Cambodian Ratatouille known in Khmer as សម្លកកូរ, (Somlaw Koko) is a simple-basic hearty stew which uses assorted vegetables and strong flavorings from pickle fish or fermented fish (prohok), Khmer Kroeung and ground toasted rice. It’s also consider Cambodia’s National Dish.
Over the years, many different versions of Somlaw Koko has been created. Some added coconut milk to this stew. Growing up, my Mother never used coconut milk to make Somlaw Koko. Personally, I think the flavor is too rich and if you were to substitute the ground toasted rice with tamarind soup base, it would turn into Cambodian Sour Soup with Coconut Milk with assorted vegetables or similar to Cambodian Curry. I will leave it up to you, the Chef, to decide what works best for your taste bud.
The vegetables I used here came in a convenience package all mixed together. If you don’t have all or any of these listed you can surely use what’s in season or available in your area. Depending on the type of vegetables use you might want to separate them and add them in the order it takes to cook. My group contains pumpkin which probably might need to be added first, however at this quantity I did not bother dividing them and I did not mind a bit of crunch to my pumpkin either, again a personal preference.
Cambodian Ratatouille (makes 5 servings)
(Somlaw Koko) សម្លកកូរ
1 teaspoon oil
2 tablespoons palm sugar
1 tablespoon ground pickle fish (prahok)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground toasted rice
4 tablespoons lemongrass paste (Khmer Kroeung)
1 lb your choice of meat (chicken, pork, or fish) cut into bite size pieces (I used pork ribs)
2 lbs assorted vegetables (pumpkin, shredded papaya, green beans, aubergine, Thai eggplants, fuzzy squash)
8 whole bird’s eye chilies (optional)
3 cups water
Heat oil in a pot and add palm sugar. Stir quickly until partly dissolve. Becareful not to burn the sugar. Remove the pot or adjust the heat if necessary.
Add in pickle fish (prohok) and stir these two ingredients together until fragrant.
Next add the meat. Stir fry until the meat is coated and slightly brown.
Add lemongrass paste and stir to combine followed by fish sauce and some salt.
Carefully slide in the assorted vegetables. Add in the chilies too if using them.
Scatter the ground toasted rice all over the vegetables. Mix it in slightly, and finally add the water.
Cover and allow the soup to return to a rapid boil. The meat on the bottom is now fully cooked. Give it a stir so the vegetables have a chance to cook and soak up all the flavors. It’s a good time to taste and adjust accordingly. Cover the lid again and continue to cook just a few more minutes.
Ladle into bowls and serve with steam rice. ENJOY!