Cambodian cuisine is less known than that of its neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam. It is a colourful cuisine whose style and ingredients reveal strong influences from its neighbouring countries (though less spicy in general than Thai or Vietnamese food) and China. Influences can also be seen from the period of French occupation (including the use of caramel in certain dishes, and eating curries with toasted baguette!) and from India (many Cambodian curries contain Indian curry powder and black pepper as opposed to chilli, which is served separately).
There are many curries and stir-fries in Cambodian cuisine, and most dishes are served with rice (hundreds of varieties are grown there). This delicious Cambodian curry contains a number of spices and herbs, including Indian curry powder, as well as nuoc mam (or Thai fish sauce) and coconut milk. Lemongrass, lots of fresh basil and coriander, fresh galangal (or ginger if you can’t find galangal), and the addition of dark caramel (which you can see in the top-right portion of the image below) impart a special warmth to the fragrant sauce.
The recipe also calls for sweet potatoes, so all that’s needed to accompany this dish is some Thai fragrant rice and a green vegetable.
This is another shot of the same dish, which I had prepared with new potatoes and parsnips this time (replacing the sweet potatoes). When preparing a recipe like this, don’t be afraid to substitute certain ingredients depending on what you have on hand. As long as you preserve the “essence of the recipe”, the dish will be slightly different, but equally delicious!
The original recipe for this delicious curry comes from one of my favourite cookbooks, “500 Hot & Spicy Recipes”, published by Hermes House in the UK. I often change recipes, but this one was delicious as is ~ I simply changed and elaborated the preparation of the dish to ensure that when you make it, it comes out perfectly, and I’ve increased the amount of chicken used (if you have any leftovers, this reheats well ~ just sprinkle with a few more fresh herbs before serving).
This curry is quick to cook, however preparation of all the ingredients takes some time, so start well in advance of when you want to serve it, or the day before, then cover and refridgerate and just gently reheat when you wish to serve it. In this case, add the fresh herbs just before serving or else they will wilt and lose their gorgeous green colour!
The recipe calls for making a small amount of caramel. You’ll need a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan to do this (which provides even heat distribution and helps avoid scorching!). Make it when indicated below, or it risks hardening in the saucepan before you can add it to the recipe!
|45 ml||Indian curry powder or garam masala|
|15 ml||Ground turmeric|
|600 g||Skinless, boneless chicken pieces||Or 800 – 900 g skinless chicken pieces with bones.|
|30 ml||Sesame oil|
|2||Large French shallots||Finely chopped.|
|2||Large garlic cloves||Finely chopped.|
|4 cm||Galangal||Peeled & chopped. ♥ If you can’t find galangal, you can use fresh ginger.|
|2||Stalks of lemongrass||Sliced thinly then coarsely chopped.|
|10 ml||Chilli paste||Use Sambal Oelek or Chinese chilli paste.|
|2||Medium sweet potatoes||Peeled and cubed.|
|45 ml||Nuoc mam||Thai fish sauce.|
|600 ml||Coconut milk|
|1||Small bunch Thai basil||Use leaves only. Use regular basil if unavailable, but flavour will be different.|
|1||Small bunch fresh coriander||Leaves and finely chopped stems.|
|Salt and freshly ground pepper|
|25 ml||Palm sugar||Or raw cane sugar.|