EDIT 9/29/2015. Lovelies, when you see this speaker icon feel free to click on it, it’ll take you to a Clyp audio file with the Khmer pronunciation! I’ve been looking for a site to do this on, sometimes it’s hard to phonically spell Khmer words using English letters, I hope this will help!
Trey Chean Choun has always been one of my favorite dishes. Spicy, salty vinegary ginger sauce blanketing freshly deep-fried whole fish, there really is nothing better. My mother would cook this for dinner accompanied with piping hot rice and thinly sliced cucumbers. The massive amount of ginger never deterred my young taste buds, I loved that biting heat that stings the tongue before the sweet flesh of catfish and cooling cucumber did it’s job in calming my throbbing mouth.
When one side of the fish was picked clean of all its flesh, bones are gently removed so we can have access to the underside. Every so often, my father would be in a joking mood and in a grand fashion, flip the fish over and loudly yell “GOLAP PAN DEY!!!!” (translation: earthquake) instead. We would being to cheer enthusiastically with spoons banging against our plates. My mother would tell him to stop and that dinner time isn’t for play but for sustenance, my father would then give her a cheeky smile and a wink to the rest of us.
Like a lot of Khmer recipes, it’s incredibly simple and fast. With limited heating source, cooks have relied in quick methods with very little expendable energy. I dig it! I decided to make this for dinner on a whim, I didn’t have time to purchase a whole fish but I did have some beautiful mahi-mahi fillets on hand. Traditionally it’s a deep-fried whole catfish, which happens to be one of my favorite fishes to eat and cook with. Cambodia’s Tonle Sap produces some of the world’s largest catfish, catfish is very much an intricate part of a Cambodian’s diet. Any firm white flesh fish will do for this Trey Chean Choun dish, so use your favorite, whole or as fillets like I have. I decided not to deep fry my fish per tradition and went the route of a light pan fry instead. I like a less oily fish but let’s be honest, the fish and rice are really vehicles for the sauce. It’s the sauce that’s the star of this dish. The two main ingredients are thinly sliced ginger and fermented salted whole soybeans. Don’t be scared at the sound of fermented soybeans, it sounds much more ferocious than the actual taste.
Fermented Salted Soybeans are sometimes called Yellow Bean Sauce, it can come in the form of a paste, half paste and half whole beans or my personal favorite, whole beans. Some brands are salty and some have more sweetness to it, I prefer the salty hands down. Yeo’s is a brand I grew up with and has been my favorite into adulthood. It’s jarred whole beans in a perfectly salty brine, once opened it can be refrigerated for 3-4 months. I like it simply with my rice porridge in the morning or added to vegetable stir-fry as a salt substitute.
This recipe is skewed towards personal preferences. Like a lot of ginger like I do? Add a ton, like it sweeter, saltier, sour or more mellow, adjust ingredients accordingly.
2 Mahi Mahi fillets, or any firm white flesh fish
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil, or enough to cover the bottom of your pan
Cucumbers, thinly sliced
Ginger & Soybean Sauce:
1 5in (or more) Ginger knob, thinly sliced
1 medium Onion, thinly sliced
3 Garlic cloves, minced
3 heaping tbsp Salted Soybeans
2 tbsp Palm Sugar, or brown sugar
1/8 cup White Vinegar
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
3/4 cup Water
1. Set heat to Medium High, add oil to pain
4. Reduce head to Medium, remove all but 2 tbsp of oil. Add ginger and begin to fry until lightly brown and fragrant. Remove and set aside. This is something I do because my mother does it, I remove the ginger so I can maintain some of the crispness, but you don’t have to if you’re feeling lazy!
7. Add reserved ginger to sauce. Turn off heat and spoon sauce over fish.
9. Laugh when your brothers devour all the Trey Chean Choun before your dad is even aware it’s finish. Pat him on the back when he shakes his head and fries up some eggs instead because the boys ate his share of dinner. Ooooops, sorry Papa, you know you have to be quick in this household!
Yet another song, my mom is wanting to continue the celebration of New Year by going to another party this weekend.. oooh to dance til my feet hurt again or not.. hmm!
Khemarak Sereymon – Jong Ban Propun Khmer (I want a Khmer Wife)