This Cambodian outside of the pot soup recipe – also called outside the pot soup and out of the pot soup – makes Chrouk Krao Chhnang in Khmer, a light salad of a soup, often eaten cool or at room temperature, that is made for the hot Northern Southeast Asian ‘summer’ of March-April, when the region experiences some of its highest temperatures.
Our Cambodian outside of the pot soup recipe – also called outside the pot soup and out of the pot soup – makes Chrouk Krao Chhnang, a super easy soup that’s made by preparing the ingredients, placing them in the bowl, pouring hot water into the bowl, allowing it to cool, then adding seasoning and fresh aromatic herbs. It’s next in my series on Cambodian samlors (soups and stews) that has so far included a sour beef soup with morning glory and a pork, pineapple and coconut milk soup-cum-stew.
The Cambodian out of the pot soup is another versatile Cambodian soup and because of that it is perhaps one of the most reinterpreted, deconstructed and reconstructed of all Cambodian dishes that you’ll find on gastronomic tasting menus at Siem Reap’s finest Cambodian restaurants.
From chef Joannès Rivière at Cuisine Wat Damnak to the Kimsan ‘twins’ who helm Embassy, from chef Pola Siv of Mie Café to Sothea Seng at Lum Orng, many of the most creative Cambodian chefs have their own inventive take on Cambodia’s outside the pot soup, most of which are finished at the table with the waiter pouring the hot consommé over the vegetables, herbs and fish, poaching it at the table.
At restaurants such as Cuisine Wat Damnak, you’ll be served everything from a full-flavoured out of the pot soup featuring fillets of fresh local fish instead of small torn pieces of smoked dried fish to an elegant rendition at Lum Orng consisting of a delicate mound of julienned cucumbers topped with crispy fried fish, sprinkled with edible flowers, and the clearest of consommés poured over by the waiter at your table.
As mentioned in our previous recipe posts, this will feature in one form or another in the epic Cambodian culinary history and cookbook we’ve been researching for six years, which we are seeking patrons for on Patreon, so please do let us know if you make this or any of our recent Cambodian recipes. We’d love your feedback and we’d also love to see you on Patreon. You can support that project for as little as the price of a cup of coffee a month.
Cambodian Outside of the Pot Soup Recipe – How to Make Chrouk Krao Chhnang
My Cambodian outside of the pot soup recipe is very traditional when it comes to the ingredients and method used to prepare Chrouk Krao Chhnang, I’ve just opted for a cleaner lighter presentation rather than the heartier-looking soups you’ll be served in a home with bowls brimming with chopped boiled eggs, shredded dried fish, julienned cucumbers, and abundant fresh mint.
This Cambodian outside of the pot soup recipe makes a light broth that’s popular at this time of the year, partly because in its simplest form, made with hot water, seasoning and herbs (rather than a stock or consommé) it’s super easy to make – which makes sense. Locals don’t want to spend time stirring a simmering pot during sultry April, which old-timers here call the Cambodian summer.
April also marks Khmer New Year, one of Cambodia’s most important holidays. It’s similar to Christmas-New Year elsewhere when people head home to spend the holidays with family. Because it’s the hot season in Cambodia it reminds me of our Christmases home in Australia during our sweltering summers rather than chilly Christmases in Europe in winter. And who wants to do a lot of cooking on summer holidays.
Which is why slurping this Cambodian outside the pot soup chilled or at room temperature makes sense. Many Cambodians will add ice to this soup to cool it right down. If you plan on consuming this soup cold, of course, you’ll need to use water and seasoning (fish sauce, salt, lime juice) rather than a stock or consommé. Because stocks are not pleasant to eat cold when the fat content solidifies and a chilled consommé essentially turns into an aspic or savoury jelly.
Notes on Making this Cambodian Outside of the Pot Soup Recipe
The traditional Cambodian outside of the pot soup recipe is typically made with one or two types of fish roughly torn into small pieces, a salted fish and/or a smoked dried fish, which adds texture and a little crunch. In Cambodia, smoked dried fish are readily available at local markets, however, you might find these challenging to come by outside Asia unless you do your own. Try your nearest Asian market or supermarket.
As an alternative you could use anchovies to provide the saltiness and you could take inspiration from the more contemporary Cambodian restaurants and use fresh fish cooked in your favourite style. I’ve seen chefs here in Siem Reap do everything from poach the fish to fry it. Generally they’ll opt for local river fish here, however, you could use any firm white fish.
I call this ‘a salad of a soup’ due to the ingredients: tomato, cucumber, shallots, boiled eggs, and herbs. Some Cambodian recipes use green tomatoes, but I’ve used red for colour. Nearly all Cambodian recipes julienne the cucumber, however, I’ve sliced it here for presentation. Some recipes use white onions, however, I’ve used purple shallots for colour and taste.
