The national dish of Cambodia, Amok is traditionally made from fish, noni leaves (known for their medicinal qualities), lemongrass, galangal, kachai, coconut milk and a pungent fish paste. While Amok recipes that are free of meat and fish do exist, they're rare, and very difficult to get hold of. Therefore this recipe is my attempt to capture the essential Khmer flavour of the dish, albeit using ingredients that will be acceptable to vegetarians and vegans.
Tofu has been used as a substitute for fish, while I've used a combination of tamarind paste, jaggery and soya sauce instead of the fish paste. Apart from these two ingredients, everything else that has been used in this recipe is basically the same as those used traditionally. At times, when the traditional fresh ingredients are not available, they can be replaced with a suitable substitute. For example, noni leaves aren't easily found where I live so I use bok choi or Swiss Chard, and since it's also hard to find fresh kachai, I bought a bottle of it instead from my local Asian grocery shop.
Like all traditional cuisines, no two versions of Cambodian Amok are the same and therefore this recipe will add yet another perspective to what's already a very diverse regional dish. I hope you enjoy it.
2 tbs diced kachai (I purchased a bottle from an Asian grocery shop as fresh isn't available locally)
3 tbs diced lemongrass (from tender part of stalk) If you can't get fresh lemongrass, use dried instead.
10 kaffir lime leaves (if you can't find fresh kaffir lime leaves, dried lime leaves can be purchased at many Asian grocery shops)
4 cups noni leaves (if unavailable use a medium-sized bunch of bok choi or Swiss chard)
2tbs of galangal powder
Half a teaspoon of hing
One and a half teaspoons of turmeric
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp soya sauce
1 tsp jaggery (date palm sugar)
2 x 400ml cans of coconut cream
A pinch of salt
Optional: A small amount of cornflour to thicken the sauce.
Chop the tofu into bite-size pieces, approximately 1cm by 2cm.
Chop the noni leaves (or bok choi or Swiss chard, if unavailable) finely.
Dice the kachai, lemongrass stalk and lime leaves very finely. If you're using dried lime leaves, remove the tough stalk before you start chopping.
Heat the oil in a wok and add the diced kachai, lemongrass and lime leaves, stirring constantly. After a minute or so the tofu can be added. Stir constantly until the tofu is light brown on the outside, and then add the powered galangal, hing and turmeric, followed by the noni leaves (or substitute).
Add the tamarind paste, soya sauce and jaggery, along with the coconut cream, stirring constantly. If you want your Amok to have a more golden colour, add another teaspoon of turmeric.
After simmering the mix for five minutes, remove it from the heat and add salt. If you'd like the sauce to be thicker and creamier, gradually add cornflour until it reaches the desired consistency. Your meatless Cambodian Amok is now complete.