Fish Amok, Cambodia's National Dish

Kroeung paste, an essential ingredient in fish amok. (Eva Thorne)

In summer 2011, food blogger Eva Thorne travelled to Phnom Penh to learn how to make fish amok, the national dish of Cambodia.

As Thorne says, "Fish amok is a sublime fish curry custard that is steamed in banana leaves. It's elegant, moist and flavorful."

A complete recipe with ingredients follows the instructional video below.


Video: Eva Thorne in Phnom Penh (1 min., 59 sec.)

Ingredients for kroeung paste

5 dried red chilies (soaked, drained and chopped into a paste)
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp galangal (cut small)
1tsp lemongrass (thinly sliced)
Zest of 1/4 kaffir lime
1 tsp salt

Directions for kroeung paste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend to a thick paste. Alternatively (and more traditionally) this can be created with a mortar and pestle.

Ingredients for amok

30 g young nhor leaves
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves
3 chili peppers
500 g fish (any meaty fish)
3/4 cup coconut cream
2 cups coconut milk
1 egg, beaten

Next Steps

Slice the fish thinly and set aside.

Remove nhor from stem, slice the kaffir lime leaves and cayenne peppers thinly. Stir the kroeung paste into 1 cup of coconut milk. When it has dissolved, add the egg, fish sauce and sliced fish. Then add the remaining coconut milk and mix well.

Make the banana leaf cups, then put in the nhor and top with the fish mixture (see banana leaf cup how-to below). You can also just steam the amok in a bowl.

Steam for 15-20 minutes, then put the coconut cream on top and the thinly sliced kaffir leaves and cayenne peppers. Steam further until the mixture is solid, but still moist.

When ready, turn the amok over onto a plate and wipe away excess liquid with a napkin.

Making the banana leaf cup

Clean the leaves with a wet cloth, then dip them into boiling water so they become soft and do not crack when being shaped. Cut circles 25 cm in diameter and place two together (one leaf is not strong enough to hold the mixture). You can press the lid of a pot to the leaves and cut around it for a circular shape. 

Fold a square shape in the middle of the circle, forming the bottom of the cup. Then put a thumb on one right angle of the square and pull up two sides while tucking the fold, and pin together with a tiny bamboo stick (or toothpicks). Continue until all four sides of the cup are held together.