A Filipino take on steamed Cambodian amok

Catfish amok with Ominio heirloom rice. PHOTO: PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Cambodia's most famous dish is fish amok, a lightly sweet and creamy fish curry cooked and presented in a banana leaf bowl. Traditionally, amok calls for freshwater fish and is served steamed. Amy Besa and her Purple Yam culinary team recreated the dish using catfish or hito.

"Amok is prepared like a mousse," Besa said. "And you steam it in banana leaves."

Using turmeric oil as base to make yellow curry, they cooked catfish fillet in the curry with fresh coconut milk and coconut nectar for a hint of sweetness.

After being steamed in banana leaf cones, the amok was garnished with toasted shallots and ginger.

Besa and her team made it more special-and truly Pinoy- by serving the catfish amok with veggie-fried Ominio heirloom rice from the Mountain Province on the side.

"Amok is traditionally served with rice," said Besa, who wrote a research on Southeast Asian cuisine for Oxford University Press reference book, Savoring Gotham (2015).

"We used Ominio rice because it complements the flavor of the curry."

Cambodian Amok


250g freshwater fish, catfish or hito
5 cloves of garlic, minced
30g ginger
30g turmeric
2 stalks lemongrass
3 bulbs shallots
3 kaffir lime leaf or 1 whole lime
4 whole black peppercorns
Salt to taste
1 Tbs fish sauce
2 Tbs coco nectar
1 red Thai chilli
1 cup vegetable oil
½ cup coconut cream
½ cup coconut milk
Banana leaves


1. Clean fish by removing skin and bones. Cut into small chunks.

2. In a small sauce pot, make turmeric oil by adding vegetable oil, some of the turmeric, shallots, garlic and black peppercorn, and heat until oil is fragrant and yellow in colour.

3. In a wok, on medium high heat, add turmeric oil. Saute garlic, ginger, lemongrass, red Thai chilli and shallots.

4. Deglaze with coconut milk. Simmer.

5. Add coco nectar, salt, fish sauce, lime zest and lime juice.

6. Add fish chunks and poach slowly until halfway cooked, then remove from liquid.

7. Add coconut cream and reduce until sauce is thick.

8. Add half-cooked fish chunks and turn off heat and set a side.

9. Make round cups from banana leaves and stuff with the fish mixture. Steam for 4 to 5 minutes.

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