© Copyright 1995-2015, Clay Irving <email@example.com>, Manhattan Beach, CA USA
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This recipe is a great example of the kind of Cambodian soup known as Somlah Machoo, with its herb paste and lightly sour taste of tamarind. These flavors serve as a backdrop for the watercress and pork ribs. Other vegetables that go well with the ribs are zucchini and young winter melon, which, unlike zucchini, has to be peeled. Cut either vegetable lengthwise in half, slice ¼ inch thick and add it haft an hour before the soup is done. You may want to ask the butcher to cut the ribs into pieces for you
2 stalks of lemongrass, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon peeled, coarsely chopped galangal
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon turmeric
⅔ cup water
To make the paste, blend all the ingredients in a blender until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
2 ½ pounds of baby back ribs, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces across the bone, then cut between the bones
1 tablespoon prahok, optional (See Note)
5 cups of water
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
1 ½ tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 cup of tamarind juice
1 to 1 ½ pounds of Chinese watercress or regular watercress, cut into 2 inch pieces (or young winter melon or zucchini)
Julienned red bell pepper, for garnish
To preparae the soup, transfer the paste to a large pot, stir in the ribs and prahok (if using) and cook over medium-high heat, stirring well, for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the water, fish sauce, salt and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. When the soup has reached a boil, skim, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the ribs are tender, about 1 ¼ hours. Stir in the tamarind juice and watercress, remove from the heat and serve in bowls, garnished with slices of red pepper.
Prahok, or fish cheese as foreigners sometimes know it, is a crushed brown paste of fish, salted and fermented to preserve it. It is an acquired taste, with a strong aroma that permeates everything it touches.