Thuk kroeung (or thuk krung)is a popular Cambodia dish that is usually used as a dip for fresh, raw vegetables. Thuk means liquid in Khmer, though it can also mean water or wet. (Moik thuk means to take a shower and puhk thuk means to drink water while thuk dah co means milk or literally “liquid of cow breast.”)
I had been craving thuk kroeung for weeks now. I haven’t had it in years, though it was a very common dish in our house when I was a child. I had no idea how to make it, and I did find a recipe on Khmer Krom Recipes but the picture of a watery dip was nothing like what I remember from my childhood.
I asked a Khmer friend if she knew how to make that “chunky fish dip we have with vegetables” and when she said “you mean like tuna salad but stinkier?” I knew she would be able to help! So using our scattered IM-conversation mixed with a bit of improvisation, I was about to make thuk kroeung tonight, and you know what, I came very close to what my mother used to make! My version is a bit saltier than what I remember and oops I forgot to pick out the bones from the prahok. You would think my friend would have been wise enough to include all the little details for a novice like me but noooooooooo!
Anyway, the recipe:
- 1 can of mackerel, skin in, in natural oils, drained well
- several cloves of minced garlic
- minced hot chilies to taste
- a handful of diced mint leaves (optional)
- juice of 1 lime
- teaspoons of sugar to taste
- a big dollop of prahok mixed with boiling water, do not forget to pick out the bones
- or – you can just use creamy style prahok from the store
- Brown the mackerel with the garlic and chilies
- In a big mortar, mash the mackerel mixture in with the prahok/water mixture
- Mix in lime juice and mint leaves
- Add sugar to taste
- Mix in lime juice
Serve with fresh vegetables. It’s usually better with harder vegetables such as cucumbers, broccoli, green eggplants, asparagus, etc. Also, in my recipe above, people usually don’t add the mint leaves but I had some lying around so I figured “why not?” and people often add in MSG (which I don’t have) and some sort of bitter tasting veggie, usually this leafy vegetable called sadow or little baby eggplants that look almost like peas or some other type of roasted vegetable, all of which gets mashed into the mixture.
Anyway, I’m damn happy with my first attempt and look forward to making this more often. Yum!