Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
now a world heritage site
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Amok Trei
Steamed Fish Curry



Amok’ is one of the national dishes of Cambodia. This wonderful combination of fresh fish with rich spicy coconut custard, steamed in an ingenious banana leaf cup, is simply delicious. Through steaming, amok has a firm but moist texture. The banana leaves further enhance the flavour of the ingredients and give amok its unique aroma. ‘Amok Trei’ (Fish Amok) is one of the Khmer food items that really strikes a chord with tourists to Cambodia. 

Traditionally, there are two types of amok – one cooked with fish and the other with rice paddy field snails. The latter is known as amok chouk (link to Amok Chouk). However, many variations to amok have been developed in order to suit differing palates. It can also be made from chicken, prawns or scallops as well as from tofu for vegetarians.



                Nhor or Noni Leaces


Kaffir Limes & Leaves

A vegetarian version of this dish can be achieved by substituting the same amount of firm tofu for the fish, but cutting it into cubes instead of slicing. 

If you don’t have a steamer, this dish can be cooked using the bain-marie method. Although for this method, you must use ramekins. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4. Prepare the dish as above, place the ramekins in a baking tin filling it with boiling water to halfway up the ramekins. Cover them with a sheet of aluminium (tin) foil, pop in the oven, cook for 25-35 minutes or until set, depending on the oven, or until a knife, inserted into them, comes out clean. 

 Here is when Gordon Ramsay* learned how to make 'Amok trei' in Cambodia.

* Gordon Ramsay is a very famous British chef.



Serves 4  


White fish (snakehead fish, sea bass, cod or snapper) 400g, boned, washed, patted dry and sliced (½ cm\¼ inch thick)
Fish sauce 2 Tbsp
Salt 1 tsp
Palm sugar or light brown sugar 1 Tbsp
Coconut cream 1 x 400 ml tin (15 fl.oz)
Large egg 1, very lightly beaten with a fork
Nhor (Noni) leaves or spinach 2 cups, washed, patted dry and roughly sliced
Kaffir lime leaves* 2, sliced into very fine juliennes (matchsticks)
Large red chilli 1, de-seeded and cut into fine juliennes (matchsticks)
Rice flour/plain flour ½ tsp 

Spice Paste:
Red curry paste
2 Tbsp (Recipe for red curry paste)
Kcheay (Finger-root rhizome*) 1 Tbsp, washed and roughly sliced Shallots 2, peeled and roughly chopped 

Banana leaves for making banana cups* or ramekins 


1. Make the banana cups. Line the banana cups or ramekins with the Nhor/Noni or spinach leaves. Set aside.

2. To make spice paste - In a wok, dry fry* the finger-roots and the shallots over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Transfer to a pestle and mortar, add ½ tsp salt, and pound them until you obtain a smooth paste. Then pound in the red curry paste until well mixed. 

3. In a very small pan, mix ⅓ cup of coconut cream (taken from the top part of a tin of coconut milk) with the flour and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat, cover and set aside to be used for topping later.

4. Fill a steamer base with 5 cm/2 inch of water, cover and bring to the boil. If a bamboo steamer is used over a wok, use boiling water from a kettle to fill the base of the wok just when the amok is ready for cooking whilst making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bamboo tray.

5. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix the remaining coconut cream, spice paste, sugar, fish sauce and the remaining salt until thoroughly mixed. Then stir in the egg, and the fish. Continue stirring* until the fish is well coated with the coconut custard mixture for about 3 minutes; and let it stand for 10 minutes to marinate.

6. Place the banana cups or ramekins in the steamer tray. Spoon an equal quantity of the fish mixture into each banana cup or ramekin, leaving 1 cm/½ inch from the top. Place the tray on the steamer, cover and gently cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until set*. Check the water in the steamer, and top it up with boiling water if necessary.

7. Remove the steamer tray. Then top each of the cups with a tablespoon of the coconut rice flour sauce, and garnish with the chilli and kaffir lime leaf juliennes. Return the tray to the steamer and continue cooking for a further 2-3 minutes until cooked through - when a knife, inserted into it, comes out clean. Serve with steamed rice or French baguette. 


* If kaffir lime leaves are not available, use coriander leaves instead. 

* Finger-roots can be bought at Asian food stores. Leave out if not available. 

* If banana leaves are not available, halves of red/green/yellow sweet (bell) peppers, coconut shells, large onions with the middle scooped out, baby pumpkins or even artichoke flowers can be very good substitutes. 

* Dry frying is a frying method without using oil or fat. 

* Gently stirring the mixture by making a circle and cutting across the centre; and repeating this movement in the same direction until the mixture is well mixed. 

* Do not steam this dish longer than necessary as the excess heat will draw the moisture out of the fish curry custard. 


This dish can be made ahead of time and reheated by steaming or in the microwave. Like most curries, it tastes better after being left in the fridge for 1 day as the flavours have time to mingle and marry. It can also be frozen for up to two months although you must ensure that it is completely thawed before re-heating. 

If serve this as a starter, make smaller banana cups.

If chicken is used instead of fish, it is important to slice it very thinly and marinate it with a tablespoon of fish sauce for about 5 minutes beforehand. This is to ensure that the chicken has time to marinate and cook through. You also need to increase cooking time a little.