Since having our son, my husband and I have made it a point to introduce him to both of our cuisines, Vietnamese and Cambodian. And since my mom lives 2 hours from us, it’s really hard for me to learn recipes directly from her. But I am very nostalgic and miss the flavors of home and really want to give it a good effort to make traditional Cambodian cuisine in my own kitchen!
So with a combination of searching for recipes online and calling my mom to get her version, I’ve been able to collect a few recipes of some of the signature dishes I love the most growing up. Before even tackling one of my all-time favorite dishes, I had to reread my recipe a few times to make certain I could manage it. One of the things I notice was the long list of ingredients and how time consuming it appeared. So I needed to make sure I had a free afternoon to gather all my ingredients and had plenty of time for prep work. One hint I found very useful was prepping all the veggies before I even started cooking. And making the paste beforehand was a huge time saver as well. I also want to note that this is not a true authentic version of the dish my mom makes. I left out one key ingredient, prahok, pickled fish. Even though I love my mom’s dish, I wasn’t sure if my husband, who happens to be a novice when it comes to Cambodian cooking, would be very receptive to this strong and pungent ingredient.
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Serving Size: 4
1 stalk lemongrass, finely minced
4 Kaffir lime leaves
½ tbsp turmeric powder
1” piece of galangal, finely minced
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp prahok (optional)
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp ground toasted rice powder
1 lb chicken, cut into cubes (my mom used pork spare ribs, cut into bite size pieces)
1 cup shredded green papaya
1 cup acorn squash, peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup long green beans, cut into 2” pieces
1 cup Thai eggplant, quartered
3 Thai chili peppers, left whole
4 cups cold water
In a mortar and pestle, combine the lemongrass, lime leaves, turmeric powder, galangal, garlic and prahok (if using). Combine well into a paste and set aside until ready to use.
Using a large heavy bottom pot over medium high, heat the oil and palm sugar until the sugar has just melted, but not burnt. Toss in the chicken pieces and mix to coat well. Toss in the lemongrass paste, fish sauce and salt. Mix well to evenly coat the chicken. Allow the mixture to cook for about 5 minutes. Add all the vegetables to the pot and toss in the ground toasted rice. Combine well. Pour in the water, stir well and allow the stew to cook covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste often for seasoning and add additional fish sauce if needed.
The stew should be a good mix of sweet from the palm sugar and salty. There is a noticeable toasted and thick texture to the broth from the rice powder. The traditional way to serve is to ladle the stew into a large bowl and serve family style with individual bowls of steaming jasmine rice.