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!
Today is my day off, but like all my days off, I have more work to do than when I’m working. I woke up early this morning to do some admin things and to do some grocery shopping. My mom is home today as well, it’s her day off and for some reason, when I saw her tiny frame lounging on the couch with my niece asleep next to her I was filled with emotions. I needed a taste of my childhood and I knew exactly what I ask for. Chicken soup. Chicken soup truly is for the soul, I can’t think of something more warm and satisfying, I never needed to be sick to crave chicken soup.
Sgnor Sach Moun or Cambodian Chicken Soup is unlike any other chicken soup I’ve had and I feel so lucky to have grown up with it. Over the years I’ve been taught how to make amazing Jewish matzo ball chicken soup, Korean herbal chicken soup, American chicken noodle soup, German chicken soup… with dumplings, noodles, rice, barley and without. I’ve truly had a vast tasting of different incarnations of a simply seasoned chicken boiled in water. Though all delicious, nothing for me, compares to Mom’s (and Dad’s) citrus and herbaceous chicken soup.
Sngor Sach Moun is an incredibly simple recipe with a tiny ingredient list. Find all the right things and nothing can go wrong! Though I’ve made this soup many times, it was never the same as my mother’s. I used all the ingredients she did or so I thought. Enter free range Kui Fei Chicken. I’ve seen it spelled Kui or Gui, it’s sold whole with innards and can be found at well stocked Asian markets. My parents tell me it’s much closer to the chickens found in Cambodia. Unlike American chicken which is plump and fatty, Kui Fei is much smaller breed, less meat, tougher/chewy meat that takes longer to tenderize but the flavor is amazing. Cambodians love the texture of extracting pieces of meat from bone and sucking extra flavor out the bones afterwards. My mom especially. She would gasp in horror if we let a bone go without at least sucking on it once or twice. It’s possibly the worst etiquette, but hedonism is a part of a good meal!
So that’s the secret to amazing Cambodian Chicken Soup, using the right type of chicken! Seasoning is kept simple to let the true chicken flavor shine, squirts of lime and finished with herbs on top, it’s eaten with piping hot rice. It’s the herbs and citrus flavors I especially love, it adds such amazing aroma that instantly fills the kitchen with comfort. Cambodia is a communal eating society, everything is eaten family style including soups. A piping hot bowl would sit in the middle of the table and spoons would dip in occasionally to wet rice or slurp down directly. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been a germaphobe when it comes to sharing meals. As kids, we would drown our rice with soup and gladly use our fingers to pick up pieces of chicken and suck the meat off noisily. As an adult, you would think I’d learn to eat the way my parents have, but no, at 33, I still readily drown my rice with soup. My father mixed up his favorite condiment to accompany our noon time meal, I’ve taken to eating my soup with his chili fish sauce in my adult years. I love the salty heat it adds to my soup.
1 Whole Chicken, 3-4 lbs, preferably Kui Fei variety, cut into large pieces, skin on or off, your preference
3 tbsp Rice, uncooked
1 Lemongrass stalk, cut into 3 pieces and smashed slightly
3-4 Kaffir Lime Leaves
5 Garlic Cloves, roughly chopped
1 Medium Onion, sliced (white preferably, we just had red on hand)
2-3 tbsp Fish Sauce, or to taste
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
Juice of 1 Lime
enough water to submerge chicken
Papa’s Chili Fish Sauce: (optional)
3 tbsp Fish Sauce
5 tbsp Sambal Oelek
1 tsp Sugar
1 Thai Bird Chili, thinly sliced
Chili Fish Sauce:
1. Mix all ingredients together and set aside until ready to use.
1. In a pot, add enough cold water to cover chicken and place on high heat. Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 mins. Drain chicken, rinse with fresh water and set aside. This step helps remove blood and impurities, it also renders a lot of the fat in the skin away so you get a much cleaner and healthier soup later on! Skip this step if you’re using skinless chicken. But really, skin is flavor!
4. Time to add seasoning! Add fish sauce, salt, lime juice and sugar. Taste, add more of each according to your taste buds. Cook another 10 mins for Kui Fei chicken and it’s ready to eat for regular chicken!
Thanks Mommy for showing me the way!