Fish and rice are the main ingredients of the Cambodian, or Khmer cuisine and most of the Cambodian dishes are spicy and extremely exotic. Shrimp is a very common Cambodian ingredient, together with other sea food delicacies. A Cambodian meal usually includes soup (samla), served at the same time as the other dishes. Fish is a major part of the Cambodian cuisine and grilled fish is a local specialty. Fish in cut up into pieces, rolled in a lettuce and dipped into fish sauce and it is often served with other types of Cambodian salads. The diversity of spices is huge and you can expect to find herbs and spices like cilantro, mint leaves and lemon thyme in even the simplest Cambodian dishes. This Steamed Fish (Trey Chamhoy) is a traditional Cambodian dish that is healthy and easy to make. It should be eaten while it is steaming hot, and plain white rice is a natural accompaniment to this dish.
- 900 gm whole perch, bream or snapper
- ¾ cup glass vermicelli
- ½ cup black fungus (cloud ears)
- 8 slices of fresh ginger, cut into thin strips
- 2 Tbsp fermented soy beans (Tauceo)
- ½ tsp sugar
- Soy sauce to taste
Cleaning the fish
Scaling and gutting a fish isn’t exactly an activity that one might look forward to, but here are some simple, step-by-step instructions on how to clean and gut a fish.
Otherwise, it is always easier to buy a fish that has already been cleaned and gutted from the local supermarket or fish supplier.
Soak the vermicelli in tap water for about 10 minutes until it softens slightly. It does not have to be very soft as you will be steaming it with the fish. Drain the water and cut the vermicelli into 2 inch lengths.
- Do the same thing with the black fungus. Soak it in tap water until it becomes soft and pliable. Drain the water. There will be some really hard bits which will remain hard¬—just cut these away and slice the black fungus into thin strips.
- Put the vermicelli, black fungus, ginger slices, fermented soy bean and sugar in a large bowl. Mix them well before using to marinate the fish for about 1 hour. It’s good to get the marinade into every nook and cranny of the fish.
- Place the fish in a shallow dish which can be used as both a steaming as well as a serving dish. Use a shallow dish to ensure that the gravy is easily accessible when serving.
- Spoon the excess marinade over the fish.
- Steam the fish over boiling water for about 20 minutes.
- To check if the fish is cooked, use a spoon or chopstick and gently give the fish a prod. The skin and flesh should yield easily to the touch.
- Add some soy sauce to taste. Note that the fermented bean sauce used earlier in the marinade is already salty.
- Serve with boiled white rice and fried vegetables.