Cambodian Fish Amok Recipe for an Authentic Steamed Fish Curry in the Old Style. Copyright 2017 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Cambodian Fish Amok Recipe for an Authentic Steamed Fish Curry in the Old Style

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Our Cambodian fish amok recipe is traditional – an authentic steamed fish curry made to a classic recipe from an older generation of cooks who believe that if it’s not properly steamed, it’s not amok trei, a steamed fish curry. ‘Amok’ means to steam in banana leaves in Khmer and this refined dish is likely a Royal Khmer specialty dating back to the Khmer Empire.

This classic Cambodian fish amok recipe for a traditional steamed fish curry is based on the recipe of a respected family of elderly cooks whose mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers made the dish during a time when Cambodian women thought nothing of spending a full day preparing a family feast.

Our Cambodian fish amok recipe isn’t a recipe for the watery fish amok style curry or sloppy fish amok you might have eaten in Siem Reap tourist restaurants, which can be made in minutes in a wok. To make this authentic steamed fish curry from scratch, including pounding your own Khmer yellow kroeung (a herb and spice paste), you will need to allow at least a couple of hours. It’s worth it!

If you cook our Cambodian fish amok recipe and you enjoy it, please consider supporting our original epic Cambodian Culinary History and Cookbook on the Patreon platform, which you can do by making a small monthly pledge, starting from as little as US$5 a month, or by making a one-off donation.

We have been researching Cambodian cuisine and its culinary history since 2013, interviewing old cooks and digging deep into archaeological and historical archives, and this recipe post, which contains original research, was a result of one of our very first in-depth interviews and a couple days observing a family of cooks. When published the book will hopefully change the way the world thinks about Cambodian cuisine.

Cambodian Fish Amok Recipe for an Authentic Steamed Fish Curry in the Old Style

What is Cambodian Fish Amok – And What Is It Not?

Cambodian cuisine must be Southeast Asia’s most under-appreciated and most misunderstood cuisines. And one of its specialties, fish amok or amok trei, also spelt amok trey in Khmer, must be one of its most confounding dishes of all to untrained eyes, appearing to be served in an array of forms, shapes and colours.

A traditional steamed fish curry – ‘amok’ refers to the process of steaming in banana leaves – amok trei or fish amok should have a texture that we’ve described as being a combination of a mousse, mousseline, soufflé, and custard. We’ve spotted other food writers call it a pâté and a terrine. It’s most certainly in the realm of the former, but it in no way resembles the latter.

Most food-loving travellers to Cambodia fall in love with fish amok. It’s incredibly delicious and very moreish. It’s one of my favourite dishes. It’s also adorable when presented in a banana leaf basket or coconut shell – as Chef Kethana at Sugar Palm restaurant, who undoubtably makes Cambodia’s finest fish amok does – with a drizzle of coconut cream and finely sliced kaffir lime leaves and chillies on top.

Fish amok is beloved by Cambodians. So much so that it’s often called Cambodia’s national dish – despite the fact that Cambodians probably don’t eat it all that often these days. Most Cambodians would name nom banh chok or korkor as the national dish.

While fish amok was once eaten by Cambodians of all walks of life on all sorts of occasions – the consistency and banana leaf wrapping made it convenient for farmers to take it out to the rice paddies for lunch, while the sumptuous texture and rich taste made it a wedding party favourite – it’s thought that the refined dish began life as a Royal Khmer dish.

These days fish amok is primarily a restaurant standard and special occasion dish. When it’s made in the authentic old style it’s rich and luxuriant and seems to incite feelings of nostalgia for an old way of life – even if it’s a life that many have never known.

Older cooks I’ve interviewed over the years are firmly of the belief that amok trei began life as a Royal Khmer dish dating back to the Khmer Empire. And in a country with a long history of oral storytelling, where family recipes are rarely written down, but daughters learn to cook from their mothers and grandmothers, who are we to argue with Cambodia’s culinary traditions and beliefs.

There are also signs of its royal provenance in the refined nature of the dish, its complexity of flavour, and the time-consuming preparation when it’s made correctly – which requires pounding the kroeung (herb/spice paste), the base for the dish, marinating the fish in the paste, and steaming the dish for 30 minutes (more or less, depending on the size) until firm to touch.

Despite its regal origins, amok trei is a dish that you’ll see sold in banana leaf ‘baskets’ on trays in markets and on the street. Although, I’ve never been as impressed by the take-away version. The fast food variety of amok trei is more rustic, like Thailand’s hor mok pla (also spelt haw mok pla) and the Nyonya specialty otak otak, which is essentially street food, typically spotted in markets.

Fish amok is sometimes compared to the Indonesian otak otak, which is actually more similar to the Cambodian street food snack called song vac or sang vak (also written as sangvak – ‘ang’ is pronounced as ‘ong’ in Khmer), a ground fish paste, wrapped in a banana leaf parcel and grilled over charcoal.

Our Cambodian fish amok recipe comes from the matriarchs of an old Cambodian family – several little old ladies who are the daughters of a long-gone generation of cooks, including a cook to a king. These women take their food seriously, thinking nothing of recruiting young female relatives and neighbours for a full day of preparation for a family meal. Our old ladies’ amok trei recipe can take several hours if followed closely.

For this older generation, their way of cooking Cambodian food – or rather, Khmer food (there is a difference between the two) – is the only way to cook what they believe to be the authentic food of Cambodia, which for them was at its best in the pre-Khmer Rouge era.

