get me started on papaya salad which confuses me a lot with the variations and the terms used for ingredients.
    Have a blessed day and holiday season
    Daniel

  13. Hi Daniel, I looked at that link and that looks like finished prahok k’tis, which is what you want to make, so I would skip that jar being sold on e-bay, as all you want is the prahok. I’ve never seen prahok k’tis sold in a jar here in Cambodia, because everyone makes it fresh. But I guess it would be like buying ragu Bolognese in a jar. And, yes, prahok k’tis is easy to make, as you can see from our recipe. And do make our recipe – it’s the only one that I’ve seen that actually tastes like prahok k’tis here in Cambodia :)

    Re the prahok, yes, you want fermented not pickled, and as long as it’s made with a white fish and a river fish, it should be fine. Go for the creamier style if you can get it, as it means you won’t have to pound the large pieces of fillets, although the fish pieces do tend to break down fairly easily after a long fermentation, it can just be a bit messy/smelly.

    A few more tips re sourcing prahok: email Angkor Food and ask when they might be getting their prahok in again (someone could be prepping a big batch now for the holiday season); contact a supermarket/deli in your nearest Cambodian/Khmer-American community (Oakland, Long Beach (there would have to be a supermarket in Cambodia Town selling prahok), Stockton, Providence, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Lynn and Lowell, Seattle, Portland, Charlotte, Buras, for starters); and ask the head chef at your nearest Cambodian restaurant. I would also join that Khmer food FB page as members seem to mainly be Khmer Americans, as well as Lao-Americans and Thai-Americans etc, and they share a lot of tips on sourcing ingredients.

    Do let us know how you go finding your prahok and would love to know how the recipe turns out for you, Daniel.

    And do feel free to ask any questions about papaya salads – there are definitely a lot of variations; that’s why it’s made to order. If you go to a somtam place in Thailand you’ll see a huge menu board with dozens of different kinds. Here in Cambodia people generally just rock up to a stall and tell the cook what they want and how they want it made. Happy to answer any questions over on one of our papaya salad recipes.

    This is my favourite Khmer papaya salad, bok lahong: https://grantourismotravels.com/green-papaya-salad-recipe/ and here’s a classic Thai papaya salad, som tam: https://grantourismotravels.com/thai-som-tam-recipe-green-papaya-salad/

    You’ll notice mine aren’t as wet as a lot of them, but you can certainly make them wetter if you prefer.

    You have a wonderful holiday season too!
    Lara

  14. Off topic but I had to mention this. Last night I watched a video about floating towns in the Mekong Delta. I thought that the access to fresh vegetables, fish, etc would be great. I know the life is rough but they seemed peaceful and safe. One gentleman was escaping from the KR but he didn’t have the right papers so he had to live on the port in a boat. Sad but inspiring at the same time. IF I ever had the chance (blessing) to vising SE Asia those are the places I want to see … not the touristy big cities. I want to see how the real non-Westernized people live ( no offense to people who live in the west … just saying it’s like going on a tour of Europe and only going to the major cities and ignoring the more rural areas). Again, thanks for all the great info. One quick question I thought I watched a video on the Thun Thun Youtube channel and I thought in the k’tis recipe he placed the prahok in a pot of water and drained off the bones. Is that a different recipe? My neighbors are going to be unhappy because there’s no way to cook outside (there’s snow outside atm) but I will turn the vent on and close the bedroom door. The niece made a salad from neem leaves and fried dried snakehead … is it good? I’ve seen dried neem leaves for sale but not fresh … if soaked would those be an acceptable alternative? Again, thanks for all the valuable information. I am thinking about purchasing Angkor’s kroeung paste but it seems like I could make it myself. The other recipe I wanted to ask about was Cambodian green mango salad… and wondered how it compares to papaya. Again, I would like to thank you for the guidance and valuable information. I will definitely update when my ingredients arrive and I make the dishes. I’m jumping in feet first going for ingredients such as prahok, padek and pla ra … though I do draw the line at pig uterus, cow nose, and such (However I bet if I was tricked I might eat it and like it) … MOST innards (though I have had sauteed lamb sweetbreads and thymus in a Middle Eastern restaurant where I grew up and they were delicious).

