Posts Tagged ‘ lemongrass ’

Fish Amok

On Monday I decided to attend a Cambodian cooking class. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time… since December 2009, actually, when a friend first suggested it. The class took place at a property owned by the restaurant Frizz on Street 240.

We kicked off the day at 9am for a quick tour of common Cambodian cooking ingredients at one of the better vegetable markets in town, Kandal market. It’s a place that I’ve been to a number of times, so it wasn’t really that exciting for me, but the class is geared toward tourists and not… locals, so I didn’t complain.

Our class was lead by a young guy named Heng (or was it Keng?) who had actually gone through the horeca training program at Friends International. He was a pretty vibrant guy who spoke English relatively well, and knew a fair bit about the culinary history of Cambodia.

After our market tour with Heng, we headed back to our kitchen, an open-air facility on the second floor of a building behind the restaurant. The first thing on the menu was Cambodian spring rolls (chaio yor).

Now, I’ve been particularly curious about Cambodian spring rolls, because I asked our former maid to make some for us when I first arrived in Cambodia this summer, and she weaseled her way out of it twice, claiming that they were very difficult to make. By the end of this class however, I determined that the maid was definitely not made a former maid in error. Cambodian spring rolls are super easy.

Basically, it involves two cups of grated taro root (coco yam) and 2 cups of grated carrot. The most involved step is taking the starch out of the taro, which is easily done by sprinkling about a tablespoon of salt onto the yam and gently squeezing and working the yam for about 3-5 minutes until the moisture is drawn out of the yam.

Next, we spiced the spring roll filling with some sugar and ground black pepper and about a tablespoon of ground peanut.

The next step was to roll the spring rolls… very straightforward, we just used a beaten egg to seal the rolls, and took care to make them as tight as possible, so as to keep them from soaking up too much oil when they are fried.

After that, we fried the spring rolls in about 3 cups of cooking oil inside of a wok, until they were golden brown.

As for the dipping sauce, it’s just a variation of nuoc cham, with the very same ingredients, so see my previous entry for details.

The next thing on the menu was the fish amok. While there is a great overlap between Cambodian, Thai and Vietnamese food, fish amok is one of those dishes that is very, very Cambodian. It’s a quick favourite among visitors and expats alike, because of the sweet taste of the coconut milk and cream in the amok.

Oddly enough, the recipe featured in the cookbook we were given is different from the recipe we used in the class, so I’m going off the top of my head for some of the quantities. In any case, here goes:

Kroeung (herb paste)

-10 dried red chilies (the non spicy, larger variety) soaked, drained and chopped into a paste.

-4 cloves garlic

-3 tbsp of galangal (cut small) … if you can’t find galangal, use ginger root

– 8 thinly sliced lemongrass stalks (outer leaves and lower part of bulb removed–chop starting at the bulb end, and chop about one-third of the length of the stalks, and discard the rest)

-zest of 1/3 kaffir lime

-1 tsp salt

-2 tbsp of chopped fresh turmeric

-1  to 3 sliced bird’s eye chilies, depending on how much heat you want

-1 small shallot

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor (or mortar) and blend to a thick paste.

Amok – Serves 4

-kroeung

–3 tbsp fish sauce

-3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves

-3 chili peppers

-500g snakehead fish (trei ros), or any meaty white fish…

-2 cups coconut milk

-3/4 cup coconut cream

-1 egg, beaten

-8 banana leaves (might be smart to buy extras, especially the first time)

Making the banana cup:

First, clean the leaves with a wet cloth, then dip them into boiling water so they are soft and do not crack when being shaped.

Cut the leaves into circles about 25cm in diameter and place two together, with the shiny sides facing outward.

Make a square in the middle of the circle, this will be the bottom of the cup.

Then, put a thumb on one right angle of the square and pull up two sides, tucking the fold, and pinning together with a tiny bamboo stick, toothpick, or stapler.

Repeat this four times, so that the cup has five equally spaced folds.

The rest of the amok:

Slice the fish thinly and set aside. Stir the kroeung 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.

Divide the mixture evenly among the four banana leaf cups and steam for 15-20 minutes, then put the coconut cream on top, as well as the kaffir leaves (thinly sliced) and thinly sliced sweet chili pepper for garnish. Steam further until the mixture is solid, but still moist.

Serve with rice, and enjoy!!



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bún thịt nướng chả giò

Today’s entry is devoted to one of my favourite Asian dishes, and certainly my favourite Vietnamese dish, bún thịt nướng chả giò—cold vermicelli noodles served with grilled marinated pork, spring rolls, julienned carrots and cucumber, shredded lettuce, and of course nuoc cham!

I’ve been making this dish for a few years now, ever since I first tried it in university. I think what makes it really delicious is the use of lemongrass to marinate the pork. When you have fresh ingredients, this dish can really shine!

I use this recipe as my base, although I often omit the mint and cilantro, and add in lemonrass. As I said, before, the key to this recipe is the lemongrass. I usually chop up my pork (I used pork chop last time, with the fat trimmed), add in the shallots, garlic, oil, fish sauce and lime juice as the recipe says. Then I grate about 6 or 7 inner stalks of lemongrass. This ratio usually works for a half pound of meat, but if you are following the recipe’s quantities, make sure to double the lemongrass. If you don’t have access to fresh lemongrass, dried powdered lemongrass will do as a substitute. I usually omit the salt because the fish sauce we use (Thai) has a lot of salt in it already, and I tend to marinate my pork for at least 2-3 hours, so the flavour really sinks in without any extra sodium.

Next, I tackle the nuoc cham–fish sauce-based dipping sauce. The recipe on the site works well for me. I usually add extra garlic, and don’t bother with the carrots, although sometimes I will chop up some green onions for garnish. This time around, I didn’t have any chili peppers, so I used bird’s eye chilis… tiny chilis that really pack a much stronger punch. The longer the chilis sit in the sauce, the hotter the sauce gets, so after about 10 minutes, I strained the nuoc cham and put it in the fridge.

While that’s sitting in the fridge, I julienne/chop all my veggies, crush my peanut, and chop up some green onions for garnish. Pretty straightforward.

After a few hours in the fridge, or 30 minutes on the countertop if you’re in a hurry, cook the pork. The easiest way to do it is in a wok, although it takes a bit of time to dry out the pork just right. If you have access to a grill, especially a charcoal one, grill your pork on there for a nice smoky flavour.

Until recently, that was the extent of the dish for me when I cooked it at home, but this time around I decided to go one step further and add the cha gio — spring rolls.

I didn’t really follow a recipe for making spring rolls… nor did I write down the quantities of what I put in. Basically I made something similar to this, except that I used king oyster mushrooms instead of shiitake (less flavourful, but that’s what I had in the fridge), pork chop instead of ground pork, and vermicelli noodles instead of bean sprouts. I also didn’t bother with the coriander or fresh basil, but you can definitely adapt the spring rolls to your own tastes.

I cooked all my ingredients in a wok, having already softened my vermicelli noodles with boiling water. After they cooled, I wrapped them in spring roll paper, which you can find at many grocery stores. I find my spring rolls cook better if I let them chill for a bit in the freezer, so I put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes before frying.

Next, assembly! Soften your vermicelli noodles with boiling water, drain, and then place it on a plate, add your carrot, cucumber and lettuce on top, followed by the meat. Next, garnish with green onion rounds and peanut. Chop op your spring rolls and serve them on the noodles and spoon a couple tablespoons of nuoc cham onto your dish. You’ve reached the finish line! If you like, add some hoisin sauce to your dish for a bit of sweetness.

Enjoy!!