The best Cambodian sweet and sour soup in 2022

Date : Aug - 10 - 2022

Since I was young, I liked the taste of sour food, from pickles to fruits and dishes. When I felt not well,  I’d like to eat sour dishes – they made me somehow feel stronger and awake. The Cambodian sweet and sour soup (in Khmer called Samlor machu trey) is special, since it also contains chili. Once they kicked it, I sometimes started sweating – kind of natural body cleansing. Mostly I cooked this soup on Sundays when I was a student, when our family wanted to give my mother a break from daily house duties. Still, she handed me a list with ingredients I bought at the local market.

Cambodian sweet and sour soup

Cambodian sweet and sour soup

Soup was the first I ever cooked, I still remember– an easy one with potatoes and mushroom and carrots.

Cambodian sweet and sour soup is one of the popular dishes for Khmer

Cambodian cuisine is more diverse than some may think. If we talk about Khmer food and what people cook for daily life, we will think of one kind of Khmer soups (called Samlor). The Cambodian sweet and sour soup is one of the popular dishes, easy and fast to prepare and healthy.  

People use different kinds of vegetables and fish  to make it, like rice fields craps or small shrimps, to make sweet and sour soup in many types. For the simple one we can use green papaya pieces, water lily, morning glory, the core of the banana stem and winter melon. If you cook sweet and sour soup in Cambodia with kreung ( the traditional Khmer spice paste) and coconut milk, and you want to add vegetable, morning glory is a popular one to add, usually without shrimps.

Cooking Cambodian sweet and sour soup

Cooking Cambodian sweet and sour soup

We call it then samlor machu kreoung.  The important ingredient that we should not miss is prahok, the infamous Khmer fermented fish paste, and sour fruit. Sour fruit could be tamarind, lime or lucidas fruit. 

Lucida fruits are essential

Lucida fruits are essential

One of the secrets why Cambodian sweet and sour soup is so popular lies in the ingredients. They are easy to find, often just around the house. The soup is an every day dish, found regularly on many lunch tables in Khmer houses. Enjoy our virtual cooking class here!

How to make sweet and sour soup (classic style) 

Ingredients for classic Cambodian sweet and sour soup

  • Fish       
  • Morning glory   
  • Garlic
  • Galangal
  • Prahok or fish sauce
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Seasoning
  • Tamarind / lemon/krosang fruit
  • Rice paddy herb or holy basil
  • Chili

How to cook it

  1. Clean the fish

    Clean the fish

    Clean the morning glory

    Clean the morning glory

    Clean the fish using first water and then salt and clean morning glory, then cut into pieces. (If you are vegetarian, use fried tofu cubes instead)
  2.  Peel of garlic, slice galangal, put tamarind into a bowl, smash it an add a bit of hot water to make sour sauce.
  3. Put prahok in a bowl of hot water and pour into the pot while the water is boiling. If prahok is to intense, use fish sauce. For a vegetarian option use mushroom sauce. Then add  tamarind sauce, garlic and galangal. 
  4. After the water boiled for about 10 minutes, add fish cubes  (as well as crap and small shrimps, if you want to add).
  5. Once the fish is cooked and soft add the vegetables, salt, sugar, seasoning and a bit of fish sauce. 
  6. Lastly, put rice paddy herb or holy basil, chilly and its done. 

Sweet and sour soup in Cambodia with kreung spice paste

There is no right or wrong with using kreung paste for the soup, it just gives a more intense taste.


Ingredients (for 4-6 people)

  •  fish 1kilogram
  • lemongrass   4 pieces
  • Dried chilly      3 pieces
  •  Turmeric    1 small piece (2 cm)
  • Galangal      1 small piece (1.5 cm)
  • Kaffir lime 3 leaves
  • Lucidas fruit    3-4 depend on size (can be replaced with lemon)
  • 3 long peppers
  • Prahok     30g
  • Fish sauce   1 tablespoon
  • •Garlic 1 glove 
  • Seasoning  1teaspoon
  • Salt 1/2 tablespoon
  • Sugar palm 1/2 tablespoon

Steps to make it:

  1. Clean fish with salt and cut to pieces. 
  2. Slice lemon grass, garlic, turmeric galangal add a bit of salt and punch until smooth.
  3. Squeeze a lucida fruit into a bowl, add minced prohok, slice pepper into small pieces.
  4. Mince and soak dried chilli . 
  5. Mix fish, kreoung, prahok, squeezed lucidas fruit or lemon,  palm sugar, fish sauce and seasoning into a pot add a bit of water stir gently.
  6. Start heating on medium heat, keep boiling for 5 mins then add 1/4 cup of water
  7. Simmer until fish is cooked.
  8. Add kraffir lime leaves to taste
  9. Lastly add slices of peppers.

In Cambodia, a soup is usually served with rice. Some families will also add some herbs and fresh vegetables, whatever is handy. If you are invited or visit one of our hosts, you would pour the soup in a bowl, then get a small plate with rice. You can pour soup over the rice or just eat both separately.

Author: Mealea Kong