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Prahok: The pungent fish elevating Cambodian cuisine

While the world is familiar with the food from neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodian cuisine is still relatively unknown. Can a sharp-smelling fish change that?

“There’s a saying among our elders, ‘No good prahok, no good friends’,” said chef Luu Meng with a smile. “Prahok in the countryside is part of life for Cambodian people; it has been an essential ingredient in kitchens for many generations.”

You’ll find a jar of prahok in most family homes, it makes everyone happy

Meng is referring to Cambodia’s distinctive fermented fish paste that has provided the nation with protein and flavour since the 9th- to 15th-Century Angkorian era, a period often characterised as Cambodia’s cultural peak. “In the provinces, when people go and see their future mother-in-law, they have to cook a good dish of prahok ktis (a rich spicy pork dip) to make her smile. That’s how important prahok is to us.”

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