This Cambodian sour soup with pork, pineapple and coconut milk recipe makes a versatile dish that you can serve as a soup by thinning it out with stock or water, or dish it out as an almost curry-like stew by letting it simmer longer and reduce right down. It’s also a great year-round dish. Serve with steamed rice and stir-fried greens.
This Cambodian sour soup with pork, pineapple and coconut milk recipe is next in my series on Cambodian soups – the first was the Cambodian sour beef soup with morning glory (samlor machou kroeung sach ko) and next up is the ‘outside the pot’ soup – and it’s another one of my favourite Cambodian soups for its versatility as much as its sour and sweet flavours and presentation.
Few things are as comforting as soups and we all need comfort right now, so while Terence is char-grilling aubergines and turning beef skewers on the brazier for his Cambodian barbecue recipe series, I’m stirring pots of bubbling Cambodian soups on the stove.
Next up I’m testing two soups: samlor kako or ‘stirring soup’, a hearty fruit and vegetable-driven soup that is one of Cambodia’s quintessential dishes and requires frequent stirring, and the Cambodian out of pot soup, which doesn’t involve much stirring or simmering at all, and is perhaps the easiest Cambodian soup to make. In the meantime, here’s our Cambodian sour soup with pork, pineapple and coconut milk recipe.
As mentioned in my previous post, this post will feature 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 any of these soups. 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 Sour Soup With Pork, Pineapple and Coconut Milk Recipe – How to Make Samlor Machou Ktis
Known simply as samlor machou ktis (or k’tis) by Cambodians who love to shorten names, just as we Australians like to do, it’s more correctly called samlor machou ktis monoa sach chrouk. ‘Samlor machou’ means sour soup and Cambodians love their sour soups, a whole category of soup distinguished by their tartness and tanginess, generally due to the inclusion of citrus or another souring agent, such as tamarind.
Although to call this particular soup ‘sour’ only is a tad misleading, as this is a balanced soup with the sourness offset by the sweetness. It should perhaps be called a ‘sweet and sour’ soup, although then the Chinese cuisines come to mind, which would create false expectations about the flavours of this much-loved Cambodian dish.
In the case of this Cambodian sour soup with pork, pineapple and coconut milk recipe, the pineapple, palm sugar and coconut milk makes this dish sweeter than sour, which is why it needs the tamarind juice. Having said that, I chose a fully ripe and very sweet pineapple. If you used a younger pineapple, it would be less sweet.
Samlor – which you’ll see written as samlo, samlaw, samlar, samla, samlah etc as there’s no standardisation of romanised English for Khmer – can mean both a soup or a stew, which can be confusing to foreign travellers eating out in restaurants in Cambodia on their first trip. I’ll never forget eating a rich, hearty, stew-like samlor at one restaurant on our first trip to Phnom Penh many years ago, and then ordering another samlor at a different restaurant expecting it would be similar only to receive a watery soup.
A positive is that this gives you a certain degree of freedom, which is why you’ll see this sour soup with pork, pineapple and coconut milk served very much as a soup, especially in homes in the countryside where soups mean there’s more to go around. But you’ll also find this dish in restaurants presented as a heartier stew.
In a Cambodian home in the countryside a soup such as this might be served for lunch or dinner, where it would be presented in a big pot and eaten with loads of rice. The pot would be on the table, a plate of rice would be dished up for each person, and the soup would be ladled into small bowls.
Unlike Cambodian breakfast soups, which are eaten individually, in a city or in the home of a more well-off family, this soup might be served as one of an array of dishes that might also include a dip and vegetables, stir-fry, perhaps a curry, and something grilled. For a special occasion or at a restaurant, it might be served in a pineapple cut in half as I have done or cut lengthwise.
Tips to Making this Cambodian Sour Soup with Pork, Pineapple and Coconut Milk Recipe
This Cambodian sour soup with pork, pineapple and coconut milk recipe is easy to make, especially if you make the Khmer yellow kroeung in advance. As I explained in my last post, a kroeung is a Cambodian herb and spice and the yellow kroeung used for this recipe (and my last soup recipe) is the most basic and most versatile of the main pastes used in Khmer cooking.
As well as this Cambodian sour soup with pork, pineapple and coconut milk recipe, the yellow kroeung is used in many Khmer dishes, including Cambodia’s famous fish amok, these smoky beef skewers and that sour beef soup with morning glory.
