Friday, December 07, 2012

Fish Amok (oh how I miss Cambodia)

Last year when I was living out my wildest dreams volunteering in Cambodia I was introduced to a dish I had never heard of before. It is called Fish Amok. One of the other volunteers tried it first, and one by one converted us all over to it. We even made a special trip to one of the most expensive restaurants in town to try it because we heard it was best there.

It's hard to describe the taste. It's almost like a curry dish, and yet, not. But if you like curry Thai dishes, you will definitely like Fish Amok. It isn't a spicy dish, or at least nothing that will make your eyes water. But it is very flavorful. Just like many authentic Indian or Thai dishes (or even Chinese), it is a thick soupy or pasty meal, with meat in it, served over rice. Or in my case, I just took my plate of rice and dumped it in the coconut. That  shallow wooden spoon thing took way too long to scoop it up and pour it into my rice. I have no idea how impolite  was to do it, but I didn't care. My way meant getting to eat up every last drop of the amok.

Normally fish amok is steamed (and even served!) in a coconut shell or banana leaf package, but making it in a regular steamer works as well.

* 1 lb (400 g) meaty fish or firm tofu
* 1/2 cup coconut cream
* 2 cups coconut milk
* 1 tbsp fish sauce to taste

* 2 red chilies
* 2 cloves garlic
* 2 tbsp galangal, cut small (a root in the ginger family)
* 3 tbsp lemon grass stalk
* zest of ¼ kaffir lime
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tbsp kapi (or any shrimp paste)

* 3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly
* 3 cayenne peppers or red capsicum

Make the kroeung by pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, working from driest ingredient to wettest. Slice the fish thinly (or tofu into blocks) and set aside. Slice the kaffir lime leaves and cayenne peppers thinly.

Stir the kroeung into 1 cup of coconut milk, and when it has dissolved, add the fish sauce to taste and sliced fish. Then add the remaining coconut milk and mix well.

Place fish mixture in a small bowl. Steam for about 20 minutes or until the coconut milk is solid, but still moist. Before serving top each bowl with a little coconut cream and garnish with kaffir leaf and cayenne peppers.

Serve with steamed rice.

I haven't tried making this myself yet, but I intend to attempt it today. My guess is that any white fish will do- tilapia, whitefish, etc. Something not too salty or fishy tasting. Maybe even cod will work. The types of fish available in Cambodia were very different from what you can get in the States. I ate shark regularly there, but tilapia was expensive and rare. (Completely the opposite of the States!)

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