  15. Hi Daniel

    The floating villages of the Mekong Delta and also Cambodia’s Tonle Sap are a real delight to visit. However, the vast majority of Cambodia and Vietnam are like that in terms of the access to beautiful fresh produce and seafood, and despite Cambodia still being a poor country, nearly everyone we’ve met in our decade living here and travelling the region are actually pretty content, even when they struggle. They’re always good-humoured and optimistic and very resilient and resourceful.

    It’s not hard to escape tourists anywhere in Southeast Asia, even in the most popular destinations like Bangkok and Phuket. It’s very easy to get into the backstreets of a big city like Bangkok and not see a foreign tourist. And it’s a cinch in Cambodia – here in Siem Reap, for instance, the tourists (foreign and Asian) mainly congregate around a touristy area around Pub Street (just a couple of blocks), but you don’t have to go far into the backstreets before it’s pretty much locals only, same in the capital Phnom Penh. Easy to do in Vietnam as well, even in some of the most popular tourist destinations, like Hoi An. Hope you can get to this part of the world. If you love the food, you’ll love the countries and their people.

    I don’t know that Youtube channel but will check it out. Some prahok has bones in it and some doesn’t, so if you buy one with bones you can just scoop it out and into a fine mesh strainer or use tweezers. For a lot of dishes, Cambodians soak the prahok in water, then use the prahok-flavoured water rather than the actual prahok, which is discarded.

    Funnily enough, I’ve tried the salad of neem leaves and fried dried snakehead fish in the Cambodian quarter of Saigon on a friend’s food tour years ago and have seen it there more than I’ve seen it here, but it’s on my ever-expanding list of dishes I eventually need to investigate. As they say, the more you know, the more you realise there is to learn. It’s never-ending. Fresh neem leaves are sold here in the market and supermarket. I’ve never seen dried leaves. They don’t use a lot of dried leaves/herbs in Cambodia, it’s mostly fresh.

    If you can access all the fresh ingredients for the kroeung pastes, you should definitely try to make them. Start with the yellow kroeung. Recipe here: https://grantourismotravels.com/khmer-yellow-kroeung-kroeung-samlor-machou-recipe/

    If you don’t yet have a mortar and pestle, I highly recommend this handcrafted set, which we’ve fallen in love with: https://grantourismotravels.com/best-mortar-and-pestle/

    We also have a recipe for the Cambodian green mango salad here: https://grantourismotravels.com/green-mango-salad-and-smoked-fish-recipe/

    I have to say that I love the green mango salad as much as the papaya salad — they’re what’s called “same same but different” here in Southeast Asia.

    I also adore this Burmese green mango salad: https://grantourismotravels.com/burmese-green-mango-salad-recipe/

    Ha! Ha! We’re not actually huge fans of how they do their offal here, although we have a friend in Bangkok with a restaurant where they do some of the most delicious offal we’ve had in Southeast Asia. But we absolutely loved it in Japan and Argentina, and, yes, it was pretty good in the Middle East too. Where did you grow up? We lived in the UAE for almost 8 years, but travelled widely and wrote on the MENA region for about 10 years. We adore the region, but especially the Levant.

    Hope all that’s helpful. Always happy to answer questions :)

  16. Thanks for the response. I actually grew up in Dearborn, MI a suburb of Detroit that has the largest Middle Eastern population (at least at the time) outside of the Middle East. I love their cuisine as well. I also love to cook Greek/Mediterranean. I understand the “same same but different” with hummus & baba ghaouj. The Turkish version vs Lebanese vs Israeli (which is my least favorite). Don’t let my Bubbeh G**d rest her soul hear me say that. Was saddened today to hear of the passing of a great (in a lot of ways) man … Kissinger. Like I said in an earlier post the only way I will visit these wonderful places is through their food which tells a lot about a group. I wish we in the West cherished the family recipes and traditions as much as our counterparts in parts of the East.