This Cambodian outside of the pot recipe assumes that you if you’re not using hot water and allowing the soup to cool as the locals do, then you have your favourite stock and consommé recipes or you’re using store-bought stock or cubes (we’re in a pandemic after all), if you’re planning on eating this hot.
We’ll provide stock recipes soon, for this and other Southeast Asian soups, such as Cambodia’s kuy teav, which I’ll be making as part of my Cambodian soup series. In the meantime, if you don’t have a favourite consommé recipe, try this one. Note that the total cooking time below assumes you have prepared your consommé or stock already.
Most cooks will use fish stock, but I’ve seen chefs do a vegetarian version using vegetable stock, and a couple of Cambodian recipes I spotted called for chicken stock. Alternatively, do as most locals do at home when they’re making this Cambodian outside of the pot recipe and use hot water with seasoning. This is essential if serving this chilled.
Cambodian Outside of the Pot Soup Recipe
- 50 g small salted fish - outside Cambodia, opt for anchovy, chopped into small pieces
- 100 g grilled smoked dried fish - or fried fish, torn into 2-3 cm pieces
- 2 medium-soft 5-minute boiled eggs - quartered
- 1 small purple shallot - finely sliced
- 1 medium cucumber - sliced
- 1 firm ripe tomato - sliced
- 1 garlic clove - finely chopped (optional)
- 2 cups fish or vegetable stock or fish consommé or boiled water
- light fish sauce - 2 tablespoons (or to taste)
- 1 small lime - squeeze of juice (or to taste)
- pinch salt - or to taste
- pinch sugar - or to taste
- fresh herbs: mint leaves - essential, Thai basil and saw-tooth coriander (optional)
- Heat your stock or consommé or put the water on to boil. If you’re using a stock that you’ve made and had in the freezer then you’ll need to bring it to a boil for at least 3 minutes to kill any bacteria. If you’re using a store-bought stock, follow the directions. Then turn off the heat and let the stock sit while you prep the rest of the ingredients. While many Cambodians use water we think a good clear fish consommé or fish stock works best, whether it’s home-made or store-bought. Just remember: if serving cold use water and seasoning; stock or consommé need to be served warm.
- Prepare the rest of the ingredients and split between the bowls. Tear apart or finely chop the small salted fish and place them in the bottom of the bowl. In Cambodia, there are myriad options, but outside Cambodia, you may wish to opt for anchovies.
- Tear apart the smoked dried fish and place in the bottom of the bowl. You may not be able to get this fish outside Southeast Asia and if you can it may not be to your taste so experiment with this. Try fried fish or poached fish.
- Slice your 2 medium-soft eggs into halves or quarters, depending on the size of the bowls you’re using. We like to do our eggs for 5 minutes, but do boil them for longer if you like them done more. You could arrange them in the bowl as we’ve done above. Some Cambodian cooks prefer to group each ingredient together while other Cambodian cooks prefer to combine the whole lot.
- Evenly distribute the finely sliced small purple shallots between the bowls.
- Evenly distribute the medium-sliced cucumber between the bowls. Note that some Cambodian recipes call for julienned cucumber, while others finely chop the cucumber. We like rounds.
- Evenly distribute the medium-sliced tomato slices between the bowls. Again, some recipes call for the tomato to be finely chopped, others use quarters of a similar size to the eggs. We like round slices.
- Optional: sprinkle the finely chopped garlic clove over the fresh ingredients, ensuring even distribution. Note that this is optional as raw finely chopped garlic in a soup such as this is not to everyone’s taste.
- Pour your stock or consommé into the bowls OR if opting for boiled water add the light fish sauce, then squeeze the juice of a small lime or lemon into the stock, add a pinch of salt, and a pinch of white sugar, then taste. It should be balanced, but if it’s not to your taste, then add a little more of any of those ingredients (fish sauce, lime juice, salt, sugar) until it suits your taste.
- Allow to cool down to room temperature before gently pouring into each bowl, evenly distributing. Now you could also do as Cambodians do and add ice cubes.
- Lastly, generously sprinkle your fresh herbs on top of each bowl. Mint leaves should dominate this dish, but if you like Thai basil and saw-tooth coriander, then roughly chop those leaves and feel free to add those, however, leave them until the last minute so they don’t brown.
- Provide a caddy or dishes of your condiments on the table: salt, sugar, fish sauce, fresh lime quarters, and a bowl of fresh herbs. Some people also like to add pepper to this dish.
- Serve immediately. Taste then add garnishes/condiments to suit.
Do let us know if you make our Cambodian outside of the pot soup recipe and how it turned out for you.