I mentioned above how I love the versatility of this Cambodian sour soup with pork, pineapple and coconut milk recipe and how it can be made as a thinner soup or reduced to a stew. I recommend trying it as a soup the first time you make it, and then the second time reducing it right down to make a stew. Let me know which you prefer.
I’ve used pork loin for this as I love the texture it gets from being fried in the kroeung and prahok (fermented fish paste) and then left to simmer. Some Cambodians use pork ribs, but I prefer the small pieces of pork if presenting it in a pineapple – which is also why I use the pea eggplants.
Some recipes call for the round striped eggplants but I prefer the pea eggplants not only for their size but also because they’re bitter-sweet, which works well with the sour-sweet dish. If you threw the pea eggplants straight into the dish they’d only taste bitter. It’s important that you fry them first to bring out the sweetness in them.
This dish is typically made with prahok, however, it can be challenging to find outside Cambodia, which is why I’m always going to write prahok and/or fish sauce in my Cambodian recipes on Grantourismo. The prahok gives the dish a funkiness that’s quintessentially Cambodian.
Prahok is an acquired taste, however, so you could leave it out if you don’t like it. I’ve also written ‘and/or fish sauce’ because some Cambodians will use both prahok and fish sauce. One recipe I have for this dish uses prahok, fish sauce and shrimp paste, which makes for a very pungent dish, a little too pungent even for me.
Never forget that with Cambodian food – like Thai food and other Southeast Asian cuisines – it’s essential to taste the dish as you go. It’s okay to adjust seasoning to your own taste. Chefs continually taste and tweak in kitchens. Cooking instructors do the same in classes and encourage students to adjust dishes to their taste. If it’s too sour, add more palm sugar (and if you don’t have palm sugar, use brown sugar), if it’s too sweet, add more fish sauce and/or tamarind juice.
As with the last soup I made, this should provide enough for four people although if you’re serving it as one of an array of dishes, you should be able to offer 6-8 serves in small bowls.
And once again, chilli is optional and can be served on the side. We like the bite that a little chilli gives but not everybody does. Cambodians typically serve finely sliced chillies in a bowl on the table, so those who like it can add it.
Cambodian Sour Soup With Pork, Pineapple and Coconut Milk Recipe
- 1 large pineapple
- 6 tbsp yellow kroeung
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 300 g pork shoulder - chopped into small bite-size pieces
- 1 tsp prahok - can use 1-2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 bunch pea eggplants - around 32-40 or 8-10 per person
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 1 tbsp tamarind juice
- 3 cups water or stock - we prefer stock
- 1 bunch Thai basil
- 1 small red chilli - finely-chopped, optional
- Make the Khmer yellow herb/spice paste called Kroeung Samlor Machou (see recipe link, above).
- Prepare the pineapple: depending on the size, cut the pineapple in half or one-third from the top. Peel the top part of the pineapple and chop it into bite-sized cubes. For the remainder of the pineapple, which you will use as a bowl, scoop out the pineapple meat and chop into similar size pieces and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a pan and fry the pork, prahok or fish sauce (optional) and 3 tablespoons of kroeung until the pork has some colour. When done, transfer to a soup or stew pot.
- Heat another tablespoon of cooking oil and pan fry the pea eggplants, continually turning them, until they begin to brown and even char a little. Transfer to the soup or stew pot.
- Add the coconut milk, pineapple, palm sugar and the rest of the kroeung (3 tablespoons) to the soup/stew pot and stir everything until well combined.
- If you’re making a soup, add the cups of water/stock and simmer on low heat for at least one hour, stirring and tasting occasionally until the pork is tender. The water will give you a lighter soup, the stock a richer and more intensely flavoured soup. If you decide to make a curry-like stew, skip the water/stock, simmer on low heat, stirring and tasting occasionally until the pork is tender.
- Add the tamarind juice when you think the pork is done, taste. It should be balanced, both sweet and sour. If it’s missing something, add a pinch of salt and taste again. If you want some bite, finely chop the small red chillies, and add those.
- When the pork is tender, you’re ready to serve. It won’t all fit in your pineapple bowl, so pour as much as you can into the pineapple, garnish with Thai basil, and set at the centre of the table.
- You could distribute the rest between small individual bowls for your guests, garnishing each with basil. Or you could simply serve from your pineapple bowl and top it up with the rest as needed.
- Serve with a big bowl of steamed rice and a small dish of finely-chopped chillis.
Do let us know if you make this Cambodian sour soup with pork, pineapple and coconut milk recipe. We’d love to know how it turns out for you.