Tag Archives: cambodian vegetables

Trey Chamhoi/Cambodian Steamed Fish

 

floating village of tonle sap

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The Tonle Sap is one of the most critical freshwater ecosystems in the Mekong River Basin. It is the largest lake in South East Asia, home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a Ramsar site, and the most important inland fishery in Cambodia.http://www.mekongriver.info/tonle-sap

 

Having completed 13 months in Cambodia, I have started learning a few khmer dishes. Thanks to my helper and a good friend ‘D’, we not only relish the local cuisine but additionally enjoy it making at home – just a short commutation of the dish from kitchen to dining table.

In the Kingdom of Cambodia, Fish is a staple, and it can unambiguously be said that “Fish enjoys almost the royal status of Rice.” A true convert that I am, I do not miss the country flavor of the local fishes.

 

The staple diet of Khmer is fresh water fish. With the abundant supply of fish (said to be 600 different species in the Tonle Sap lake), it is not surprising that the Khmer love to eat fish!

If you are in Cambodia during November to February, there is a week per month where you may be able to see lots of fishing activity along the riverfront in Phnom Penh. Here the Mekhong and Sap rivers come together and the fish is very plentiful during this season. The Khmer make use of this season and not only eat the fish fresh but dry, smoke, ferment and make it into fish sauce so they can use it during lean times as their main source of proteinhttp://www.cambodiauncovered.com/cambodia/fishing.html

 

A glance of the varieties of fish available at the market –

medium and small

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and bigger

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variety

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the favorite among Cambodians – fish head

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shrimps and seafood too

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I am also a picky eater when it comes to fish – lesser the bones easier for me and I suppose for most of those who are reading this post too. But, with the very little knowledge that I have gained within these years about fishes, I keep one thing in mind – smaller the fish , lesser the fat. Certain varieties of smaller fish may be less in Omega 3 but  are certainly less in the mercury content and hence safer.

So, I get any fish with a maximum weight of 1 kg and mostly 2 fishes at 1.75 kgs put together. This is for my Meen Kuzhambu (fish curry), Varutha Meen (fish fry), steamed fish cambodian style or a cambodian fish soup. I also buy the somewhat look-alike neththili of Chiriya Meen (very small fish) – (https://dosaikal.com/2013/04/05/varutha-meen-varutha-kathirikkai-with-thaalicha-paruppu-pan-fried-fish-and-pan-fried-eggplant-with-seasoned-lentil) – fishes as small as half your index finger, which also make the best healthy crispy chips on earth, while grilled in the oven.

 

meen kuzhambu – fish curry

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small fish – crisply fried

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I find some fishes have a distinct smell or flavor of the soil. Yes, the fish when cooked has a muddy flavor. Yet, I am not competent enough to identify the differences in taste of river or sea varieties.

I know there are genetically marine souls over there who feel those tiny fishes make wonderful kuzhambus/curries and thokkus/thick curries. That’s not for lazy, fearful converts like me- the very thought of removing bones or chewing with the bones threatens me!

Above all, there is also the attached mistrust of the younger lady of the house aka daughter, who prefers appa when it comes to removing bones from cooked fish. “Amma always keeps a few bones and it is so risky you know…” she says – Good for me and one job less in my pocket!
Trey Chamhoy –  Steamed Fish 

 

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Trey is Fish in Khmer. This one is the version of my Khmer friend who also cooks good Indian food. So, please let me know of the changes you make in your Cambodian steamed fish!

Yet, I promise I did not make any Indianised Cambodian Fish..

 

Cambodia’s preferred source of protein is freshwater fish, caught mainly from the Tonle Sap and from the Tonle Sab, the Mekong, and the Basak rivers. Cambodians eat it fresh, salted, smoked, or made into fish sauce and paste. http://countrystudies.us/cambodia/65.htm

 

This one has the flavor of raw mangoes and is steamed in banana leaf.
Facts about how I use the Fish

 

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  1. I use two fishes 1.75 kgs put together.
  2. I do not use the head of the fish.
  3. Each fish is cut into two halves.
  4. So, I get 4 medium size pieces.
  5. How many fishes to be used, depends on how many pieces each member would need.

I. Needed most – Any kind of Steamer

 

II. Ingredients (serves two to four)

 

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  • fish (any variety) – 2 no.s cut into 4 pieces
  • shallots – 4 no.s finely sliced
  • green chillies – 3 no.s
  • fresh red chillies – 3 no.s
  • spring onions – 2 or 3 bunches cut to the length of other juliennes
  • garlic – 6 cloves
  • ginger – 1 inch piece
  • carrot – 1 medium
  • raw mango – 1/2
  • radish – 1 small
  • salt – to taste
  • pepper powder – 1/2 tsp or as preferred

All vegetables finely julienned.
Instead of the above vegetables – can also use
1. capsicum in various colors – red, yellow and green
2. no vegetables and only mint and coriander leaves with ginger juliennes
3. any preferred vegetable of one’s choice but I’d avoid those which let out water like cucumber or guards.
III. To wrap up in the steamer

  • aluminum foil to wrap up the steaming vessel first, so that the soup/broth that cooks with the fish doesn’t fall in the water below
  • fresh banana leaf to cover the steaming vessel

 

steamer vessel with holes

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Method of Preparation
1. Steamer

 

  1. Make the steamer ready by wrapping first with aluminum foil
  2. Then place the banana leaves to cover the base

 

aluminum foil

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banana leaf

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2. Fish

  1. Cut and wash fish into two halves each
  2. Rub salt and pepper powder on the fishes

3. Vegetables

Cut, slice and julienne the vegetables and mix together

 

4. To steam
1. Spread half of the vegetables on the banana leaf randomly

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2. Place the fish pieces on the vegetable layer

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3. Cover the fish with the remaining vegetables

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4. Close the veggie-fish combination with a layer of banana leaves and place the vessel inside the steamer

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5. Close the lid of the steamer
6. Steam for 15-20 minutes
7. Serve with the vegetables and soup/broth that lies beneath
8. Serve with hot rice.

