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fish sauce in Khmer cuisine

Fish sauce, known as “tuk trey” in Khmer, is a fundamental and essential ingredient in Khmer cuisine. This savory, umami sauce is made from fermented fish, usually anchovies or mackerel, mixed with salt.
In Khmer cuisine, fish sauce is used in multiple ways to enhance the flavor of dishes. It is often used as a base in soups and sauces, adding depth of flavor and savory balance. For example, the traditional Cambodian soup “Samlor Machu Kreung” derives much of its characteristic flavor from fish sauce. This brings an umami note that complements the other ingredients such as vegetables, herbs and spices.
Fish sauce is also widely used in stir-fry dishes. It can be mixed with other condiments and spices, such as palm sugar, garlic, ginger and chili peppers, to create flavorful marinades for meat, chicken, seafood or vegetables. These fish sauce-infused marinades give ingredients a depth of flavor and umami balance that develops when cooked.
Stir-fried noodle dishes, like the popular “Mee Cha”, also benefit from fish sauce. It is used to season noodles and vegetables, providing a salty, umami flavor that harmoniously complements the other ingredients.
Also, fish sauce is often served as a condiment at the table. It is mixed with lime juice, sugar, chillies and sometimes garlic to create a spicy dipping sauce called “tuk trey cha”. This condiment is used to accompany a variety of Khmer dishes, such as Cambodian spring rolls called “Nime Chow”, grilled meat skewers or salads.
Fish sauce is an essential element to add flavor and umami to Khmer cuisine. Its distinctive taste and ability to balance flavors make it a versatile and indispensable ingredient in many traditional Cambodian dishes. Whether in soups, marinades, stir-fries or sauces, fish sauce plays a key role in Cambodian culinary art, contributing to the complexity and delicacy of Khmer flavors.


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