Cambodian fish Amok

20170924_210634This is Cambodia’s best-known and yummy dish. It is a kind of baked fish custard! Sounds disgusting but I promise you it is delish. I first had it in Phnom Penh, and then ate it every night at the hotel! Now I can make it myself, and it is surprisingly easy, despite the long-looking list of ingredients. All you do is make the curry paste (you can reduce the sugar if you like but you do need some to balance the flavour), add the eggs and then steam with the fish, either in a shallow dish, or several small ones. My mistake (because I didn’t have the right steamer/receptacle) was to make it in a deep dish so only the outside set, leaving the inside unctuously runny. Still tasted fab!

Serves 3-4

450g white fish (cod, coley, haddock)
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 star anise
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
400 ml coconut milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
herbs – Thai basil, verbena, coriander – whatever you like

Amok curry paste

4 lemongrass stalks, finely sliced
3 gloves garlic
1 large dried chilli
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1 inch freshly peeled turmeric, chopped, or 1 tbs dried turmeric
1 1/2 inches galangal or ginger peeled and roughly chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
50 g roasted peanuts (or cashews)

Method

Place all the curry paste ingredients in a blender with 6 tbsp of coconut milk and blend into a smooth paste.

Cut the fish into 2.5 cm strips and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok and gently fry the curry paste until fragrant. Add sugar, fish sauce, 1 tsp salt, star anise and kaffir lime leaves and the rest of the coconut milk. Simmer for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat and set aside to cool (in a bowl if you are in a hurry). When cold stir in the beaten egg and fold in the fish and herbs.

Spoon the mixture into 4 small bowls (one star anise per bowl) or one flat dish and place in a steamer or a large wok with a trivet inside. You can improvise with an upturned plate, or some cheap chopsticks, so that the dish does not touch the pan base. Fill with boiling water up to 2/3 of the way up the dish, cover and steam for 15 minutes until custard is set and fish cooked.

Serve with rice, and a Thai-style salad with green papaya or simply beansprouts, carrots, onions, sliced green beans, spring onions and a sour sweet sauce made from fish sauce, garlic, lime juice, chilli and a bit of sugar.

20170924_204542

Steaming the Amok

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