To Steam or Not to Steam – If It’s Not Steamed It’s Not Amok, It’s Curry

When we informed our old lady cooks that it’s possible to see fish amok in Siem Reap restaurants that hasn’t been steamed and that it’s served as watery as a soup or at best as a curry, they were aghast.

When we revealed that it’s also offered with a choice of chicken, beef, pork, vegetarian, and tofu instead of fish, they were even more horrified. I love how Terence tells this story here in Ruining Amok, the National Dish of Cambodia.

It should be noted, however, that while this is generally just a short-cut to feed tired, impatient and hungry tourists, Cambodians are also known to make amok trei in a curry form, particularly poorer, hard-working Cambodians with less time on their hands.

As Terence puts it in that same story on the link above, who wants to watch a dish steam for 30 minutes after working in the rice fields all day?

I spotted one food blogger write that some Cambodians don’t steam fish amok because they don’t have “steaming equipment”. While the traditional basket steamers aren’t typically used for fish amok these days (they’re used for sticky rice), they’ve probably been used for over a thousand years and can be hand-woven in a day. Not a lot of ‘equipment’ is needed to steam something here in this part of the world.

Even the poorest Cambodian home has a clay brazier in their rustic outdoor kitchen, which is often a bamboo hut or low wooden prep table in the breezy space under the house. The brazier is another piece of ‘equipment’ that’s been used for a few thousand years. It features in the bas reliefs on the walls at the Angkor temples.

Every home will have a wok, which can be used with a bamboo steamer, or they’ll have a large steaming pot which is the most popular choice for steaming fish amok. There will also be a very large mortar and pestle in the Cambodian kitchen.

Cambodian Fish Amok Short-Cuts and Substitutes

We’ve established that steaming is essential if you’re going to make this Cambodian fish amok recipe the old way, but there are a few time-saving measures for busy home-cooks and we need to tell you about substitutes.

While we believe that the Khmer yellow kroeung tastes better when it’s made in a mortar and pestle, and I personally love few things more than hearing the sound and smelling the fragrance of a fresh herb and spice paste being made, you can save a lot of time by using a blender instead obviously.

Fresh coconut cream and coconut milk can of course be substituted with the tin variety if you don’t have coconuts or access to fresh grated coconut to be able to press your own coconut cream and milk.

For this Cambodian fish amok recipe our little old lady cooks prefer goby fish, snakehead fish or catfish – all freshwater fish from the Tonle Sap or Great Lake. Most cookbooks written in the West suggest a firm white fish such as cod or snapper.

In cooking classes in Siem Reap, cooking instructors tell participants they can use anything from barramundi to salmon. David Thompson in Thai Food suggests whiting, blue eyed cod or perch for Thailand’s haw mok, which is clearly a descendant of amok trei. Chef Kethana at Sugar Palm also makes a heavenly prawn amok.

Our little old ladies have one of the young assistants massage the kroeung into the fish fillets for up to an hour and let it rest before slicing it. For more intense flavour, after combining the kroeung and fish you could skip the massage and leave it to marinate in the fridge for a while.

Some Cambodian cooks will use their beloved prahok (fermented fish) instead of shrimp paste (kapi in Khmer) for a more authentic flavour. We’ve also seen young cooking instructors add “seasoning” (i.e. MSG) and/or Knorr’s chicken powder stock cubes, which would have their grandmothers rolling in their graves if they weren’t Buddhists who’d been cremated.

One ingredient in this Cambodian fish amok recipe that’s difficult to find a substitute for is slok ngor – also written as nhor (‘slok’ means herb). Nhor or noni leaf (morinda citrifolia) is what gives amok trei its distinctive taste. Traditional Cambodian recipes call specifically for young nhor leaf.

Recipes written for a Western readership suggest substituting the noni leaf with everything from kale to spinach. Chef Joannès Rivière of Siem Reap’s Cuisine Wat Damnak restaurant recommends Swiss chard in A Culinary Journey in Cambodia (see link at the end of this post), a cookbook produced by Sala Bai Hotel School. Although note that this is a recipe for a fish amok ‘curry’ and is not steamed.

A Note on the Colours of Cambodia’s Fish Amok

One thing we often get asked about is the colour that an authentic Cambodian fish amok should be. If you’ve travelled around Cambodia, you’ll notice that fish amok can range from yellow to yellow-green to an orange-brown colour. Chef I Kethana’s is more of an orange shade due to a red tinge from to the chilli, while the amok trei we see in markets, especially in villages, is often yellow or yellow-green.

The yellow-green fish amok is made with either the yellow kroeung paste or kroeung samlor m’chou in Khmer (made with the base of lemongrass stalks, galangal, kaffir lime zest, turmeric, garlic, shallots) or the green kroeung paste or kroeung prahoeur (which also uses the green leafy part of the lemongrass, and has kaffir lime zest, turmeric, garlic, and shallots, the addition of finger-root (also called Chinese keys), but no galangal).

The orange-red fish amok uses the same yellow kroeung paste as a base, but has the addition of red chilli. Note that fish amok it is not normally made with red kroeung or kroeung samlar cari in Khmer, which has the yellow kroeung base of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime zest, turmeric, garlic, shallots, plus the addition of coriander seeds, cumin seeds and dried red chilli, and shrimp paste or prahok. These additional spices would make the amok trei very intense and it’s already rich enough.

