This delightfully fragrant coconut fish curry is from Cambodia. Originally a classic Khmer dish, Amok is sometimes made with an egg to produce a kind of savoury custard or mousse. It also appears in Thai cuisine as Ho Mok and in Laos as Mawk. Great served with steamed jasmine rice for lunch. Make sure you prepare the wet paste before you get started.
- white fish fillets - 750g, such as gemfish, ling or redfish, skinned and bones
- coconut cream (Mae Ploy) - 400ml tin
- curry paste - 2 tablespoons (see below)
- fish sauce - 2 tablespoons
- palm sugar - 1 tablespoon
- Banana leaves - 12 pieces, or 6 silverbeet or Chinese broccoli leaves
- Wet Curry Paste
- lemongrass - 1 stalk, white part only, thinly slices
- galangal - 1 x 2cm piece, peeled
- coriander root - well-washed
- kaffir lime leaves - 4 - 6, finley shredded
- coriander leaves - a handful, chopped
- chilli powder - 1 teaspoon
- ground turmeric - 1/2 teaspoon
First make the wet curry paste: pound the sliced lemongrass, galangal and coriander root in a mortar and pestle. Keep pounding until smooth. You can use a blender, but the result will be better in a mortar and pestle. Add the kaffir lime and coriander leaves, then mix in the chilli and turmeric powder.
Cut the fish into 2cm -3cm cubes, making sure that all the bones have been removed. In a medium-size bowl, stir the wet curry paste into half the coconut milk until well mixed. Add the fish and stir again. Add remaining coconut milk, the fish sauce and sugar and mix again, stirring in the same direction for 5 - 10 minutes.
To make the containers: clean the banana leaves with a wet cloth, then hold them over a hot flame with a pair of tongs to soften them (this helps prevent them cracking when being shaped - alternatively, dip them into hot water).
Using a cake tin, trace 25cm circles onto the banana leaves, then cut into circles. Place two together - this is important as one leaf is not strong enough to hold the mixture. Make a square in the middle of the circle - this will be the bottom of the cup. Place a thumb on one right angle of the square and pull up 2 sides, tucking the fold, and pinning together with a halved toothpick. Move your thumb to the right and make another please. Continue until all 4 sides of the cup are held together - some might require 5 pleats. You should now have a neat cup container. You will need six of these.
Spoon the fish curry into the prepared containers and cover each container with a banana leaf (or use foil). Top each with a little coconut cream and slivers of red chilli or a star anise. Place containers on a flat dinner plate (three per plate). Now put the plate on a rack in a steamer and steam until cooked, 20 - 25 minutes. Test with a skewer - if there's no resistance, it's done. Remove and serve immediately with hot steamed rice.
Note: If the banana leaf parcels are too challenging, you can spoon the curry into six bowls , each lined with a silverbeet leaf or Chinese broccoli leaf (central rib removed). Cover the bowls with foil, then proceed as above.
For steaming: use a wok. Fill with boiling water to just under the level of the rack and make sure the whole wok is covered with a tight-fitting lid.