How do I introduce Prahok K'tis to you my Dear Readers? It's a delicious Cambodian dish of a minced pork dip, and my favourite dish when I recently visited Siem Reap. It contains prahok (hence the name) or pickled mud fish which is a pungent ingredient that may have some recoiling. But when combined in this super simple dish with a herb and spice curry paste, coconut cream and minced pork it is absolutely delicious.
Prahok k'tis is usually served with vegetables or crudites to dip in. I served it with rice and prawn crackers because they were easier to scoop up the dip with but my personal favourite crudite to go with it is sliced cucumber. The advantage to this dish apart from the fantastic flavour is that it is ridiculously easy, it's no harder than frying mince. The hardest bit is perhaps finding the kroeung and prahok but it is really just a trip to Thaitown for that.
Prahok or pickled mud fish
Prahok itself (the ingredient not Prahok Ktis the dish) has been dubbed "Cambodian blue cheese" because of its stinky properties. It is kind of like Vegemite to Australians and Natto to Japanese. At first taste you'd think nobody could love it but then you watch practically a whole nation enjoy it. In Cambodia prahok is a paste that often contains thousands of citrus flavoured ants.
This recipe is an adaption of prahok ktis - Cambodians don't usually make it this spicy and I used peas instead of the small, bitter Thai eggplants that resemble peas. It tastes just like my favourite prahok and they all vary slightly but the recipes all have fairly similar ingredients, the difference is more in the quantities. I have to admit I didn't add as much prahok as others would have but Mr NQN isn't a fan of it so I treaded gently. But feel free to add more prahok if you want a more pungent dish.
The first time I tried prahok or pickled mud fish was for my birthday a few years ago. A friend had organised a food game at my birthday party and there was a part of the game where people had to smell an ingredient to guess what it was. She mischievously brought out a jar of pickled mud fish. People were repulsed but I think it was a similar reaction to when people first smelled fish sauce. Now many people keep fish sauce in their pantry but I remember how people hated that smell-now I can't imagine cooking South East Asian food without it. And a little goes a long way to flavouring a dish!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you have fish sauce in your pantry? Would you make this dip? Have you ever had anything like it?
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An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
- 2-3 tablespoons oil
- 6 tablespoons kroeung
- 1.5 tablespoons Prahok
- 500g/1.1lbs pork mince
- 3 tablespoons tamarind water*
- 2 birds eye chillies (or to taste)
- 250ml/8.8ozs. coconut cream
- 6 kaffir lime leaves, vein removed and sliced very thinly
- 1 cup peas
- 2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons palm sugar
Prahok (pickled mud fish) and Kroeung (curry paste) are two very specific ingredients that you need to get from a Cambodian or Thai grocery store. If you are based in Sydney, the best place to find these are in Thai town on Campbell Street, Haymarket. Prahok is found on the shelf (usually with Pickled mud fish in English) while kroeung is usually found in the refrigerated section.
I've also had a few questions about tamarind water. I soaked a walnut sized piece of dried tamarind in 3 tablespoons of hot water and let it cool and then massaged it to become tamarind water.
Step 1 - Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium high heat and fry the kroeung and prahok (you may have to cut the fish as if it isn't in paste form). Add the pork and break it up with the spatula or wooden spoon. Add the tamarind water and chillies and fry until the mince is cooked through. There may be some fish bones-if you do just take those out.
Step 2 - Add the coconut cream, peas and kaffir lime leaves. Add the palm sugar and fish sauce and taste for seasoning. Serve with vegetable, rice or prawn crackers.
Watch for fish bones