How to Make Banana Leaf Baskets for this Cambodian Fish Amok Recipe

If you happen to have a banana tree in your backyard, pull off a banana leaf or two. You’ll need to clean and soften your banana leaves in warm water and then pat dry. Use an upturned round plate or cake tin to trace a roughly 20-25cm in diametre circle onto a leaf and cut it out with scissors.

The size will vary depending on how large you wish them to be, whether you’re serving your fish amok as a main-size dish to be eaten family style for all guests to help themselves (when you’ll want to create a large banana leaf bowl) or individual appetisers (when you’ll need smaller bowls). We made mini fish amoks for our contemporary Cambodian feast. The small sizes are not only cute, they steam quickly. You’ll need to experiment.

Lay the cut-out flat and create a square bottom by raising one side at a time, folding each corner around onto the next side. Secure each side with half a wooden toothpick. We’ve seen young chefs staple the leaves but this doesn’t look pretty. Trim the tops so they’re even.

Cambodian Fish Amok Recipe

Cambodian Fish Amok Recipe for an Authentic Steamed Fish Curry in the Old Style. Copyright 2017 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Cambodian Fish Amok Recipe – an Authentic Steamed Fish Curry in the Old Style

AuthorTerence Carter
Our Cambodian fish amok recipe is traditional – an authentic steamed fish curry made to a recipe from an older generation of cooks who believe this refined dish is a Royal Khmer specialty dating back to the Khmer Empire.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main
Cuisine Khmer
Servings made with recipe4
Calories 371 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 500 grams of white fish - goby, snakehead or catfish preferable; or snapper, whiting, cod, perch, skinned, boned and thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp yellow kroeung - herb/spice paste – see recipe here
  • 2 dried red chillies - soaked in water until soft, seeded and drained or a tsp of red chilli paste
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 2 tsp palm sugar
  • ½ cup first press coconut milk or tinned coconut cream
  • 2 eggs - beaten
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ¼ cup nhor/noni leaves - morinda citriforlia, shredded

Garnish

  • 1 tbsp first press coconut milk or tinned coconut cream
  • 1 tsp kaffir lime zest or finely sliced lime leaves
  • 1 medium sized red chilli or red capscium - finely sliced

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the yellow kroeung as per the recipe on the link above, and add the red chilli and pound well into the mixture. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle you can blend it all in a food processor.
  • Combine the kroeung, fish and other ingredients, but not the noni leaves. To taste chunks of fish only lightly combine, but for a smooth texture, desirable by some cooks, combine well by stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  • Test your level of seasoning by frying a spoon of the mixture (or zapping it in the microwave). It should be well balanced and taste a little fishy, a little salty, slightly sweet, a tad spicy, and rich and creamy. Adjust as necessary by adding a pinch of salt or sugar, fish sauce, or even a little chilli.
  • Place a few noni leaves on the bottom of your ramikens, coconut shell or banana leaf baskets. If using banana leaf baskets, make ahead of time (see below).
  • Add the curry mixture to each ramiken/coconut shell/banana leaf basket and fill almost to the top. Use a spoon or spatula to flatten the mixture out, drizzle a teaspoon of coconut cream and sprinkle some finely sliced kaffir lime leaves on top. Save some for a final garnish.
  • Steam for 20-30 minutes then check. The fish amok should be cooked through and firm to touch but still retain a moistness. It should not be dry. When it’s almost done add the rest of the coconut cream on the top and steam for a few more minutes.
  • Garnish with the remaining kaffir lime leaf slices and finely sliced red chillies or red capsicum if you don’t like chilli.
  • Serve immediately at the centre of the table with rice on each guest’s plate and they can help themselves as they might a curry if eating family style. If you’ve made smaller individual portions for each guests then serve rice at the centre of the table or in small dishes on the side.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 371kcalCarbohydrates: 43.85gProtein: 20.8gFat: 11.9gSaturated Fat: 7.725gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4.175gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 138mgSodium: 1023.5mgFiber: 2.1gSugar: 5g

Further Reading on Cambodian Cuisine and Cambodian Cookbooks

We often get asked which Cambodian Cookbooks we recommend. They may not be the hippest looking cookbooks but Cambodian cooks believe the most authentic Cambodian recipes are to be found in Narin Seng Jameson’s Cooking the Cambodian Way and Hem Meakphal’s The Book of Khmer Cooking (only available in Cambodia).

Sorey Long and Kanika Linden’s Authentic Cambodian Recipes has been the most comprehensive cookbook we’ve used and a great source in many ways, but it has also been adapted so much for its mainly American market that our little old lady cooks here in Cambodia don’t recognise some recipes.

When you’re in Cambodia, we recommend the Sala Bai school‘s Culinary Journey in Cambodia by Chef Joannès Rivière, which has super-easy recipes, makes a nice souvenir, and proceeds support the school, but again, this is only available in Cambodia.

And of course, do browse our Cambodian recipes until we complete our Cambodian cookbook and please do let us know in the comments below if you make this Cambodian fish amok recipe as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.

Pictured: Chef Kethana’s Cambodian fish amok from Sugar Palm restaurant, Siem Reap, which for us is the finest fish amok in Cambodia.

Keen to learn more about Cambodian food? Consider joining us on one of our occasional Cambodian cuisine and culture tours or our food and travel writing and photography retreats. Planning a trip to Cambodia? I craft bespoke Savour Siem Reap itineraries and similar food-focused journeys throughout Southeast Asia. Need accommodation in Cambodia? See our recommended hotels in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Battambang (all tried and tested).