  17. At the moment I am watching Pailin from Hot Thai Kitchen in Siam Reap … they were eating at Sam’s Noodle Shop … and I don’t think I would eat red ants … they have venom .. wouldn’t that hurt your digestive tract? Thought you might know the place and even ant larvae is a no no no. I could never do the stone carving I was watching. Very beautiful area. I LOVE the ecofriendly attitude … the only 2 fruits served were mango and passionfruit … unlike here (though not completely) … she said they won’t serve anything not in season. I respect that … it certainly helps the ecosystem. What is your favorite dish?

  18. Just saw this on ebay … from Cambodia yet sold in Jacksonville, Florida … hmmmm

    Doesn’t look like prahok I’ve seen advertised … does this look like what you are familiar with?

  19. Hello Daniel, oh wow, I just Googled Dearborn – lucky you! — all the Middle Eastern grocery stores, markets and restaurants!! How wonderful! We are big lovers of Middle Eastern food, having lived there so long; we’ve been doing a lot of cooking from the region recently, as we’ve been missing the food. Something we can’t get here in Cambodia.

    Seems we enjoy a lot of the same food and culture, but I’m going to have to disagree with you on Kissinger, Daniel. It’s hard for me to think of him as anything other than a warmonger/war criminal, for what he did to Cambodia alone: from 1969-73 carpet bombing large parts of Cambodia with some 500,000 tons of US bombs, killing some 150,000 civilians. Even to this day, unexploded ordinance maims and kills innocent people, mainly farmers and kids, every single week of the year. I know this as my friend’s father is a supervisor/trainer for the Cambodian Land Mines Action Group, so he sees it firsthand. Then there are all the other countries upon which he inflicted damage, supporting genocides, destabilising governments and assassinating democratically-elected leaders…

    But back to the much more pleasant topic of food… I think there are a lot of ‘Western’ food writers out there trying to preserve their family recipes and culinary traditions, mainly in cookbooks but also in food blogs. For me, personally, these days I probably spend as much time as I do on my Cambodia culinary history project as I do on my project to document my own family recipes – on mum’s side I have a Russian and Ukrainian background. I’ve been researching the history of the communities in Australia beyond my family and recreating dishes from memory. I’m looking forward to seeing my mum again soon and getting her to translate my baboushka’s recipes for me to see how they compare to my own. But I do think there are more and more people doing that — or maybe I’m just more aware of it from my research?

  20. Hello again Daniel, I’ll have to ask my husband Terence to look up that video for me, as he watches HTK from time to time. I knew Sam — he closed his noodle shop at the start of the pandemic, or maybe just before, and I think he returned to Malaysia. He was an expat chef who was very passionate about Cambodian food.

    The red ants are wonderful, as long as you’re eating them and not accidentally stepping on them (ouch!!!), especially stir-fried with beef — and the larvae is also delicious, particularly in salads.

    Yes, there’s definitely a more eco-friendly approach here than in many countries. Cambodians do on the whole eat seasonally/locally, and when something isn’t available here, perhaps because there’s been too much rain or floods, then it generally comes from neighbouring countries and vice versa. There are imported ingredients and we often see very expensive fruit in the local markets and supermarkets. I often wondered who’d buy a US$5 American/Australian apple, thinking it must be wealthy Chinese tourists, then the other days I saw an affluent family from Phnom Penh up here for the water festival buy a dozen of the things!

