This natang recipe makes a Cambodian dip of minced pork, coconut cream and peanuts that’s made to be eaten with homemade crispy rice cakes, which in turn are intended to use up the rice that sticks to the bottom of a pot or any leftover rice.

Since I made this Cambodian natang recipe in our Siem Reap kitchen the other night, Lara has not stopped eating it. If I hadn’t have kept some natang aside for the photo shoot, she would have polished it right off. It’s very moreish and after prahok k’tis, natang is one of our favourite Cambodian dips.

Lara has been investigating the origins of natang – which you’ll also see in Cambodian cookbooks written as nataing, na taing and na tang – for our own Cambodia cookbook and culinary history, which we’ve been working on for the last six years. And whenever she researches Cambodian food she gets a craving for the dish she is writing about.

Natang is one of those dishes claimed by Cambodia and Thailand as their own and is found in both countries, due to their shared histories. In both Cambodia and Thailand, natang is frequently said to be a Royal Khmer or Royal Thai dish although Cambodian chefs we’ve interviewed believe it to be from the countryside. There’s no reason that it can’t be both.

One of the arguments for natang having originated from the countryside is that it was created specifically to be eaten with the rice crust (called bai kdaing) that forms from rice stuck on the bottom of the cooking pot or rice crackers made from leftover rice that’s flattened and left to dry in the sun.

Thais call the dish khao tang na tang and claim that the name comes from a story that Thais love khao tang na tang so much that they run ‘full tilt’ (‘na tang’) in order to eat it. I’m going to provide a recipe for khao tang na tang soon.

If you’re in Cambodia or travelling here, you can try delicious versions of natang at The Sugar Palm and Chanrey Tree, both in our guide to the best Siem Reap Cambodian restaurants.

Natang Recipe for a Cambodian Pork, Coconut and Peanut Dip with Crispy Rice Cakes

This Cambodian natang recipe makes a rich delicious dip comprised of ground pork, roasted peanuts, coconut cream and coconut milk, red chillies, cloves, shallots, palm sugar, and fish sauce. Some Cambodian recipes substitute fish sauce with shrimp paste, while others use fresh and dried shrimp instead. Some use dried spices other than cloves, but nearly all include coriander (cilantro).

Whatever the combination of ingredients, one thing that a natang recipe always calls for are crispy rice cakes, rice crackers or warm French baguettes cut into slices for dipping into the natang. The dip is traditionally served in a bowl, which the rice cakes or baguette slices are arranged around.

In Cambodian restaurants and homes, the natang and rice crackers or baguette slices are served as an appetiser or form part of a Cambodian family meal amongst a spread of dishes. I’ve reduced the natang right down so I could serve it bite-size as finger food among an array of Cambodian hors d’oeuvres or canapés. Natang is nearly always garnished with coriander but I’ve also added finely chopped kaffir lime.

Natang Recipe Cooking Notes

For this natang recipe, it’s really important not to cook the pork mince too much so that it doesn’t tighten up. The mince does not need to start to take on a crust and colour, as colour comes from the addition of the red chilli paste.

I’ve eaten many variants of this dish, although it’s inexplicably not on as many restaurant menus as prahok k’tis, which also confounds neophytes to the true flavours of Khmer cuisine, of which prahok (fermented fish) is one.

I don’t like natang that has not been reduced and has an oil slick floating on top, although a little red oil soaking into the rice crackers is a thing of beauty and absolutely delicious.

Although natang is typically served in a bowl with homemade rice crackers on the side, I prefer to spoon the natang onto individual rice crackers. I like these Siem Reap-produced rice cakes called ‘peanut pops’, which are sold at the markets and supermarkets. They are essentially rice cakes with peanuts mixed in, and they add more peanut flavour to the dish.

Some natang recipes include fresh or dried shrimps, or both. Other recipes for natang call for more fresh shrimp than pork mince. They’re delicious, too, but in the course of my natang recipe research I found that they are more similar to the Thai natang called khao tang na tang which I’ll write more about in my next recipe post.

I’m personally not a fan of the versions that include dried shrimp and/or shrimp paste but there’s no reason why you can’t add them and experiment and adjust to your liking. It’s always worth remembering with recipes from Southeast Asia that many of the oldest recipes from the region didn’t prescribe exact amounts of ingredients and were adjusted as necessary according to taste.

We’ll provide a recipe for the crispy rice cakes in the near future, but until then you can find a recipe for ‘crispy rice / bai k’dong’, along with a natang recipe in The Elephant Walk Cookbook by Cambodian-American Longteine De Monteiro (who owns the acclaimed Cambodian restaurant of the same name in the USA) and Katherine Neustadt.

Or you can buy rice crackers in markets in northern Southeast Asia if you live in the region or use store-bought rice crackers which you should find in a good supermarket.

Natang Recipe for a Cambodian Pork, Coconut and Peanut Dip with Crispy Rice Cakes

Khmer Natang Recipe for a Pork Coconut and Peanut Dip with Crispy Rice Cakes. Copyright © 2019 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Natang Recipe

Natang Recipe for a Cambodian Pork Coconut and Peanut Dip with Crispy Rice Cakes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Course: Appetiser
Cuisine: Cambodian, Khmer
Keyword: appetiser, Cambodian cuisine, cooking, dip, Khmer cuisine, Khmer food, na tang, nataing, na taing, natang, pork coconut peanut dip, recipe, rice cakes
Servings: 4
Calories: 337kcal

Ingredients

  • 200g gr minced pork
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 30 gr peanuts roasted, pounded
  • 5 cloves chopped
  • 4 pieces shallots sliced
  • 6 pieces dried red medium chillies
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 1 dozen Rice Cakes

Garnish

  • 4 Kaffir lime leaves

Instructions

  • Remove the seeds and chop the end off the chillis and slice the chillis. Soak the chilli pieces in hot water for 15 minutes. Break down the pieces either with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor.
  • Add the mince and cook through. Add the red chilli paste and cook for 1 minute before adding the coconut cream.
  • Stir-fry constantly for about 3 minutes more until the coconut cream is incorporated into the mixture.
  • Add the coconut milk and season with fish sauce to taste. If the mix tastes a little bland add some more fish sauce. Do not add salt. If you want the dip to be a little sweeter, add the palm sugar. Add most of the crushed peanuts, reserving some to garnish. Remove from heat.
  • To serve, you can either serve the dip in a bowl or serve on individual rice cakes, sprinkling the rest of the crushed peanuts and top with Kaffir lime leaves and sprigs of coriander leaves.

Nutrition

Calories: 337kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 748mg | Potassium: 364mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 397IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 2mg

Please do let us know if you make this natang recipe in the Comments below. We’d love to hear how it turns out for you. As part of her Cambodia culinary research, Lara is also keen to hear from Cambodians in Cambodia or the diaspora who have different Natang recipes. 

End of Article

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