The 5 best Khmer soups (Samlor) you must try
Khmer soups (samlor or samlar) are an important part of Cambodian food. There are different reasons: They can be made fast, only one pot and one fireplace is needed, and you can throw in whatever is available. We listed for you the 5 best samlor we think Cambodian cuisine has to offer. There are, however, lots of more soup recipes available.
Khmer soups are usually made from a clear broth or even water. However, samlor curry for example is a thick soup, while nom ban chock samlor trey is a classic breakfast dish where rice noodles and vegetables are added to the soup. We focus here on the clear soups and what we think are the 5 best Khmer soups you should try when in Cambodia – or cook at home.
We listed the recipes and ingredients as they are told us by our Khmer host families at Dine With The Locals. As in any food culture, those recipes are traded within families, so they differ. They also depend on the season and what is available on the market or in the backyard garden.
1. Samlar Korko
One of the most underrated dishes and yet popular in Cambodian families. What makes this soup so special is the palm sugar melted in oil and the roasted rice powder. Also, the use of young jackfruit slices might be new to you if you only know the sweet fruits.
- Half cup Khmer kreung
- tablespoon fish paste (prahok)
- 3 tablespoons of pa-ulr (rice grains, roasted and pounded)
- Fish flesh, cleaned and sliced.
- or 200g of chicken meat or tofu
- Vegetables (pumpkin, green papaya, green banana, green jack fruit, long bean, eggplant, Khmer eggplant, chili leaf, bitter gourd leaf)
- 1 tablespoon of palm sugar
- 3 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 1 liter broth or water
How to make it:
Melt the palm sugar in hot oil in a pot, Once it’s liquid, add the krueng paste (here you can read how to make it). Stir until fragrant, then add the vegetables. Stir and let them brown a bit. Add the chicken and fish or tofu, the fish paste (prahok) fish sauce and water. Let it boil, then add the rice powder and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Somlor Prohor
This is one of the soups where gourd is used. We call this one of the best Khmer soups because we think gourds are often forgotten and we just know cucumbers and pumpkins. In Cambodia, gourd – and in particular the luffa gourd we use here – growing in backyards and on fences of many houses in the countryside.
Meat: snakehead fish or smoked fish
Vegetables: Luffa gourd, winter melon, taro, pumpkin, pumpkin leaves or Ivy leaves, mushroom, rice paddy herb (some regions use it, some do not) lemon grass, turmeric, and garlic or kreung paste.
Soup powder or chicken broth, fermented fish (in Samlork, we use fish sauce), brown sugar, salt, and Kreoung
How to make it:
Melt the sugar in oil and add the kreung paste as well as the prahok. Add water with soup powder or broth, the just add all the vegetables. Bring it to a boil, then lower heat to simmer it for 20 minutes. Don’t stir because the fish will break down. Finally, add the leaves and simmer it for five more minutes.
3. Bitter melon with pork (one of the best Khmer soups in Cambodian cuisine)
Stuffed vegetables are common in many countries. I remember from Germany filled paprika aka bell peppers, where we stuffed minced pork and rice in together with salt and pepper and then let it get done in the oven. In Cambodia, the concept of an oven is not common, dishes are heated on fire, gas stoves or a grill. This Khmer soups can be done with bell peppers or gourd as well.
- 3 small bitter melons
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 1 small bunch bean thread soaked wash cut to tiny pieces
- 3 cloves of garlic pound to paste in mortar
- 2 tbs of dried shrimp soaked set aside
- 2 tbs of dried turnip wash set aside
- 1 tbs of soy sauce
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 green onions chopped for garnish
- 4 ½ cups water
How to make it
Peel the bitter melon, then cut into 8 cm long parts, then take all the seeds out and create a hole to stuff the meat inside. Mix the pork with garlic and pepper as well as the dried turnip and the bean threads and fill the bitter melon with it. Bring water to boil, add a cube of bouillon and the soy sauce. Add the filled bitter melon and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Add the shrimps and garnish with spring onions.
4. Beef sweet and sour soup with morning glory (Samlor Machou)
When you hear sweet and sour, you may immediately picture those two tastes together. But think about lemon juice with sugar. In Cambodia, sour and sweet go well together in the best Khmer soups like this one with beef. You can replace the meat with tofu and/or mushrooms or so called fake meat if you like.
- 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 small bowl of lemongrass leaves
- 20 gr sliced beef
- teaspoon of salt – 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 4 glasses of water
- 2 orange leaves Cut a knot about 1 inch long –
- 2 tablespoons ripe tamarind juice
- 2 spoons of fish sauce
- 1 bowl of fertilizer and sweet potato 4 peppers or can be put to taste
- 1 spoon of prahok
How to make it:
We assume you either know how to make kreung or you buy it at the market, so we will not include it in this recipe. First clean the morning glory and remove old leaves. Cut it in pieces and set aside.
Slice the beef and marinate it with the kreung paste, at least for 20 minutes. Fry the beef in oil for a few minutes, then move to a cooking pot. Add the water, some soup powder and 2/3 of the morning glory. Pound the other stems in a mortar or blend it. Let it simmer for a while, then add salt, prahok if you like, tamarind sauce and fish sauce. Finally, add the lemongrass – common in so many Khmer soups – to it. Let it simmer until it gets a dark green color.
5. Fish sour lemon soup (Sngor chrouk trei)
The word Sngor means just cooking, and while the word samlor means soup, different dishes and different names are also part of the best samlor soups in Cambodia. The last one in our list is simple, but can be found in nearly every household. One reason: not many ingredients needed, most can be collected near the house (at least at the countryside).
- 2 lbs (900 gram) of whole fresh basa, catfish or snakehead fish, cleaned and cut chunks
- 2 tablespoons of uncooked Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
- 1 n lemon grass stalk, cut 5 inches in length and tied to bunches
- 4 cups of water
- 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
- 2 stalks of green onion, chopped
- 2 chopped hot chili pepper
- 1/2 cup of chopped mix herbs of sweet basil (chee korhom), and Asian coriander (chee xanghum)
- 1 fresh lime or lemon, sliced
How to make it
Cut the fish into cubes or thin slices. In Cambodia, fillet is rarely used, instead the fish is chopped up from head to tail. Add then fish, water, rice lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar black pepper and chili into a pot and bring to boil. Let it cook for 20 minutes – the rice should be soft. Add then the herbs and the lemon juice. Simmer for 5 more minutes and then serve with rice.
Conclusion – Khmer soups in Cambodia
Every restaurant in Cambodia offers Khmer soups. If you stay longer than two night, you should really try the variety of those dishes. Also, many regions make different versions of them. They can be eaten as a main dish – with rice on the side – or they are part or a large order of different dishes for a party of 3 or more people, as it is common in Asia when people go out for dining.