No matter where you are in Cambodia, you will encounter this classic dish, but no place is better than in Siem Reap (close to the Angkor temples), nearby the great lake of Tonle Sap.
- The fish. If you are staying in Siem Reap, many of the fish are sourced locally in Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The dish typically uses light, neutral-flesh fish, which better showcase the curry flavors. Frequently used freshwater fish include: snakehead, carp and catfish.
- The curry. The fish is steamed in a savory curry sauce made, first and foremost, from coconut cream and coconut milk, with a touch of salty anchovy fish sauce. The base for the sauce is made from kroeung, a traditional Khmer spice-herb paste based on a mixture of ingredients: lemon grass, citronellal-rich kaffir lime zest and leaves, the ginger-like galangal, garlic, nhor leaves (a leafy green similar to kale, but more bitter), turmeric, shallots and dried red chillies (not spicy). For those of you who don’t like spicy (hot) foods, there is no need to worry: Cambodians don’t go heavy on the spice, so you are in good shape.
- The rice. The sticky rice is exceptional, delicate and al dente. As a general rule, we suggest keeping the curry and rice separate on the plate. Combine them at the center of the plate, almost on a bite-by-bite basis, so as to keep the rice fresh and optimize the curry-to-rice ratio.