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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

57 thoughts on “Cambodian Fish Amok Recipe for an Authentic Steamed Fish Curry in the Old Style”

  1. I’ve been looking for a recipe for this, so thanks for sharing! I have actually tried making fish amok during my most recent visit to Phnom Penh. Hopefully I’ll be able to find all the ingredients to try the recipe; I find it extremely hard just to source kaffir lime.

    Interesting write-up about fish amok as well. :)

  2. I used some fresh Snapper for this and left it chunky for the texture. I think it added to the wonderful taste sensation and I even gave the banana leaf baskets a go- who knew those plants that have yet to fruit would come in handy!

    A really fun dish to create and the recipe was easy to follow.5 stars

  3. This Fish Amok was delicious and I love that I can use whatever fish I have available and am not limited to one specific fish.
    Beautiful, tasty dish.5 stars

  4. So pleased you enjoyed making this one! The banana tree has myriad uses. I don’t think they get enough use out of the whole tree in Australia. What do they do with the leaves, I wonder? Do they just let them drop off and die or do they have a purpose? I’ll have to investigate.

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Abby. Different fish are going to result in a slightly different dish. While they recommend firm white fish here, some restaurants use shrimp and crabs, and I’ve also heard of salmon being used although that will make it even richer than it is. It may not be authentic but it’s incredibly delicious.

  6. Cooked it tonight after bashing down some Kroueng yesterday. Used Snapper (in Australia) and prawns together and steamed in 5 inch bamboo steamers. Loved it and will use it many more times for parties. Also fried some of the mix as fish cakes which were also great. Thanks for the recipie.5 stars

  7. You’re welcome. Snapper is a great choice. Great idea with the fish cakes, I’ve never done it with the yellow kroeung, only the red, I’ll have to try it.
    Thanks for your comment.

  8. Thanks for the very intricate write-up about Fish Amok and for sharing us a glimpse of Cambodian Cuisine! I had a chance to try Fish Amok for the first time from my good friend, Cathie and it was truly a dish worth remembering! I like how the mousse was very light and airy. Because of the use of fresh herbs and spices, the dish has that very fresh aroma and flavor ypu wont from the dried version. Also, it was my first time trying those kind of flavors from the kroeung and it was really an eye opener. Tasting new flavors from a new cuisine, from which i have no clue about, was really refreshing! I’m glad that we’ve experienced a bit of Cambodia from that Fish Amok. Looking forward to try more Cambodian dishes in the future!5 stars

  9. Just so you know that the not all banana leaf can be used for cooking. We only use banana leaf from Chek Omva (it’s shorter and chunky look, normally sold all around the market or temples as they use it for offerings to the gods and angels) and one or two of it’s cousin (only if really Chek Omva is not presented) . The rest of banana leaf leaves a bitter taste on any food or dessert

  10. Hi Nika, thanks so much for taking the time to drop by and leave a comment. Are you living in Cambodia or are you a Cambodian living overseas? Do you cook Cambodian food often?

    Great point about the banana leaves! I’ll put a note in the text, above.

    I didn’t go into detail about the different types of bananas as I assumed that readers in Asia will know which leaves to use and if they don’t grow them they’ll buy them the right ones from the market; readers in Australia will either have them growing in their backyard, as the chek nam va – or ‘Ducasse’ banana, as it’s known in Australia – is grown in the northern half of Australia, and has become one of the most popular types of bananas there; and our North American or European readers will probably cook the amok trei in a ramekin :)

    Thanks again! Any other tips you have are always welcome :)

  11. Wow!!!! This amok recipe and detailed post wins the internet!! It tastes exactly like how it should! We couldn’t find the noor leaves, even at the Cambodian grocery store, but will need to hunt it down somehow. Thanks for sharing!! Making this again for my grandparents. Do you know if there is a way to make it ahead of time and just steam it there? How long can it marinate, etc.5 stars

  12. Thanks for your comment. The little old ladies who taught us to make it would massage the paste with the fish for an hour or so! I would marinate it for up to a couple of hours max, but not in the baskets, in a non-reactive container and covered with cling wrap. Any longer and the fish might start to soften too much in reaction to the chillis in the curry paste. Note that we do have substitutions in the recipe for the noor leaves in the post; kale, spinach or Swiss chard.
    Love to see a photo, are you on Instagram?

    T

  13. This fish amok is up there with Sugar Palm based on what I tried on one of Cathie Carpio’s dinners in Manila. I couldn’t get the same smooth texture when I tried the recipe, but the flavors are amazing. Thanks for the detailed recipe. I never thought I would be able to cook Cambodian food at home.5 stars

  14. Hi Manos, re the smooth texture, note that it isn’t completely smooth as there are chunks of fish in there. However, if you mean the surface, you may just have had to steam it a bit longer. But note that even at Sugar Palm, where they are the masters at it, the texture differs slightly each time, sometimes it’s a little more wet than others (due to the noni leaves on the bottom), other times it’s dryer and smoother on top. The important thing is to steam it long enough to get that texture that is somewhere in between a mousse/mousselline and soufle, rather than just a curry. Thanks for dropping by!

  15. Manos, the recipe suggests you stir the mixture vigorously. It’s like how old cooks in the Philippines prepare leche flan in terms of stirring eggs and milk, but they don’t want the bubbles.