    I adore most Cambodian dishes, but if you made me choose one, I’d have to insist on picking four, sorry, and they are:
    – nom banh chok https://grantourismotravels.com/nom-banh-chok-recipe-cambodia-khmer-noodles/
    – amok trei https://grantourismotravels.com/cambodian-fish-amok-recipe/
    – Saraman curry https://grantourismotravels.com/saraman-curry-recipe-how-to-make-cambodian-cari-saramann/
    – and prahok k’tis, which you already know :)

    If you make the yellow kroeung you can use that to make the nom banh chok.

  21. Yes, that’s it! That’s the real deal. That’s the prahok made with the large pieces of fish, which you’d have to pound down a little. However, the fish still looks rather fresh and firm, it doesn’t look like it’s been fermented for very long at all. That’s crazy-expensive though! We pay between $2-5 for a jar that size, depending on the quality. I’d keep looking around if I was you. Good luck!

  22. Have you ever considered opening a small export business? (Hint hint) .. Just kidding….sort of. One thing I find amazing is how recipes considered “peasant food” is actually very exotic expensive and upscale here. I never call food “peasant fare” as food is a blessing to whomever is eating it. Lobster here in the US was considered poor man’s food in Maine and along the Canadian coast. By the way I meant no offense with my Kissinger statement … I am not familiar with 70s era history being born in 1972…. just some info here and there that I have picked up. Besides I like to focus on the positive aspects of the world and what unites people (like food, music, art, cinema, architecture, etc) …. focusing on similarities rather than differences. Ok back to food … what are “highway herb” and “rice paddy herb”? I thought it might be water spinach but not sure. Have a safe and peaceful weekend. My family’s history is Russian Jewish (mother’s side) and Austrian/Eastern European (such undefined borders then) Catholic … oy what a mixture … Yet I seem to prefer SE Asian and Levantine/Mediterranean food over most (exceptions being sauerbraten, schnitzel, black forest torte) Western European food …. Also I enjoy South American cuisine and the only Australian dish I can say I’ve had is kangaroo.5 stars

  23. Hi Daniel

    I did think about starting an online shopping site with Cambodian products at one stage, but the shipping is just way too expensive from here and exporting has many of the same challenges, including taxes/fees/tips etc.

    A Khmer-American friend of mine, Rany Levitt, who is on all the social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram etc, makes a lot of Khmer products and sells them online. No prahok, but other condiments. Look her up.

    That’s fascinating re ‘peasant fare’ and no offense taken re Kissinger. I was born in ‘67, but I’ve long been into the history from the period, and even more so after moving to Cambodia. And completely agree on focusing on what brings people together rather than divides us.

    I’ve not heard of the term ‘highway herb’, but ‘rice paddy herb’ is hugely popular here and in other Southeast Asian countries, and is Limnophila aromatica. It’s citrusy and earthy and often used in soups. It’s one of the favourite herbs of a chef friend who uses it a lot as a garnish.

    Like you, I adore Southeast Asian, Arabic/Levantine, Mediterranean and South American cuisines also, but have to say that I’m very fond of the Russian/Ukrainian/Eastern European cuisines also, especially in winter ☺

    Australian food is wonderful, especially the stuff the top chefs have been doing over the last couple of decades, especially the chefs drawing inspiration from indigenous Australian ingredients. You might find this post interesting: https://grantourismotravels.com/contemporary-australian-cuisine/

  24. Hi
    Glad that you replied …. I thought I had unintentionally offended you … well I finally ordered a Hmong mortar & pestle from ebay .. didn’t want to spend a lot since I am just starting out using one. It’s baked clay and is big enough for pastes and such but not to actually mix a salad which is okay with me. Also got TWO types of prahok lol .. the first is a “special” mudfish by Dragonfly (thought not quite sure what that means lol) and the second is pantai pickled gourami fish (cream style). I sense I will be making your recipe for prahok k’tiss in the near future (maybe Christmas when everyone is away from the building lol) …. I ordered a few items from Theara’s Spicy Kitchen where her videos are all (or mostly) in the Khmer language. I ordered sausage, jeow padaek, and fermented shrimp with papaya and ginger. Before I forget this winter I will be making my authentic sauerbraten mit spaetzle, chicken paparikash, borscht, and IF I am feeling especially energetic homemade pierogi. I have a duck for Christmas and was wondering if you might have a suggestion for a good recipe? A friend suggested Or Lam Gai (and sub duck) . I also watched a Cambodian lady make a duck which involved boiling, some special seasoning packet, and a rotisserie which I don’t have. I hope your holiday season is especially happy, peaceful, and healthy. And an awesome 2024
    Daniel
    I will look up the friend you recommended. Since I think I bought prahok I would be interested in the other items.

