Pan-fried prawns with prahok rice

Pan-fried prawns with prahok rice

Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong
Stuart Scott

I spent hours with chef Luu Meng, owner of the Malis restaurant in Phnom Penh, eating and chatting about Khmer cuisine and how it almost disappeared under Pol Pot’s Communist regime. Luu was so passionate about his country, culture and cuisine, giving a real insight into the flavours of Khmer cooking. This recipe is actually best with leftover cold rice, so cook it ahead if you have time. Prahok is sold in glass jars at Asian stores.


Quantity Ingredient
250g jasmine rice
8 raw jumbo king prawns or scampi, about 400 g in total
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil, for pan-frying
1 sprig green kampot pepper
or 12 fresh green kampot peppercorns (or at a pinch the ones sold in brine)
95g diced ripe mango
1 tablespoon shaved palm sugar
1 egg, beaten

Pickled vegetables

Quantity Ingredient
70ml fish sauce
70ml white vinegar
125g sugar
500g green papaya, peeled and shredded
1/2 carrot, peeled and shredded
2 long red chillies, finely sliced

Spice paste

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely sliced
2 teaspoons cambodian chilli paste, (see note)
1 teaspoon kroeung paste, (see note)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 red asian shallots, finely chopped
250ml coconut cream
1 teaspoon prahok or mam ruoc


  1. Make the pickled vegetables a day ahead. Combine the „fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and 250 ml water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and add the papaya, carrot and chilli. Mix well, seal and leave to pickle overnight, or for 24 hours.
  2. Put the rice in a saucepan with 450 ml water and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium–low heat for 16 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Allow to ­cool.
  3. Peel and devein the prawns, leaving the tail and head intact. Rub the prawns with the oyster sauce, pepper and a pinch of sea salt. Set aside.
  4. To make the spice paste, add the vegetable oil to a hot frying pan. Add the kaffir lime leaves, chilli paste, kroeung paste, garlic and shallot and sauté over medium heat until fragrant. Add half the coconut cream, stirring until red and orange colours develop. Now add the remaining coconut cream and stir again for a further minute. Add the prahok, stir, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  5. Wipe the pan clean and place back over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add another tablespoon of vegetable oil, the kampot pepper sprig or peppercorns, the mango and palm sugar. Stir until the mango starts to caramelise. Remove the mixture from the pan, wipe the pan clean and add a little more oil to it.
  6. Add the prawns. Scoop out the orange butter inside the prawn heads (called the ‘tomalley’), by angling the heads back from the bodies and scraping out the goo, into the pan. Add the beaten egg, mixing everything together.
  7. Return the mango to the pan, along with the steamed rice and cooked spice paste. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
  8. Scoop the fried rice onto a plate; pick out the prawns and arrange them over the rice. Serve with pickled vegetables.


  • To make Cambodian chilli paste, soak 200 g seeded large dried chillies in 500 ml warm water for 10 minutes. Drain, then squeeze out the excess water. Pound the chillies to a paste using a mortar and pestle. Add to a hot wok with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and fry over medium heat for 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Allow to cool, then refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


  • Kroeung paste is an essential base for many Cambodian dishes. Use a large mortar and pestle or a food processor to pound or process the following to a smooth paste: 3 tablespoons peeled, sliced fresh galangal; 3 tablespoons peeled, sliced fresh turmeric; 6 sliced garlic cloves; 2„ finely sliced lemongrass stems, white part only; 2 sliced red Asian shallots; 10 „finely shredded kaffir lime leaves; 6 sliced bird’s eye chillies; 2 sliced long red chillies; 1 teaspoon black peppercorns; 1 teaspoon sea salt; 1 teaspoon shrimp paste and 60 ml vegetable oil. You can refrigerate the spice paste in a clean screw-top jar for up to 2 weeks.
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