  16. According to my family, amok trey is not a royal dish. It does look fancy, like something only a royalty would eat. And it didn’t originate during the time of the empire either, it’s much older than that.
    My family would not make amok trey without nhor leaf. I once told my mom that some people use Chinese broccoli as a substitution. She was horrified. She would be even more horrified to taste shrimp paste instead of prahok, never mind the chicken, beef, pork and tofu.
    By the way, thank you for referring to kroeung as herb/spice paste.

  17. Hello Dalida

    I’d love to hear more of your family’s thoughts. I’m just a researcher and writer, so I’ve based my ideas on my research discoveries.

    All of the chefs and old ladies I’ve interviewed in Cambodia over the years, including a woman whose mother was a cook to the late King Father, have said it began as a Royal Khmer dish and they believe it to have originated in the palace.

    The recipe above is based on the dish the palace cook used and the long version of it took hours as they were so methodical.

    They believe it to be a royal dish partly for that reason – it’s time-consuming when done properly in the old way, and poorer people such as rice farmers have never had the luxury to spend so much time cooking.

    But amok trei is one of those Cambodian dishes that can be found on the streets and in markets as well, although they tend to be more rustic versions and aren’t as rich tasting. They are most like hor mok in Thailand, which is very much a street food dish.

    As to the age of the dish, I haven’t been able to find any evidence yet that it is even older, so I’d love to know why your family thinks that and where they might think it comes from. There is a similar dish in China, but still quite different, and of course in Indonesia as well, but that may have even come from Cambodia.

    Thanks for visiting and I’d love to hear more of your thoughts!

  18. There is a dish which is part of the royal court cuisine that we think amok trey is based on. It’s also a steamed dish. Amok trey is part of what my family would term as an élite cuisine. But don’t just take my word for it. We are not a family of chefs or anything. It’s just a general knowledge passed around within my father’s family. My aunt lived in the palace for some years. Her husband was the kings’ chief brahmin.

  19. Hi Dalida, thanks for the further input. Sounds like your family has a fascinating history – have you researched it or written about it anywhere? Historically, in many culinary cultures, not just Cambodia’s ‘palace cuisine’ or ‘royal cuisine’ becomes the cuisine of the aristocrats and elites, as it did here – especially as royals become less significant or less accessible or diminish in numbers and have less impact on cultures. There are many steamed dishes that look like amok trei but are sweets, which you know obviously :) But nobody has ever mentioned another savoury dish. I’d love to know more if you don’t mind asking your family.

  20. I have all the ingredients already on hand except for noni leaves. Will sub maybe fish mint or Chinese broccoli. Looks like an amazing dish! Thanks for all the information about fish amok! I’m Japanese and love all things Asian!5 stars

  21. Hello Chieko, thanks for the kind words! How did your fish amok turn out? If you like fish mint (not everybody does) then that’s a good choice. Some chefs will recommend large betel leaves, others suggest a few leaves of the dark green Chinese veg like bok choy or even kale. Would love to see a pic if you took one! You can find us on Instagram and Facebook :)

  22. Am going to try this recipe, just a query, does Terence fry the kroeung paste before adding to the other ingredients?

  23. Hi Sue. That’s a definite no. It’s not like a Thai curry paste. In fact the little old ladies in Battambang used to mix the kroeung with the fish and either marinate the fish in it or slap the fillets with the kroeung mixed with it in a stainless steel bowl.
    Happy cooking!
    T

  24. It’s an Easter Miracle I found you & this recipe! In 2015, I’d pasted a picture of some unknown ancient ruins w/ overgrowth onto my vison board. That Fall, I serendipitously visited friends in Myanmar & travelled there for a few weeks. I discovered my “vision” was Angkor Wat, where I made a separate, solo journey to complete my experience.
    As I quickly read up on Siem Riep, The Sugar Palm was recommended, & I took myself there to try this fish amok. Oh my. It was a glorious food experience! I recognized Kethana celebrating at a nearby table, & expressed my appreciation.
    Since returning to Portland, Oregon, I’ve been searching local restaurants, the internet, & even hoping to contact Kethana at The Sugar Palm. I’ve noticed all variations–“bastardizations” as you describe, & felt there was probably something different. Yesterday & today I decided to commit to finding THE recipe. Amen. I am so grateful. And the inclusion of how to make the banana leaf baskets is superlative!! I will let you know how mine turns out. HAH! I am so excited, & will be following you forever, Anne5 stars

  25. Anne, thanks so much for your comment. We love it when our visitors to Siem Reap get to try the ‘real’ version of the dish and that is why Lara takes her guests to The Sugar Palm on the first night of a tour with us. Sadly, like most restaurants here The Sugar Palm is currently closed, but we can still make the authentic dish at home! Happy cooking!
    T

  26. Good day!
    I’m very new to steaming a curry, so I was wondering, a maybe silly question: I don’t fully understand steps 4, 5 and 6. I have a bamboo steamer and a wok. Where do I put the fish and the paste? Do I put them in the banana leaf baskets and then in the steamer? I’m a little confused about his!

  27. Greetings Sophie,
    So glad you’re going to make this!

    The fish and the paste are mixed in step 2 – just in case you missed that.

