Yellow Kroeung (Kroeung Samlar M’chou). Siem Reap Studios, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Copyright 2014 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Khmer Yellow Kroeung Recipe for Kroeung Samlor Machou, Cambodia’s Essential Spice Paste

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This Khmer yellow kroeung recipe makes the Cambodian herb and spice paste called kroeung, which is an irreplaceable ingredient in Khmer cooking. The yellow kroeung is the foundational kroeung. it’s the most basic kroeung and the most versatile of the five main herb and spice pastes used in so many classic Cambodian dishes, especially soups such as samlor machou kroeung sach ko.

The Khmer yellow kroeung paste is the basic kroeung or freshly-pounded herb and spice paste in Cambodian cooking. The other four are the green kroeung (kroeung prâhoeur), the red kroeung (kroeung samlor kari), ‘k’tis kroeung’ (kroeung samlor k’tis), and the saraman kroeung (kroeung samlor saraman), used to make the Cambodian Saraman curry.

The yellow kroeung is used for many classic Khmer and Cambodian dishes, including fish amok (amok trei) and soups such as samlor machou kroeung sach ko, a sour beef soup with morning glory, which is why the paste is commonly called kroeung samlor machou.

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Khmer Yellow Kroeung Recipe for Kroeung Samlor Machou, Cambodia’s Essential Spice Paste

The Khmer yellow kroeung is also used as a marinade for the popular street food snack, charcoal-grilled beef skewers, and in prahok k’tis, the ubiquitous Khmer dip made with prahok (fermented fish), minced pork, coconut milk, and pea eggplants that is eaten with crunchy vegetable crudites.

The yellow kroeung paste gets its colour from the turmeric and lemongrass stems. The lemongrass here in Cambodia is generally tougher than that found in Thailand, which is why in the local markets you’ll find the lemongrass already sliced thinly to make pounding the paste in a mortar and pestle much easier.

Yellow Kroeung (Kroeung Samlar M’chou). Siem Reap Studios, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Copyright 2014 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Two of the key ingredients for the Khmer yellow kroeung paste can sometimes be difficult to find outside Southeast Asia — kaffir limes (krauch soeuch in Khmer) and fresh turmeric.

Oddly enough you’ll often find fresh kaffir lime leaves in markets here in Siem Reap, but not always the kaffir limes themselves, as they’re quite bitter.

Just a few tips to making this Cambodian yellow kroeung paste.

Tips to Making this Khmer Yellow Kroeung Herb and Spice Paste

I only have a few tips to making this Khmer yellow kroeung paste. If you must, you can substitute the kaffir limes with the kaffir lime leaves, and you can substitute fresh turmeric with ground turmeric or turmeric powder quite successfully.

As usual with a curry paste or, more correctly, a herb and spice paste, when you are starting to grind the ingredients in the mortar and pestle, start with the hardest ingredients and gradually grind in the softer ingredients.

When preparing the fresh turmeric for the yellow kroeung, it will stain your skin like crazy, so it’s best to wear gloves while handling it.

This Khmer yellow kroeung, like a lot of freshly pounded herb and spice pastes is best used on the same day, as it tends to dry out.

Submerging it in oil to preserve it doesn’t really work as quite often it’s used just gently mixed into coconut milk and the oil is an unwanted addition.

A note on our use of ‘kaffir’ lime: there has been some debate in the media in recent years on the use of ‘kaffir’, which is a word of Arabic origin used by Muslims to refer to non-Muslims or atheists.

The word ‘kaffir’ is considered racist in South Africa, where use of the term ‘makrut’, Thai for kaffir limes, is being encouraged.

If you’re an English speaker and are shopping for ingredients for this yellow kroeung and you can’t pronounce the Khmer translation ‘krauch soeuch’ and try to use the term ‘makrut’ in Cambodian markets, most vendors won’t know what you want. Or, as the word ‘makrut’ originates from Thailand, they may just pretend they don’t know.

Best to learn the Khmer krauch soeuch, pronounced ‘crouch search’ or stick to ‘kaffir lime’ here in Cambodia, where you are not going to offend anyone. If you’re shopping for Southeast Asian ingredients in South Africa, that’s a whole different story obviously!

