Cambodian Fish Amok

I’ve just come returned from a holiday in Cambodia. The food was sensational! Essentially a blend of the South East Asia region, Cambodian food is typically less spicy than Thai, Malaysian or Indonesian. It uses all the usual suspects to create uniquely mellow, character – just like the Cambodian People themselves. This dish is a national treasure, and it’s easy to see why. The authentic way to cook this is to steam it in a small bowl made from a banana leaf. If you have neither the inclination nor the dexterity then follow this recipe as I use a china ramekin instead. However, if authenticity is your thing then I have appended the how-to for the banana leaf bowls.

400 g firm white fish (ling, monkfish, even salmon works but is less traditional) Cut into bite size chunks
1/2 cup coconut cream
2 cups coconut milk
1 egg (beaten)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoon kaffir lime leaves (sliced thinly)
2-3 long red chilli peppers (seeded & thinly sliced)
300 g kale or collard greens or cabbage leaves (combined with 1 tablespoon lemongrass)

The Amok Paste:
2 dried red chilies (soaked and drained)
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 tablespoon fresh galangal (chopped) (use fresh ginger as an alternative)
1 tbsp lemon grass stalk
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shrimp paste

To make the paste, blend all the paste ingredients smoothly in a food processor or with a hand blender. Combine the paste with 1 cup of coconut milk. When dissolved, stir in the remaining coconut milk, egg, fish sauce and fish.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Take off any stems from the kale and cut into large pieces and make a thin layer in the bottom of 4 ramekins. Spoon in the fish mixture and cover with another leaf. Cover each ramekin tightly in foil and place on a roasting tin. Pour in 1 inch of boiling water to the tin and carefully place in the oven. Steam for 20-25 minutes until the fish is cooked and quite solid.

Banana leaf bowls:
Add about 3 litres of boiling water into a clean sink. Take about 5-6 banana leaves and plunge them into the water, pressing them down with a wooden spoon. Leave for at least 30 seconds then take them out, one-by one and using a bowl about 15cm diameter, cut around to make discs. When you’ve made about 12 discs that are whole and have no splits in them take the discs and leave them in the hot water. Take out 2 discs and place the first with ribs the facing horizontally then place the other on top with the ribs facing vertically. Tuck up an edge of about 5cm and fold inwards to create the corner of a square – skewer with a toothpick. Continue around the circle to create 4 corners, skewering each corner. You should have a neat little bowl (of sorts). Repeat with the remaining leaves to make 6 bowls.

Boiled rice.

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