Fish Amok - same same but different ~ Orderinny

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fish Amok - same same but different

The phrase "same same, but different", commonly found on t-shirts sold in the Cambodian tourist outlets and street stalls can be applied to food found in Siem Reap. The stir fries taste a little Chinese, the lemongrass and spices in the curries evoke a little bit of Thai. But the stir fries taste a little more of pungent fish sauce than soy, and the curries are not quite spicy. The differences are subtle compared to food from its Southeast Asian neighbors, but distinctively present.
Even different renditions of the ubiquitous Fish Amok, available in every Westerner and local restaurant alike vary somewhat. Fish Amok is both cute sounding and mild and easily liked, so much so that the cynic in me wonder whether it is a recent invention to suit Western palates. But it was undeniably popular and mostly tasty.
At the all-time Pub Street favorite Khymer Kitchen (left), we celebrated having watched the magnificent sunset atop the Angkor Wat ruins by sharing a big bowl of its version of Amok, a light green curry chockful of fresh fish, fried morning glory (or kang kong in Singapore), a sweet red curry and some lukewarm but drinkable local beer.
In the foodcourt tucked in Central Market (top right), a modern emporium of Cambodian and even made in china souvenirs, the fish amok hawked by a smiley lady was a steamed, coconut-y custard served in a bowl fashioned by banana leaf. Another Siem Reap speciality we found at the central market foodcourt was cured sausages that tasted like a less smokey version of Chinese sausage that went well with rice. The final version was eaten at a road side stall along the stretch of road near the ultra-modern Hotel de la Paix, and was the least appealing brown gloop shown (right). Maybe we were suffering from amok-fatigue by then, but the stingy portion of fish and the excessive gunkiness of the dish did not help either.
After three days and many meals, we still did not know what a standard serving of Fish Amok should look and taste like. Well, while homogeneity has it merits, some same same but difference isn't too bad.

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