Each Cambodian cook has his/her own favorite kroeung, or curry paste, recipe. Some prefer more lemongrass, others a bit more turmeric. Some like their kroeung on the spicy side, while others forego the runny nose and sweat inducing chiles. Regardless of the variation of ingredients, the kroeung is always prepared in the same way, by throwing everything into a mortar and pestle and pounding away until sweat droplets begin to form along your brow in the Cambodian heat. This was the first Khmer dish I learned to prepare while living in Cambodia and quickly became one of my favorites. I treasured my morning adventures to the markets to purchase the fragrant roots and herbs needed and watched with eager anticipation as they came together into a colorful paste after being thoroughly smashed with the wooden pestle.
This kroeung can be used in a simple vegetable or chicken curry, as shown below, or in the more elaborate fish amok. Regardless of the way in which the kroeung is used, the final dish must always be served with plenty of rice.
-- Katie, Chapel Hill
- 400 mL can of coconut milk (none of that light junk!)
- 300 mL of chicken broth
- 1 Tbs fish sauce (again, weird smell but completely necessary)
- 1 Tbs brown sugar (bonus points if you use palm sugar!)
- 3 Tbs kroeung
- Extra chiles if you want em
- Lots of veggies (Japanese eggplant, bell pepper, green beans, sweet potatoes, whatever your heart desires!)
- Some meat, fish or tofu cut into bite-sized chunks, if ya like
- Olive or coconut oil
- Heat oil in wok or big skillet. Add the kroeung, fish sauce and sugar, and cook for a few minutes until it starts to darken.
- Add the coconut milk and broth, then throw in the harder veggies that will take longer to cook (sweet potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, onions, etc) and meat/fish/tofu. Simmer for about 15 minutes or so. When it's about 5 minutes from being done, throw in the quicker veggies (green beans, etc). Simmer til everything is cooked through and the green beans are tender but crunchy.
- Taste the sauce and check the seasoning - you might want more sugar, chili or fish sauce.
- Serve over your favorite rice and munch away :)