Cambodian family meal mostly consists of jasmine rice and at least two main dishes (one dry and one soup). Dry dishes can be grilled meat or stir fry dish. Today I am cooking one of my favourite soups, Samlor Marchu Yuon. The direct translation is “Vietnamese sour soup”. As the name suggests, this soup originated from Vietnam, but it was modified to suit Cambodia’s produce. There are multiple versions of this soup according to each family. In Sydney, my mum and I had modified it to suit Sydney’s produce. My 18 months old loves eating this soup, in fact it has became our soup dish most weeks as he would only eat these kind of soups recently.
What I love about this soup is that it is so flexible. You can also use chicken in stead of fish or even seafood. In terms of vegetables you can pick and choose from a number of vegetables depending on availability. In Cambodia, the authentic recipe uses young white lotus roots (kror ao chuk). They come in can in Sydney. I had tried it and did not like it because it has lost its sweetness and was very chewy. So my mum and I had experimented a number of vegetables to use for this soup and they work well and I actually like them very much. We also used our home made chicken stock although stored bought one is also ok. In fact, I never used stock in my cooking at all in Cambodia. Only when we moved to Sydney that we learnt how to use stock. I think because back in Cambodia, we normally use whole fish including fish head and the fresh ingredients already make the soup so tasty. So without going on further, lets start cooking and I hope that you enjoy this soup as much as my baby boy Aaron. Please let me know how you go.
Recipe for Sweet and Sour Fish Soup (Samlor Marchu Yuon)
Time: 15 mins preparation, 15 mins cooking
What you need:
3 cups of chicken stock (if not, water is fine)
1 stalk of lemon grass bruised and/or 1 kaffir lime leave (better to have both)
1 clove of garlic bruised
2 slices of canned ring pineapple or 1/4 fresh pineapple peeled and core
1 medium size tomatoes or 5 cherry tomatoes
1 medium size cucumber
(or any one or combination of these: young white lotus roots, zucchini, winter melon, elephant stem (khdart), celery, bean sprout)
250g fish fillet (white fish or salmon, or even chicken)
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate paste
(from asian grocery, adjust to your preference of sourness. Can also use powder or fresh tamarind if available)
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fish sauce (for serving)
A handful of basil or long coriander (culantro or recao) for garnish
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 chilli (optional)
1- Put stock or water, lemon grass and kaffir lime and bruised garlic in a cooking pot and bring to the boil
2- Cut the vegetables as in the picture below
3- When the stock is boiled, add cucumber and pineapple, and cook for 5 mins
4- Add in the seasonings: salt, sugar, fish sauce (2 tbsp) and tamarind paste. Taste the soup to see if you are happy with the flavour then add the tomato and the fish. When the soup comes to the boil, turn off the heat and remove pot from hot stove so the fish is not over cooked. Add bean sprout here if you are using them
5- Heat the oil in the frying pan and sauté the garlic till golden. Remove the garlic from oil and into the soup. Discard the oil.
6 – Chop the basil and chilli roughly
7- When serving, add the basil and other garnish on top of the soup. I also add in the fried shallots for crispiness. Put the extra 1 tbsp fish sauce in a small sauce bowl and add chilli in the fish sauce. This is an optional dip for those who want more saltiness and the chilli heat. Serve with steamed jasmine rice. Bon appetite!