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Categories: Fish and shellfish, Main courses, Quick and easy, Soups

Khmer Fish Stew With Lemon Grass (Samla' Metchou Peng Pa)

Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid explain in "Hot Sour Salty Sweet" (Artisan, $40) that samla' are "wet dishes," somewhere between a stew and a hearty soup. They are the standard accompaniment for rice in Cambodia, hot and tasty, often sour ... Read more

Total time: 50 minutes | Serves 4
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 stalks lemon grass, trimmed and smashed flat with side of cleaver
  • 3 tablespoons tamarind pulp
  • 3/4 pound fish steaks (catfish, tilapia or other freshwater fish of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Cambodian or Thai fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 pound green or half-ripe tomatoes, seeded and cut into scant 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 small green onions, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 4 leaves fresh culantro or sawtooth herbs, coarsely chopped
  • 12 Asian basil or sweet basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 4 to 6 sprigs rice paddy herb (ngo om) or Vietnamese coriander, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste

Step 1Bring water and lemon grass to vigorous boil in large pot. Boil 5 minutes, half-covered, then reduce heat and simmer over medium heat a few minutes.

Step 2Once broth is simmering, scoop about 1 cup liquid into small bowl. Add tamarind pulp to bowl, stir well to dissolve thoroughly and set aside.

Step 3Rinse off fish. If using large steaks, cut into roughly 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces. If using small steaks, cut in half. Add to broth along with garlic, bring to a boil, and simmer until fish is opaque, 3 minutes. Add fish sauce and salt. Place sieve or fine strainer over soup and pour tamarind liquid through it. Use back of wooden spoon to press tamarind pulp against strainer, then discard remaining seeds and pith. Stir stew well and simmer several minutes.

Step 4Add tomatoes, green onions, culantro, Asian basil, rice paddy herb and sugar to stew and simmer 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Each serving:
132 calories; 764 mg sodium; 39 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams protein; 1.45 grams fiber.
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