  25. Hope all is well .. I am making your authentic prahok ktis today for NYE and NYD… Hope you have a safe, healthy, and peaceful 2024. This was the closes I could come to prahok here in the US so I hope it will work well. I will post pics of the products … also doing a grilled steak to go with it and for tomorrow I am going to do a pork roast for my friends with kroeung, rice, and cucumber salad. I finally bought a mortar and pestle and love it except for garlic because I still have to slice it up otherwise I could just take the huge chunks out since the essential oil in in the dish. Hope you have something wonderful on the menu for the holiday. Also plain jasmine rice … not sure why but I really don’t care for sticky rice … maybe it was because it was in one of those microwave bags …5 stars

  26. Well, I tried a Cambodian steak sauce and all I can say is … maybe it’s my Western palate ( I like padaek in tam mak hoong and other recipes) but no no and major no to the prohok. I even mixed it with herbs,spices, and yeah after the taste of wow not even fermentation.. this was like death… it tasted like it smelled .. I gave it the old college try by using it with half of a steak. And yeah AFTER the horrible taste the other other flavors … mostly saltiness came through … so I just ate the thum tang … made with padaek. It was a very (relatively speaking) expensive lesson. 35 dollars for a bottle of SPECIAL mudfish cream .. what’s the difference? I guess I reached my limit. Or at least where it’s the center ingredient as I also just opened a jar of jeow bong padaek… Theara is Khmer and makes all of these so I trust the authenticity …. and it was super spicy but the flavor of the prahok was definitely there but a bit more muted … on a positive note I made a great paste to marinade a sliced pork loin .. basically a kroeung without turmeric … lemongrass, kafir lime leaves, shallot, chili and galanga. Smells wonderful.

  27. Hi Daniel, Happy New Year! I just spotted this comment, sorry, as I took some time off over Christmas. Apologies for not seeing this earlier. Sounds like your Southeast Asian kitchen is well stocked now. The duck would be wonderful in a Southeast Asian style salad. You could use roast duck in any salads that call for chicken or even pork. It would be fantastic used in this recipe for instance: https://grantourismotravels.com/vietnamese-chicken-salad-recipe/

  28. Hello again Daniel, just saw your other comments. That all sounds wonderful! A tip re the garlic: use the base of your heavy mortar to crush the garlic, then chop it; it will make it so much easier to slice.

  29. Hello again Daniel, prahok can be very confronting for people who aren’t used to it. A tip: try it again with the tiniest portion of it, perhaps just an quarter of a teaspoon dissolved in water, just to give it a very subtle flavour. Though having said that, maybe it’s the products you’re using. Do you eat shrimp paste? If you can enjoy shrimp paste then you should enjoy prahok, it may well be the products you’ve purchased. The padaek I see in the USA looks different to what we get in Southeast Asia. I have no idea what ‘mudfish cream’ is – we don’t have that here. You really should join one of the Cambodian/Khmer or Southeast Asian cooking/food groups on FB as members are Americans of Southeast Asian heritage and they would be able to help you better distinguish between the products. The kroeung sounds lovely although turmeric is a pretty crucial ingredient :)

