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Somlar Machu Ktiss (Cambodian Hot and Sour Coconut Soup) #EattheWorld

Time is flying by this year. Our #EattheWorld project, being spearheaded by Evelyne of CulturEatz, is a lively group of adventurous cooks and eaters. You can read more about the challenge.

And this month Evelyne wrote: "We have not been to Asia for a while, let's take a culinary tour of Cambodia!" Years ago we went to a Cambodian restaurant (read that post here), but I never attempted to make any recipes for myself. This month, for Eat the World, since Evelyne picked Cambodia for our tabletop destination, I put on my thinking cap...

Check out all the wonderful Cambodia dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!

Somlar Machu Ktiss
Cambodian Hot and Sour Coconut Soup

I landed on a recipe that looked like it had so many layers of flavor; I was instantly smitten. However, not knowing the language, when I adapted the recipe, I wasn't sure which words needed changing. So, if my title actually includes catfish, my dish doesn't. Sorry.

Somlar Machu Ktiss is a Cambodian hot and sour coconut soup with catfish. It's spicy, sour, and savory all at the same time. It's pretty delicious and not terribly difficult to make.

  • 8 to 10 Makrut lime leaves
  • 1/2 C lemongrass (2 stalks)
  • 2" length of fresh galangal
  • 1-1/2" length of fresh ginger
  • 1" length of fresh turmeric 
  • 4 chile peppers (I used Thai peppers)
  • 2 T Thai red curry paste
  • 1 T shrimp paste
  • 1 T tamarind concentrate
  • Also needed: mortar and pestle or food processor

  • 2 pounds fish (I used some local rockfish, traditional would be catfish)
  • 8 Thai eggplants (they are green and round, photographed above), destemmed and quartered
  • 1 bunch long beans, cut into 2" lengths
  • 1 T oil
  • 2 C coconut milk
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 2 C water or chicken stock
  • 4 C greens (you can use baby spinach, I used an Asian green that I found at the market)
  • cane sugar to taste (I skipped this completely)

For Serving
  • organic lime wedges
  • organic basil leaves (I used Thai basil)

Slice lemongrass and Makrut lime leaves as thinly as you can. Place them in the mortar. Use a microplane to grate the galangal, turmeric, and ginger into the mortar. Add in the chile peppers, pastes, and tamarind. 

Pound it all into a fine paste to make kroeung.

Add oil to a pot or deep frying pan. Once heated, add kroeung and stir so that it doesn't burn. Once it's fragrant, approximately 3 to 4 minutes, pour in the coconut milk and fish sauce. Stir in the salt. Let the liquid come to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 5 minutes. 

Add in the long beans and eggplant. Let that simmer for 10 minutes until the coconut liquid has reduced and the vegetables softened. Pour in the water or chicken stock and bring that to a boil.

 Place the fish on top of the vegetables and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Place the greens on top of the cooked fish and cover to steam the greens. That shouldn't take long, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.

Adjust seasoning to taste. You can add in extra fish sauce or cane sugar to your liking. I didn't add anything.

For Serving
I served this soup with lime wedges and whole Thai basil leaves on the side. Let diners tear the leaves and squeeze the limes to their own tastes. 

Bonus: A Wine Pairing

While this wine has not yet been released - look for it in July 2019 - I paired the Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards 2018 Ingénue that I had received from #LodiWine as part of a virtual tasting with this soup. A blend of 35% Grenache Blanc, 35% Clairette Blance, 20% Bourbonlenc, and 10% Piquepoul, this wine is surprisingly weighty for its color. Almost completely clear with just a mere hint of gold, I expected it to be light; I was wrong. What a great texture! And the minerally nose with strong notes of citrus made it a great pairing with the Somlar Machu Ktiss.


  1. Lots of flavors building in this soup! So interesting to see the green eggplants, never seen them anywhere. Would love to try it, it sounds something we might like!

  2. I am a fan of fish soups and ALL these amazing flavors, looks really delicious Camilla!

  3. I think this sounds wonderful (the pairing too) but I will never know because Frank is sensitive to coconut milk and I am stymied as to what I could substitute for it.

  4. Wow, that spice paste looks like it's a flavour bomb! I can imagine how vibrant the soup must taste - plus, I love the creaminess of coconut milk in soup!


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