    I’ve updated step 5 to clarify:
    Add the curry mixture to each ramiken/coconut shell/banana leaf basket and fill almost to the top. Use a spoon or spatula to flatten the mixture out, drizzle a teaspoon of coconut cream and sprinkle some finely sliced kaffir lime leaves on top. Save some for a final garnish.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers & happy cooking
    T

  28. So glad to have found this recipe! I’m a first generation Cambodian living in America but moved to Malaysia the last 10 years. Being away from my mom makes me homesick for Khmer food. I always find amok to be a very daunting dish to make. But your recipe makes it easy to follow. Shame on me for never bothering to take notes of the steps when my mother makes it. My mother always makes her amok steam, prepared exactly as you had written down, minus the shrimp paste. In her house, prahok is a must. But funny thing is, when I called to tell her that I don’t have access to prahok (fermented fish), she said just substitute it with shrimp paste ?.

    I agreed with you on not finding authentic amok when traveling in Cambodia. I’ve gone back to visit three times and it waa always a quick stir fry method, never steamed in banana leaf. It was truly disappointing.

    So I’m super excited to be able to find ur recipe. Will definitely try this soon.5 stars

  29. Hello Sophia, I’m so pleased you found the recipe easy to follow and, yes, shrimp paste has that funkiness that prahok has so is the next best option if you can’t find Cambodia’s beloved fermented fish. When you next get back to Cambodia, try to eat at Sugar Palm in Siem Reap if it’s open (it’s currently closed) as Kethana’s is the best amok trei we’ve tried in the country. Thank you so much for dropping by and taking the time to leave a comment!

  30. Sousdai Lara & Terrence, this is the best introduction to amok trey I have ever read and I am Khmer American and I was confused. I know you from the Khmer cooking FB page Lara but first time I visited your site and I am so impressed. I will spend a lot of time here. Thank you for shining the spotlight on Khmer cuisine. I cannot wait to read your book. I will go support on Patreon. My dream is to meet you guys in Siem Reap one day. Stay safe!5 stars

  31. Sousdai Rady! Okun charan! Thank you so much for the kind words. I recognise your name from the group. Thanks for dropping by and for any support! I have a few Khmer American patrons on Patreon who have become friends who are also hoping to visit us here. I hope we are still here!!! But if we are not and we head home to Australia to get back on our feet, we will definitely be back and hope to bring culinary tour groups here and continue to hold the occasional food/travel writing and photography retreats here, so hopefully you can either join us or we can connect on one of our return visits. Cambodia and its food and history and people have been such a big part of our lives, we won’t be able to let go easily. And if we can’t be here, we have excellent Cambodian guides who are like family who will take good care of you. You stay safe wherever you are, too! Thanks for taking the time to drop by and leave a comment :)

  32. Thank you for introducing the real recipe for the amok. I thought I was going crazy when I visited Cambodia 2017 & could not find traditional amok let alone a lot of dishes that my mom & her siblings used to cooked is no longer the same. I do cooked a lot of traditional Khmer food from scratch because that’s all I know from my mom whom passed away. So I was excited to introduce my husband to my food in my motherland and was very disappointed. I even asked why the food taste different and was told they have to cater to foreigners and Khmer dishes has too much distinguish taste which might not appeal to foreigners which I told them that’s not true. I introduce my husband to my food & he thought it was the most exotic taste and love, his favorite food beside amok is our veggie soup like ka kho or prahal. Sorry I hope that the closest name of the soup that you have have tried as well.5 stars

  33. Hi Tevy, thank you so much for your comment. I would love to connect with you for my Cambodia cookbook and culinary history research and learn more about your mum’s cooking. Hope you don’t mind if I email you? How I wish you would have discovered our website before your 2017 visit, so I could have taken you eating here in Siem Reap, or at the very least given you a list of restaurants to eat at. What a shame you didn’t find Sugar Palm, one of the oldest proper restaurants in Siem Reap. Its owner Kethana Dunnett is considered to be the ‘grandmother of Cambodian cuisine’ by the younger generation of chefs. Her team cook her family recipes from the pre-Khmer Rouge period and they’re very traditional and incredibly delicious. I have used Kethana’s fish amok as a yardstick by which I have measured all others over the years, and despite having first learnt to make amok trei with Kethana, it’s the dear old cooks in Battambang who really opened our eyes to how much care and time is taken when making amok trei. I’ll write more about that in our Cambodian cookbook.

    Prior to the pandemic, there were some fantastic restaurants serving traditional Cambodian food — Sugar Palm, Malis and Chanrey Tree for traditional refined food; Mahob Khmer, Lum Orng, Cuisine Wat Damnak, Embassy, Mie Cafe, Pou, etc for refined and/or creative takes on the traditional; and then more casual eateries, such as Tevy’s Place, Chan Reash 10 Makara, etc. So many are currently closed as the food and beverage, hospitality and tourism industries has been devastated here, but I’ll update this post when life gets back to normal and things reopen: https://grantourismotravels.com/best-siem-reap-cambodian-restaurants/ But, yes, as we say, and as you’ve experienced, there are/were also a lot of bad ‘tourist’ restaurants serving up awful Cambodian food. It really is a place where you need to know where to eat.

    As you know from our posts, we completely agree with you re Cambodian food and foreign tastes/ Many of our friends and clients who have visited Cambodia and eaten at the restaurants we recommended have fallen in love with Cambodian food and leave here having become especially smitten with dishes such as prahok k’tis and amok trei. If anything, Cambodian curries are more accessible than Thai curries, as they’re less fiery, and for those who love spicier food they can easily be adjusted by adding extra slices of chillies. I think the root of a lot of issues is a misunderstanding by Cambodian chefs and staff that *all* foreigners don’t like spicy food and won’t like Cambodian food, which is based on their experiences with a minority of tourists who don’t like any spicy food or Asian food. Instead of better training staff to educate diners, restaurant owners and chefs have taken the easy route by simply adapting their food.

