Could you have ever imagined that almost every country has their own ratatouille, just they call it a different name? Yes, there is a Cambodian version too and its name is samlor kako. Today I will share this delicious recipe but first, let’s talk about a bit about this common dish, that the French call ratatouille.
The original French ratatouille was made in Provence first but it eventually became a popular dish in all regions of France. The dish has an eggplant base and contains a lot of other vegetables as well. It is almost soupy, yet the colorful and tasty vegetables make it so hearty and thick.
Hungary has its own version, called lecsó which contains bell peppers, tomato, onion and sausages. A Moroccan version is called seven-vegetable tagine.
What is common in all those vegetable dishes from around the world? They have a very soupy but thick vegetable base, which contains typical local ingredients. The quality of the ingredients, and in particular the vegetables, is very important to the final taste of the meal. All these dishes inclue their own spices and local, traditional ingredients that reflect the particularities of the local cuisine.
The French add some herbs to the dish, whereas the Hungarians add red paprika powder and the Moroccans use cumin.
The Cambodian samlor kako, also called somlaw koko, samlor koko, samlor korko or “សម្លកកូរ” in Khmer, has a very strong Asian spice basis, which includes ginger, lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, fish paste and fish sauce. The vegetables that are used are traditional Asian vegetables as well, including eggplants, green grated papaya, and yarldlong beans.
Besides the vegetables, the meat, the fish sauce, and the fish paste give a unique taste to the Cambodian version. The meat can be chicken, pork or beef.
Samlor kako has a traditional cooking method. As many other Cambodian dishes, it has a spicy curry paste base. After basic ingredients (ginger, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, garlic, shallots) are browned, they are added into a mortar and pounded into a thick paste. The browning method is very important as it gives a special umami flavor to the ingredients. Please do not skip this step. Browning the meat and the vegetables are important too for the same reason.
In the Asian cuisine and the Cambodian cuisine in particular, the fermented elements have an important role because of their taste and health benefits. The fish sauce and fish paste are used to add salt and umami to the dish and create a harmonious meal.
Samlor kako can be eaten as a separate dish but can also be served with steamed rice. Some people say that this Cambodian dish is not only similar to the ratatouille but also the French “pot au feu”. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle. Pot au feu is a soupy stew with a lot of vegetables including carrots, celery, potatoes, and beef. It is traditionally prepared in a clay pot and needs to cook for a long time.
Samlor kako is a very special Cambodian mixture of these two typical French delicious dishes. Try it, you will love it!
Samlor kako is a delicious traditional soup dish from Cambodia, which is often considered as one of the country's national dishes. It is prepared with kroeung (curry paste), fish paste, fish sauce, and an assortment of meats and vegetables.
- 3 oz. galangal
- 2 oz. fresh ginger
- 2 oz. fresh turmeric
- 3 oz. lemongrass , very finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic , finely chopped
- 2 shallots , finely chopped
- 10 leaves kaffir limes
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 2 tablespoons palm sugar , reduced to powder
- 1 tablespoon fish paste (prahok)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons rice , roasted and ground
- 4 tablespoons Khmer curry paste (Khmer Kroeung), recipe below
- 1½ lb meat (chicken, beef or pork), cut into large pieces
- 3 lb assorted vegetables: pumpkin (grated green papaya, yardlong beans, eggplants, Thai eggplants)
- 8 Thai chili peppers
- 3 cups boiling water
- Peel the galangal by scraping it with a knife and cut it into thin strips.
- Then peel the turmeric and ginger and cut into strips.
- Remove the thick center vein from the kaffir leaves and cut them into strips.
- Heat oil in a wok over medium heat and fry all the ingredients until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Let cool.
- Pound the mixture with a mortar and pestle until obtaining a homogeneous paste.
- Cut the vegetables into pieces.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the palm sugar. Stir quickly until partially dissolved. Be careful not to burn the sugar.
- Add the fish paste and mix well.
- Add the meat.
- Stir and sauté the meat until it is coated and slightly brown.
- Add the Khmer curry paste and stir.
- Add the fish sauce and salt. Add all the assorted vegetables and hot peppers. Mix well.
- Sprinkle with ground roasted rice.
- Mix and finally add the boiling water.
- Cover and cook for 30 minutes over medium heat, stirring gently from time to time so as not to crush the vegetables.
- Serve with steamed white rice.