Ready!

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awesome twosome

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The Cambodia Connections- I

Bicycling in the streets of phnom penh, one can sense so much similarity to southern indian places. Being a foodie, my eyes and interest obviously stick to those things I value primary. Like the vegetable market especially… loaded with tropical stuff, even some of those rare fruits amd vegetables that have been our childhood nibblers!

I have tried to capture some… let us enjoy it together!

I gave the title ‘The Cambodia Connections’ and also suffixed with ‘I’. There is an ocean of many more things that would follow in future posts, that could be categorised under the same title.


Kothumalli/Coriander

Kothumalli/Coriander is available in plenty. But more than the green, fresh coriander, what attracts the most is the way it has been clipped beautifully with the cut palm leaf or something else I am yet to find out! We call it Kothumalli Kattu is Tamil – it means tied coriander bunch.
 

the beautiful bunch

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Nellikkai/Gooseberry

Nellikkai/Gooseberry is one of those summer delights which is a sour fruit and when one has a glass of water after, it sweetens ones taste buds.

The health benefits of gooseberry –
 

enhances food absorption, balances stomach acid, fortifies the liver, nourishes the brain and mental functioning, supports the heart, strengthens the lungs, regulates elimination, enhances fertility, helps the urinary system, is good for the skin, promotes healthier hair, acts as a body coolant, flushes out toxins, increases vitality, strengthens the eyes, improves muscle tone and it acts as an antioxidant. http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-indian-gooseberry-or-amla.html

 
While Nellikkai is available in the markets and vendors in bicycles – the packet of salt and red chilli powder that comes with the pack made me feel at home truly….. that’s the way we have our raw fruits like mangoes, guavas and gooseberries.


nellikkai with salt and chilli

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Kodukkapuli

also known as  – Guamachil, Manila Tamarind, Kodukkai Puli/Kodi-kai puli, Sweet Tamarind, Thai-Sweet Tamarind, Madras Thorn, Monkey Pod, Jungle Jilebi, Bilayati Imli, Seema Chintakayalu (Foreign Tamarind), Kona Puliyankai (Twisted Tamarind) http://www.flickr.com/photos/babishvb/5512545340/

 

Now, I had been searching this for a long time… in Chennai whenever I go on a holiday. But not been able to find it.  This used to be one of our childhood nibblers (if I could call them so) sold out of the school in Thoothukudi. Myself and my cousin who used to come out of school would buy kodukkappalli and nellikkai and munch back home! It is called Kodukkapuli in Tamil and we used to call it kodukkappalli colloquially.

The sweet soury taste still lingers in my tongue.. with some sweet memories too!
 

the twisted tamarind

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I could find some interesting facts on this fruit from http://www.flickr.com/photos/babishvb/5512545340/ –

Kodukka puli came from the word Kodi-Kai puli which means Vined Tamarind
* peel the black seeds to reveal a brown coating (not the white ‘main’seed inside) and then string them into bracelets
* The pod/pulp is widely used in the tanning industry. Camachile bark used almost exclusively by Filipino tanners
* Used as good timber
* Mucilaginous gum
* Used for preparing yellow dye

 

The Manila tamarind fruit is low in calories, and including it in your diet can help you meet your daily fiber, vitamin C, iron, calcium and potassium needs.

It promotes normal bowel movements, controls hunger and lowers your risk of heart disease.

It is also an important antioxidant, protecting your cells from free radicals, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. http://www.livestrong.com/article/497683-the-nutritional-value-of-manila-tamarinds/

 

Thengai/Coconut

The south of India uses more coconut in cooking. Buying coconut and grating in not a problem anymore. In the market, you choose your coconut and the vendor grates it in front of you. It looks like an indigenous coconut grating machine made from local items.. very interesting!
 

the machine

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coconuts grated

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Karumbu Chaaru/Sugarcane Juice

On a humid, sunny, sweaty day, a glass of sugarcane juice can provide instant energy. Karumbu Chaaru in Tamil. Karumbu is sugarcane and Chaaru means juice. In the streets of Phnom Penh, one can find these small carts/machines and the juice is sold in disposable glasses… covered in a small plastic bag – easy to be hung in cycle handlebars or be placed in water bottle holders in bags. There are also halves of lemon squeezed between the canes while they are being pressed… I think in India, it is also a bit of ginger added while the juice is pressed…if I am right.

The only problem is the glass would first be filled with icecubes it can fully hold and the other approximately 3 or 4 ladles of juice would fill the glass… great chiller ofcourse but solely due to ice. Pay double or triple and you get the same glass full of juice… but my sugarcane lady is very friendly though.. she insists I take ice in the outer bag and she places the closed full juice glass in the ice bag and we reach home with undiluted ice cold karumbu chaaru/sugarcane juice!

the machine

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stored sugarcanes and the juice

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It is truly a warm feeling of being at home!   An exploration of more cultural and cuisinical similarities between the Tamils and the Khmers! I shall try my best!

It is Tamil Puthaandu/Tamil New Year on April the 14th. The Khmer New Year called Chaul Chnam Thmey (means Enter New Year) is celebrated for 3 days starting April 13 to April 15.

Puthaandu Vazhthukkal! Happy New Year!

Suo Sdey Chnam Thmey!!