  30. Hi Laura,
    Hope you had a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. That was the prahok that I bought from a Cambodian seller .. I’ll post the link and you can see that “prahok” thearaspicykitchen.com .. it was in the jeow padaek I bought and yes it was definitely there but the spiciness muted it a little. She confuses me a little as she jumps back and forth from Lao dishes to Khmer dishes and changes the names back and forth. The shrimp and crab paste in tam mak hoong blends well with the other ingredients though I haven’t made it from scratch … I bought some frozen salted field crabs … key word salted … my friend couldn’t eat it due to the saltiness. Been using cucumber and carrot lately as I am not a huge fan of papaya. I think the cucumber adds a refreshing taste and the papaya had no taste but was crunchier. I use a really good brand handcrafted by ninjafoods.com so all i need is to thum some tomatoes and toss with the cucumber. I was going to add the padaek but with the shrimp and crab paste I think it would be too salty. I also bought the nang fah purple/pink top papaya sauce and nowhere near as good. I did message Angkor and no reply and the prahok k’tiss they sell is out of stock. I am waiting for a group in Philadelphia to message me in the spring when they make it .. maybe they cook it outside lol. I watched a video afterwards of someone making mok padaek and the poor banana leaves lol .. and she used the jarred fish but it was actual fillets/chunks and squeezed lime on the fish which when I did it (she said it helped with the smell) it did work … til I stirred it :( .. after the initial assault on my senses (lol) I could taste the herbs and such … 1/2 cup I think was too much for the recipe. Now I don’t know what to do with the pantai preserved fish in rice which they are calling “pla ra” … If I could I would make a respectful appeal to SE Asian people to please use one word to describe things regardless of language.. It gets confusing when someone calls something “padaek” but it’s “prohok” but NOT the “prohok/brohok” that is used in Cambodia but is more akin to Thai “pla ra” .. it’s very confusing to Westerners since we aren’t familiar with all the variations. I understand that THEY know the difference … a good example is the Pantai “ground preserved fish” which is called padaek by many cooks in videos … well yes but padaek is also the WHOLE fish … lol … I should just hire a personal chef lol. I think you are correct that a little goes a long way … I just followed the recipe for a Cambodian steak sauce. Personally I think I could have used the “padaek” liquid I used in cucumber salad and been just as happy. Does cooking mellow it out? LOL I should have known .. the call it “Cambodian cheese” and I am not a huge fan of cheeses especially sharp and smelly ones. I like the milder tangier … e.g. I love feta, will use fresh parm, mild cheddar, Swiss, kasieri, labneh, etc. NO limburger, aged cheddar, romano, etc. Anyways maybe after looking at the links I showed you might have some suggestions. BTW I have messaged people on FB :) …

  31. Hi Daniel

    I checked the site but could not find the prahok. Maybe they sold out? If it was combined with chilli and aromatics, then it’s used as a condiment rather than an ingredient. And, yes, lime juice is used to hide the ‘fragrance’ as much as to balance the flavours.

    I’ve found a lot of Americans with mainland Southeast Asian heritage tend to cook a combination of Cambodian, Thai and Lao food (which you rarely find here in Southeast Asia), which I think explains why terms get conflated.

    There definitely seems to be a misunderstanding among some there that padaek, pla ra and prahok are the same, when they’re more akin to cousins. Padaek and pla ra are fermented with salt and rice bran, whereas prahok is only fermented in salt.

    They also use terms there that even Cambodians in Cambodia don’t understand, so don’t worry.

    Use the pla ra in som tum – try our recipe, as it’s very accessible ☺ https://grantourismotravels.com/thai-som-tam-recipe-green-papaya-salad/

    I don’t recommend buying pre-made prahok k’tiss – just use your prahok and make our recipe, and use less rather than more prahok. You can always add more but can’t take it out of a dish :) Cooking does mellow prahok a bit, however, Cambodians only ever use a little prahok watered down in their cooking. In fact, the royals and elites say that prahok should add flavour but you should not be able to taste that it’s prahok. Cooks in the countryside enjoy the taste and will use more.

    Enjoy!

Leave a comment

Recipe Rating