    I hope when restaurants re-open here that things change, that there is more training of staff, more education of diners, and less compromising by chefs. It is next to impossible to find the beloved Cambodian dishes you mention at the tourist-focused Cambodian restaurants. Think about all the amazing soups and stews, from samlor korko to samlor machou kroeung sach ko, and one of my favourites, the pickled lime soup with chicken, sngor ngam ngov; not to mention all the fantastic salads, such as the long bean salad with smoked fish, bok sondek trey cha-er (I’ve never seen this on a restaurant menu), and dishes such as stir fried clams with tamarind sauce and basil, ngeav chhar ampil tum (which I’ve only had at two restaurants, Lum Orng and Mahob Khmer). I think there’s a great opportunity in the future to really change things: to introduce more foreigners to better quality Cambodian food and to a larger range of dishes normally only cooked in the home, and to excite their palates and promote Cambodian food to the world. I hope your experience is much better when you next return!

    Sorry for the lengthy response, but I was so excited to see your comment and hear from someone who agrees with us on this subject! :) Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment.

  34. I will be making the Fish Amok recipe for a Cambodian dinner I will be doing later this month with some family members. This recipe is for 4, but I will be doubling it. Silly question probably, but wondering if I should also completely double the Khmer Yellow Kroeung. Also, I found some morinda leaves chopped online. Is this the same as the noni? Thank You!!

  35. Hi Penny, how lovely to hear that! That should be enough kroeung, but I would recommend testing the fish amoks a couple of days before the dinner party. Then you can a) adjust the kroeung if needed to your taste (eg. if you prefer spicier Southeast Asian cuisines, like Thai food, you can always add a little fresh chilli), and b) test the cooking time (depending on the steamer you’re using, it could take less or more time). If your guests are not familiar with Cambodian food, you may want to make smaller sized fish amoks, as some people find them very rich.

    If you have some leftover after making two batches, it can always be used to make a stir-fry or the Cambodian equivalent of a green curry – with chicken or fish or pork ribsor whatever. Just fry a couple of tablespoons of kroeung in a wok and add coconut milk (if it’s chicken thighs, I’d brown them first). Sprinkle some fresh basil or coriander on top and you’ve got an easy mid-week meal. Enjoy!

  36. Hi Lara. Thank you for your suggestions! My sister, niece and I do monthly ethnic dinners. We take turns choosing the country, and that person is the one that does the main dish. One does sides, and the other does appetizer and dessert. It’s been fun, and we’ve had some interesting meals that we otherwise would never know about. The chopped morinda leaves I mentioned in previous comment…is it the same as the noni in recipe? Any recommendations for sides would be welcome too!!! 😊
    Thank you again and looking forward to trying this dish!!

  37. Hi Penny, oh that sounds absolutely wonderful! And, yes, morinda citrifolia is noni – Cambodian cooks will often put 2-3 large leaves on the bottom of the banana basket or coconut shell or ramekins or whatever you’re making the fish amok in. This is it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morinda_citrifolia

    Cambodians would normally eat the dishes altogether family style at the centre of the table with rice, but there’s also no reason why you can’t serve them in courses one at a time :)

    In terms of an appetiser, depends where you are… whether it’s summer or winter…

    Fresh spring rolls are always a great choice, if it’s summer for you – or fried spring rolls if it’s winter. The fried fish cakes with lemongrass are also delicious, but might be too much fish.

    Or you could go for a salad, such as the Cambodian ground pork larb (laab sach chrouk), which is made with fresh fragrant herbs. That’s usually eaten with plain steamed rice. But you could also serve it with lettuce leaves and people can spoon the larb into the lettuce and use that as a vehicle to eat it. That’s a good year-round dish, too.

    The Cambodian grilled eggplant with minced pork (chha trob) is a delicious and filling side. But for something simpler, hard to go past stir-fried Chinese greens.

    Oh, another idea is to make mini fish amoks as appetisers and then make a chicken curry with steamed rice as a main. It’s easier to make a big pot of curry than it is to do six fish amoks too. I also love the saraman curry, which is the Cambodian cousin of the Thai beef massaman, but you want to cook it low and slow so the beef is fall apart.

    For dessert, I love a banana coconut tapioca pudding (chek ktis) – the banana is stewed in coconut milk with tapioca pearls, which I perfume with star anise.

    You’ll find links to all of those recipes here: https://grantourismotravels.com/cambodian-recipes-to-learn-to-cook/

    I’ve got more on the site that I haven’t added to that collection, but I’ll try and do that tonight, so they’re all in one place. I wish our cookbook was published so you could all be cooking from that :(

    Let me know if you have any questions. And please drop back and let us know how it went :)

  38. Thank you SO much for all of your help and suggestions! I will let you know how it goes. 😊 Dinner is on the 28th.

  39. Hi Penny, no problem at all! I hope it goes well. Don’t hesitate to get back to us here if you have any more questions between now and then. I’d love to see some pics of your food – perhaps if you’re on Instagram or Facebook, tag us there? Have fun!