Khmer Yellow Kroeung Spice Paste Recipe for Kroeung Samlor Machou

Yellow Kroeung (Kroeung Samlar M’chou). Siem Reap Studios, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Copyright 2014 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Khmer Yellow Kroeung — Kroeung Samlor Machou Recipe

AuthorTerence Carter
The Cambodian curry paste called kroeung is an irreplaceable ingredient in Khmer cooking and yellow kroeung is the most versatile of the curry pastes, used in many classic Cambodian dishes, especially soups and dips.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Curry Paste
Cuisine Khmer
Servings made with recipe1 Curry
Calories 257 kcal


  • 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


  • Place the lemongrass in a well-supported mortar and pound with the pestle until you can no longer see the rings of the lemongrass and it's all mashed up.
  • Add the galangal, turmeric and kaffir lime zest and pound until they're incorporated into the mashed lemongrass.
  • Add the garlic and pound and then add the shallots and pound.
  • The finished paste will still have some fibres from the lemongrass but should otherwise be quite smooth.


I've used samlor machou here, but you will also see it written as samlor m'chou, samlar machou, samlar m'chou, samloh machou, sam-law machou, and so on.


Serving: 3gCalories: 257kcalCarbohydrates: 58.2gProtein: 7.7gFat: 0.4gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 6mgFiber: 0.9gSugar: 0.3g

Do let us know if you make this Khmer yellow kroeung recipe. We’d love to know how it turns out for you.


Lara Dunston Patreon

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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.

18 thoughts on “Khmer Yellow Kroeung Recipe for Kroeung Samlor Machou, Cambodia’s Essential Spice Paste”

  1. I really loved this paste and am eager to try and prepare it myself. The versatility of it and your easy to follow recipe is very appealing.5 stars

  2. Thanks for including required amount of lemongrass stalks in grams. I’ve browsed through a lot of recipes that indicate lemongrass stalks in units, which would not be accurate for me as the lemongrass stalks in my farm’s smaller than the ones I found in Siem Reap. Great recipe.5 stars

  3. Funnily enough, I was working on a few recipes yesterday with different versions of yellow kroeung and comparing grams Vs tbsp and stalks, grams win! Even in neighbouring Thialand the lemongrass generally has much more girth making stalks a useless measurement. You might get 20 grams of finished lemongrass from a stalk Vs 10 grams from the ones I used yesterday…

    Thanks for your comments! I’m working on a few new recipes I’m testing coming soon.

  4. Hi Suzanne, morning glory is also known as water spinach – although there are actually two types of morning glory here in Southeast Asia, one grown in water and one grown on land. I recommend heading to your nearest Asian market/store and asking what they have available that would work – but lookout for other Chinese spinaches or leafy greens. If you’re in the US, kale would be a good option. Please don’t hesitate to come back to us if you need more tips.

  5. Terence and Lara, this was so good! We have been using Thai pastes when we’ve cooked Cambodian food as they didn’t explain the difference in the cooking class we did in Siem Reap. Bob and I tried this on the weekend when we made your soup and it was fantastic. We then realised how many of your recipes this is used in so we’ll make a bigger batch on the weekend. Can we freeze it or store it in a jar?5 stars

  6. Hey Kerry, only the classic Thai red curry paste is close to the Cambodian one! I don’t recommend freezing the paste, but you can put it in a jar and cover it with a layer of vegetable oil.
    Happy cooking.

  7. Hello!

    I was wondering if I can substitute the fresh turmeric for powdered turmeric? Also will kaffir lime leaves work? It’s hard to find the actual lime!

    I live in Hawaii and I miss my mom’s home cook meals! I’ve been making a lot of Cambodian food myself but my husband has been wanting the New Year’s Sach ko jakak! My mom had to ship me some galangal. Sometimes it’s hard to find! Please let me know! Thank you!!

  8. Greetings Marly,
    Powdered turmeric will work ok. Just add it to the final kroeung.
    Kaffir limes, however, are unique as you know. I’ve tried using leaves when I could not find good limes and it does not break down in the paste – it’s not like lemongrass stalks. I think it’s better to leave it out. It won’t be the same, but it will be close.
    Now I have a craving for some beef skewers.
    Happy cooking and have a great year.

  9. Just like my granny and mom made! Major regrets not writing down their recipes and not spending more time cooking with them. They recently passed from Covid. Now we trying to recreate their recipes. Looking forward to your Khmer cookbook!!5 stars

  10. Hi Sonita, so sorry for your loss. Cooking and eating the food of loved ones we’ve lost is such a wonderful way to remember them. I’m sure you’ll be able to recreate their recipes through tasting and using your food memory. Hopefully our recipes help. Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by to let us know. Hopefully this will be the year we finally find a publisher interested in our cookbook. Fingers and toes crossed x

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