This Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry recipe makes samlor ktis Koh Kong, a sweet gently spiced curry made with coconut cream, pineapple and baby eggplants, from Koh Kong, an island and coastal province in Cambodia’s southwest. A samlor is a soup or stew, but with a spice paste base this very much tastes like a curry.
Our Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry recipe for samlor ktis Koh Kong will make you a rich aromatic curry that tastes of a tropical island. It’s the kind of curry that you imagine tucking into on a beach holiday, sitting within splashing distance of the sea – with a bowl of fragrant jasmine rice, an icy cold beer to wash it down with, and your toes in squeaky white sand.
Samlor ktis Koh Kong is sweet from the coconut cream, fresh ripe pineapple and creamy palm sugar, and gently-spiced and fragrant from the herbaceous red kroeung – a Cambodian herb and spice paste pounded from fresh lemongrass stalks, galangal, kaffir lime zest, turmeric, garlic, shallots, and red chillies.
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Now let me tell you about this Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry recipe for samlor ktis Koh Kong.
Cambodian Coconut Pineapple Fish Curry Recipe for Samlor Ktis Koh Kong
This Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry recipe for samlor ktis Koh Kong makes a sweet gently spiced curry that hails from Koh Kong, a tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand, just off the coast of southwest Cambodia, in the province of the same name. I actually tried this dish for the first time in a Siem Reap restaurant, where it was called ‘Cari Koh Kong’, which is why I’ve always know it as a Koh Kong curry.
One of Cambodia’s largest provinces, Koh Kong boasts a beautiful undeveloped coastline, mangrove estuaries, rivers and streams, and a forested mountainous interior that is home to the Cardamom Mountains. The region is famed for its sweet pineapples and creamy coconuts, as well as its bananas, durian, passionfruit, and mangosteen. Sugar cane is also grown here on sprawling plantations.
Seafood from the Gulf of Thailand is plentiful in Koh Kong, with chefs and street food cooks buying the daily catch directly from fishing boats. Because the seafood is so fresh, restaurant serve it steamed or grilled with a dipping sauce, such as Koh Kong’s famous sweet chilli sauce and Cambodia’s ubiquitous lime juice, salt and black pepper dipping sauce. In addition to fish, shrimp, crabs, squid, and clams are plentiful.
The literal translation of samlor ktis Koh Kong is a stew or soup made with coconut milk or coconut cream from Koh Kong. Samlor, which you’ll also see written as samlar, samla and samlaw means both soup and stew, and ktis – or more correctly k’tis – refers to coconut cream or coconut milk. However, this samlor, with its kroeung base is essentially a curry, and a rich sweet tropical curry at that.
Tips to Making this Cambodian Coconut Pineapple Fish Curry Recipe
This Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry recipe for samlor ktis Koh Kong begins with a red Cambodian kroeung. A kroeung is a Cambodian spice paste that is pretty much like a Thai curry paste but more fragrant and herbaceous, and more redolent of spices than fiery.
There are a handful of kroeungs. The foundation of the kroeung family is a yellow kroeung and then ingredients are added or substituted to make the green kroeung, brown kroeung (for Saraman curry) and red kroeung. To make the green kroeung, you follow the yellow kroeung recipe but use the green lemongrass leaves in addition to the stalks.
To make the red kroeung you make the yellow kroeung and then add dry red chillies, which are first soaked to rehydrate them before adding them to the mortar and pounding them into the yellow paste. While it’s called a ‘red’ kroeung, this is a dark yellow colour as it’s gently spiced, however, you can add more red chillies to heat things up and the more chillies you add to the kroeung the redder it becomes. Alternatively, if not everyone in your household is a fan of heat, serve the curry with a dish of fresh red birds-eye chillies to add some kick.
We like to pound our spice pastes in a large granite mortar and pestle. It’s therapeutic and provides a great work-out for the arms, and we also believe spice pastes taste better made in a mortar. If you haven’t used one before, we have tips to using a mortar and pestle. But by all means, if you don’t have the time, use a blender.
Any firm white fleshy fish will work for this Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry recipe. Locally caught ocean fish is used in Koh Kong but you can opt for freshwater fish if you prefer. Fresh ripe pineapple is far better than canned pineapple if you can get hold of it. We are blessed with an abundance of fresh pineapples here in Cambodia. I’ve used very ripe pineapple, which is super-sweet, but a pineapple that has just ripened will add more tang than sweetness.
The small round striped baby eggplants add crunch and texture, but you can use purple aubergines if you can’t get hold of them. I’ve garnished the dish with fresh coriander but you can also use basil. I provide quarters of lime on the side as a squeeze of lime provides tartness that gives the dish balance.
This Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry is very rich and creamy, however, you can use coconut milk or coconut water for a lighter curry that is more like a samlor or soup. The curry comes together quite quickly, but the longer you leave it on the stove, the richer it becomes. Serve with steamed rice.
Cambodian Coconut Pineapple Fish Curry Recipe
Red Kroeung Spice Paste
- 200 g lemongrass stalks peeled chopped and outer layers discarded
- 1 tbsp galangal peeled and chopped finely
- 1 tsp kaffir lime zest
- 1 tsp turmeric peeled and chopped finely
- 5 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped finely
- 2 shallots peeled and chopped finely
- 2 dried red chillies soaked and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp red kroeung spice paste
- 200 ml coconut cream
- 1 tbsp creamy palm sugar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 small pineapple peeled and cut into 3cm cubes
- 6 baby eggplants cut into quarters
- 1 small purple shallot roughly chopped
- 2 fillets of firm white fish of your choice
- 2-4 fresh red bird’s eye chillies optional
- 1 tsp fresh coriander and/or fresh basil
- Make the red kroeung (spice paste) using a well-supported mortar and pestle, by first pounding the lemongrass until mashed up; then adding the galangal, turmeric and kaffir lime zest and pounding until incorporated; and lastly adding the garlic, shallots and red chillies and pounding until you have a smooth spice paste. Note: the finished paste will still be fibrous due to the lemongrass.
- To your favourite curry pot or a flat-bottomed wok, add two tablespoons of red kroeung spice paste and coconut cream and bring to a simmer on low heat, before adding the creamy palm sugar and fish sauce. Stir until everything is well combined.
- Add the pieces of pineapple, baby eggplants, and purple shallots and simmer for around five minutes or so on low heat, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing is sticking. If it is, add a little water.
- Once the eggplant has softened a little but is still firm and juicy, add the fish fillets and simmer until just cooked. If too thick and creamy for your liking, add a little more water.
- Adjust seasoning to your taste: if too sweet, add a little more fish sauce (or salt if you prefer); if too mildly spiced, add whole or finely-chopped fresh red bird’s eye chillies.
- Transfer to a large bowl and garnish with fresh coriander and/or fresh basil and serve with steamed rice.
Please do let us know if you make this Cambodian coconut pineapple fish curry recipe for samlor ktis Koh Kong as we’d love to hear how it turns out for you.