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Steamed Fish Curry with Coconut, Turmeric, Lemongrass and Kaffir Lime Leaves (Amok trey)

Amok trey is a steamed fish curry recipe infused with coconut, turmeric, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Inspired by Rick Stein's travels in Cambodia.


Fish amok is the most famous dish from Cambodia and it’s not hard to see why. Everyone eats fish there. There’s so much water around that no one could be unfamiliar with it. So to take catfish and steam it gently with fresh turmeric, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaves and coconut milk, all fragrant local ingredients, inevitably makes the national dish. One of the key points made by Stephàne, who runs the hotel Knai Bang Chatt in the seaside town of Kep, is that Khmer cooking is nothing like as hot as Vietnamese, and this amok is a case in point. At the hotel they steamed the curry in delightful containers made from green banana leaves, but I’ve used small rice bowls. One other note. When Stephàne made this dish for us he used noni leaves (Morinda citrifolia, also known as great morinda, Indian mulberry, beach mulberry or Tahitian noni). These leaves have a lemony scent, so I’ve used lemon verbena instead, but use lemon balm or coriander if you can’t get hold of this either.

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450g white fish, such as haddock, plaice, sand whiting or john dory, skinned
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 small star anise
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
400ml coconut milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 lemon verbena leaves, chopped
For the amok curry paste:
4 fat lemongrass stalks, core roughly chopped
20g garlic, roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
25g peeled fresh turmeric or 1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp crushed dried chillies
25g peeled galangal or ginger, chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
50g roasted peanuts

Essential kit

You will need a food processor, and 4 x 350ml heatproof bowls or one shallow heatproof dish that will fit into a steamer. You will also need a petal steamer, several wooden chopsticks or a stackable steamer.

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For the amok curry paste, put the lemongrass, garlic, shallots, turmeric, crushed dried chillies, galangal or ginger, kaffir lime leaves, peanuts and 6 tablespoons of the coconut milk into a mini food processor and blend into a very smooth paste.

Cut the fish across into 2.5cm-wide strips and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over a medium heat, add the curry paste and fry gently, stirring, for 2 minutes until it starts to smell aromatic. Add the sugar, fish sauce, l teaspoon salt, star anise, kaffir lime leaves and the rest of the coconut milk. Remove from the heat and leave to cool and then stir in the beaten eggs, the fish and the herb of your choice.

Spoon the amok into 4 x 350ml heatproof bowls or one shallow heatproof dish that will fit into a steamer, making sure, if using individual dishes, that a piece of star anise goes into each.

Bring 2.5cm water to the boil in a large shallow pan and then place some sort of trivet in the base: a petal steamer, a criss-cross mat of wooden chopsticks or a stackable steamer. Put the dishes into the steamer, cover the pan with a lid and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes until the custard is just set and the fish is cooked. Pierce one piece with a skewer: if you meet no resistance, it’s done.

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