  40. Hello again Lara! Our dinner for the fish Amok is now scheduled for Sunday. I’m just wondering if the yellow Kroeng can be made the day before, or even morning of to Mario the fish. I know it said above it can marinate longer than the hour, but wasn’t sure how long is too long? Thanks, and looking forward to our Cambodian meal. My sister actually reached out to you too about her sides. 😋

  41. Hi Penny, yes, you can definitely make the kroeung the day before, just keep it in a glass jar or sealed ziploc bag in the fridge. Not every cook/chef marinates these day – that’s very much a traditional method to disguise the muddy flavours of the river/lake fish here – so you could marinate it for as little as 30 minutes or, if you have a really beautifully flavoured fish, not at all. I’m looking forward to hearing how your Cambodian meal goes! Enjoy!

  42. Hi Lara, thank you for the recipe. It’s very detailed and clear. I tried it twice, and although the results were good, my goal was to make it “as good as” the one I tried at the Sugar Palm restaurant, and that I did not reach. Maybe I was too ambitious, but I’ll try again.

    One problem was my sloppy attempts at making banana leaf boxes. They leaked! I used fresh Mexican banana leaves (the only ones available in my home town – Houston, Texas. Even oriental grocery stores sell them exclusively). They tended to break when folded against the grain. Any additional pointers on this would be appreciated!

    I tried using the Southern US variety of catfish, which is ubiquitous around where I live, but it fell apart. I also tried cod, and that was better. Also, the amok failed to set properly; it was more like a curry, particularly with the catfish, which released too much liquid into the sauce.

    A question on terminology: can you clarify what you mean by “red chilli”? Again, I live in an area with deep Mexican influence. They have many varieties of red chilies. Many of them, like the dried “chile de árbol”, are so hot that the dish would be inedible if used in any quantity that would change the color of the amok. I ended using regular red peppers (I think that’s what you call red capsicum) mixed with just a hint of chile de árbol. I could use some of the milder Mexican red chilies, which would give the dish a distinctively Mexican flavor, which is not necessarily bad. Hmm…5 stars

  43. Hello Arturo, lovely to hear from you. That feedback is all very helpful for us – we’ll adjust the text and add more advice.

    A few tips:

    Local cooks here in Cambodia will often soften the banana leaves over low heat so they are easier to fold — you could lay them over a large grill pan over low heat, for instance. Having said that, modern Cambodian restaurants rarely serve fish amok in banana leaves these days – Sugar Palm uses bowls made out of coconut wood, but I’ve also seen large ramekins used (which we will often use) and large ceramic bowls.

    As for the fish… I’ve tasted all kinds of amok trei here, some where the fish was in firm chunks, others where it was in smaller pieces, so it’s really up to personal preference. And, yes, I’ve tasted fish amoks that are quite watery at the bottom due to a combination of the fish and using lots of noni leaves. I actually prefer something like a cod. I reckon barramundi would be lovely too. These days chefs use shrimp/prawns too.

    There has long been debate about whether to use an egg or not, and cooks in countryside and villages don’t, but city cooks and professional chefs do, as it helps it set. So next time, try beating an egg and stirring that into the mixture.

    You’ll find all fish amoks can come in all kinds of colours, from yellow and yellow-green through the a yellow-orange and reddy-orange, and it’s all due to the chillies used of course.

    When we first shared the recipe we didn’t even dream that someone who might have access to the abundance of Mexican chillies that you have there would ever be making a Cambodian dish, so we’ll definitely elaborate on that section. Cambodians don’t have names to differentiate their chillies and they don’t have the variety that Mexicans have. When it comes to fresh red chillies, they typically use just a couple of types of chillies – the tiny fiery birds-eye-chillies, which are essentially a fresh ripe chile de árbol, and a longer, slender, milder red chilli, which even when grown locally is often labelled as a Korean chilli. Apparently they are still part of the Capsicum annuum species, but they have more heat (medium heat) than the larger, rounder, squatter, mild bell pepper that Australians call capsicum.

    All Southeast Asian chillies originally came from Mexican anyway, so I reckon any mild Mexican chillies would work. The dish should be rich, gently spiced with warmth rather than heat, and fragrant from the fresh ingredients used.

    Good luck and please do come visit again and let us know how it went!

  44. So pleased to hear that, Rany! I’ve been meaning to contact you about a couple of things… but first I have to deal with a recipe that has plagiarised my amok trei text (not the recipe as their recipe wouldn’t even make amok trei, it’s an absolute joke!) and a dozen other recipe narratives. This is so exhausting and so unfair, after all my hard work.

    One piece of amazingly-crazy-good news: a Cambodian-Australian bakery called Country Cob Bakery, in the state of Victoria, in southern Australia, has just won Australia’s Best Pie for the 3rd year in a row! Their winning pie? A Fish Amok pie!!! How wonderful is that?! I am going to get in touch with them.

    I’ll message you about the other thing tomorrow — also connected to amok trei, but a Cambodian-American guy who won some contest with a strange gluggy brown fish amok sprinkled with what looks like crispy garlic! Everyone here is horrified. I need to find the link.

  45. We LOVE this fish amok recipe Lara!!! My family ALL agree it’s the most authentic amok recipe! Thank you for promoting Cambodian cuisine to the world. Awkun jaran! 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼5 stars

  46. Great authentic taste. I had to swap out a couple of things as I couldn’t get them in Australia but it tasted close to the versions I hloved in Cambodia5 stars

  47. Hi Julie, so pleased to hear this! :) I’d love you to try more of our Cambodian recipes and let us know what you think — and thanks for taking the time to drop by and let us know what you think. Happy new year!

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