Amazing Prahok. You have not been to Cambodia if you have not tried the fermented fish sauce. In fact if you have been here you have more than likely tried it whether you like it, or not!
What is prahok?
What is prahok? Prahok is fermented fish sauce. It is pungent, it is extremely strong tasting and it is the closest thing to a national dish of Cambodia that there is. Name a dish and fermented fish sauce probably plays some part in it.
So, what actually is it then?
It is a fish paste that is used as a condiment, or even as a main meal in Cambodia. Historically it was used a s way to preserve fresh fish for times when there would no, or less fresh fish. The unique flavor has since made it a mainstay of Cambodian cuisine and it is often used to flavor a number of dishes. It literally goes great with everything.
Not to digress, but I first tried it at a beef BBQ restaurant in Siem Reap. Prahok and beef tastes mazing togther.
To read about beef in Siem Reap click here .
What fish do they use for fermented fish sauce in Cambodia?
There are a number of variations, but traditionally the most popular fish is the mudfish and the moonlight gourami. River fish caught from the Mekong.
To read about street food by the Mekong click here .
How do you make prahok?
This fermented fish sauce is made by descaling and gutting your fish. You then pound down. This can be done with your feet, much like grapes for wine, or nowadays using a machine. You leave it in the sun for a day then salt it.
The prahok is fermented in large clay jars covered with a lid made of woven bamboo strips. It can then be eaten from about 20 days after fomentation. Although how long it is left depends on how strong you want it and who is making it.
This makes it like kimchi part of the fermented food family. To read about North Korean Kimchi click here .
When do you use it??
There are many dishes where the fish sauce is the primary ingredient, although the main usage of it is to flavor other dishes. This makes things like fried rice and fried boodles different in Cambodia to other countries.
To read about Khmer Fried Noodles click here .
To read about Khmer Fried Rice click here .
It is a condiment for a number of great dishes, mainly meat and fish. I personally love it with beef.
Main Prahok dishes
Prahok is extremely versatile and can be eaten just by itself. I literally just had some for breakfast. For the not to faint at heart it makes a great snack you can pick at.
There are though a few dishes where it is the primary ingredient.
Prahok ling/Cha (ប្រហុកលីងឬប្រហុកឆា)
Essentially fried prahok. Often mixed with peppers, beef, or pork it can be used also as a dip. You get some cucumbers and just snack on it.
Prahok kob or prahok aing (ប្រហុកកប់) or (ប្រហុកអាំង)
Wrapped in banana leaves and left to cook under rocks, or coals. This makes it harder than regular prahok.
Prahok chao (ប្រហុកឆៅ) is used with lemongrass and lime as a sauce to be used with rare, or almost raw cooked beef. I literally had this for breakfast today. Another one that goes great as a dipping sauce for raw vegetables as well.
Is it disgusting?
I guess this is what makes me different from other barang. Many foreigners do not enjoy this dish at all, many times my Khmer friends have been “impressed” that I could eat it.
It is certainly a unique taste and I can certainly understand why some might not like it, but to me it is THE Cambodian food everyone should try when they come here.