In this version of Cambodia's traditional fish preparation, from The Sugar Palm in Siem Reap, delicate white fish is poached in a banana leaf (via steaming, or baking in a water bath, as we do here) in an intoxicating coconut milk and curry custard until spoon-tender. The banana leaf is optional but the Khmer curry paste essential: It gives the custard its signature color and flavor.
Featured in: The New Tastes of Old Siem Reap
- Vegetable oil, for greasing
- 1 lb. skinless sea bass, cod, red snapper, or haddock, cut into 16 equal pieces
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 6 tbsp. Khmer yellow curry paste
- 3 tbsp. red chile–garlic paste, such as Kum-Lee brand
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. finely grated palm sugar or light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- Thinly shredded kaffir lime leaves and julienned red chiles, to garnish (optional
Heat the oven to 325°. Grease four 8-oz. heatproof bowls or ramekins with oil and divide the fish evenly among the bowls, with each containing 4 pieces. In a large bowl, whisk the coconut milk with the curry paste, chile-garlic paste, fish sauce, palm sugar, salt, and eggs until smooth.
Divide the custard evenly among the bowls and place in a large roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of bowls. Bake until the custards are set but jiggle slightly in the center and the fish is cooked, about 50 minutes.
Lift the bowls from the water bath and transfer each to a small plate. Serve the custards garnished with the kaffir lime leaves and chile, if using.