Cambodian Herb Garden


This summary is inspired by a group that I have found to be a real gem with travellers and their desire to learn Khmer cooking. Cambodia Cooking Class. It answers a very simple and often asked question. What is special about the ingredients used in Khmer cooking? An outline of flavourants often gives you an insight into the heart of the style and the flavours you can expect. I have made some alterations to increase the understanding based on a broader experience of cuisines in the region.

List of Contents

Please click on either the Western names item or the Romanised Khmer names item and you will be taken directly to the detailed description of the food.

Western names

Asian Coriander
Bitter Melon
Cilantro
Finger Root
Galangal
Jicama Root
Kaffir* Lime
Lemongrass
Makrud or Keiffer Lime Leaves
Moringa Oleifera
Rice-paddy Herb
Sesbania Grandiflora
Star Anise
Sweet Basil
Tamarind
Taro Root
Turmeric
Wampi
Water Spinach


Romanised Khmer names

Ampil khui
Angkadei
Chan kari
Chee bonla
Chee Korhom
Chee van suy
Kantraub
Khchiey
Krauch soeuch
Kuel Skey
Lamiet
Ma-om
Mreah
M'rum
Peh-coc
Romdeng
Slirk krote sirk
Taro
Traw Kuon





















Kaffir* Lime
Krauch soeuch

This word has a horrible, racist and derogatory meaning in the white South African tradition


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The green lime fruit is distinguished by its bumpy exterior and its small size. In Cambodian cooking only the rind of the fruit is used.



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Makrud# Lime Leaves
Slirk krote sirk
#see above


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The leaves are aromatic and distinctively shaped "double" leaves.. The lime leaf is often used as a flavourant to add a reasonably unique but definite citrus background. It's a popular additive in many SEA cuisines.


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Galangal

Romdeng

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Although it comes from the same family as ginger, it varies in flavour from ginger, adding a flavour that has been described as gingerish to lemony to peppery and even to pine like. It is not interchangeable with ginger.


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Rice-paddy Herb

Ma-om




The natural abundance with its tang and lemon flavour naturally lend this herb for use with fish and seafood recipes such as Samlor Machou Trey, a Cambodian soup. It's a herb that is used for many purposes including a fresh addition to various salad like recipes.

This is a very easy herb to grow at home. The process is described under Grow YO


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Asian Coriander

Chee bonla

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Saw Tooth Herb  belongs to the same plant family as coriander. It bears no resemblance in appearance but has an almost identical flavour being a little stronger if anything. Use widely in  and borrowed Vietnamese creations.



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Taro Root
Taro

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A flavoursome, starchy tuber  characteristically potato like but with a definite nutty flaour. It's shape can range from neat round corm to long "unkempt" almost grotesque growths. The content is starch and as such can be used as a filler or staple. It is used as an animal feed in drier times. Taro has an interesting, nutty flavour. The starch can show a decided purple colour and for this characteristic is often included in desserts and ice-cream confections.


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Water Spinach
Traw Kuon

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Water convolvus or "morning glory" an herb. It grows in wet-lands. In some parts of Asia, the stems are pickled, but in Cambodia, only the leaves and tender shoots are eaten. typically it is stir fried with garlic and chillie in the Chinese style and identical to the preparation of the same in Vietnam and Thailand.The flavour is similar to that of spinach and it is eaten widely and in great quantity. It grows in poor quality water and can assist in detoxing or recycling water. Here is a problem. As mentioned the waters that grow the herb can be very contaminated and this will to some extent be contaminating the food. Stir fries are traditionally very quick to retain nutrition and to keep texture. The morning glory should be held at a boiling temperature or higher for at least one minute to kill pathogens. It's a food that I am beginning to keep clear of particularly in Phnom Penh where the growing lake is so contaminated not only with sewage but also with industrial waste. This is really important.


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Turmeric
Lamiet

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Khmer: kunyit or kurkuma.
In Cambodia fresh turmeric is preferred: usually grated and added to curry dishes for both aroma and colour


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Jicama Root
Peh-coc

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Jicama is a bit like apple and potato. The "fruit" is actually the growing tuber. Covered with a thin brown skin, it has a short root attached.  Raw jicama is sweet, juicy, and crisp. Jicama can be used as water-chestnut substitute for that snappy crunchiness sort after in chinese style stir fries.


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Star Anise
Chan kari

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The images shows it all. Typically it is 3 cm in diameter and has a strong aroma of licorice.  The multi component pod contains a very small  seed in each of its points, which has the aroma and flavour. Star anise is used to flavour both sweet and savoury dishes. The seeds are often chewed as a palate refresher after a meal.


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Cilantro
Chee van suy

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Cilantro by any other name is still coriander  :) In fact it is referred to by most of the world as cilantro and by British connections as Coriander. In fact the leaf is Cilantro and the seed is coriander but the naming is not likely to be clarified in the near future. The flavour of cilantro is unique, some hate it most love it. In cooked dishes it is better to add the chopped roots and stalks during the cooking phase and the leaves at the end or for garnish. The flavour is heat volatile.


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Finger Root
Khchiey

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A relative of the ginger root  milder(? some commentators state the opposite) in flavour than ginger and galangal. The tubers are translucent yellowish with a brown skin and are shaped like fingers hanging from the main body with a strong, distinctive aroma. Preparation is similar but more gentle than that for ginger and galangal. Scraping the skin and julienning the meat. Finger root is one of the main ingredients in Cambodian curry pastes, particularly fish curry dishes like the famous Fish Amok.


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Tamarind
Ampil khui

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The fruit pulp is sweet and used as a spice in Khmer cuisine.Thai tamarind is quite sour and is used for that purpose

The leaves are also distinctly tart in flavour, and are used in soups


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Sweet Basil
Chee Korhom

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A leafy, green herb that is a member of the mint family of plants.
Providing an intense but sweet and subtle flavour.It's a Thai variety called horapa and has a slight licorice undertone.


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Lemongrass
Kuel Skey

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Lemongrass is widely used as an herb in Cambodian cooking. It has a citronella flavour . The plant is very pithy and as such isn't kept in a dish for serving or may be removed by the diners. . It's a main ingredient in the 'kroeung' (curry paste).





The four herbs listed below are not generally known beyond SE Asia. They generally have a bitterness about them which is sort after in Cambodian cuisine.


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The leaf of the Sesbania Grandiflora is called angkeadei in Khmer. The flowers are often used for dishes as well.


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The leaf of the Moringa Oleifera
Khmer: m'rum


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The leaf of the Bitter Melon plant
Khmer: mreah


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The leaf of the Clausena lansium (Wampi)
Khmer: kantraub