Fish Amok: The National Dish of Cambodia

Carolina Araujo | July 21, 2022

Fish Amok is an extremely popular dish within Southeast Asia, specifically Cambodia. In order to prepare this dish, there must be a sufficient amount of time set aside as it is time-consuming. The origins of fish amok are largely based upon speculation as a result of its age. Fish Amok dates back as early as the 9th and 15th centuries, which would be the Khmer Empire. There is a lack of physical documentation of the fish amok's origins, although many learn about this dish through oral history. Recipes are handed down by generation. One of the main ingredients within this dish is freshwater fish and Kroeung (Cambodian spice paste). This allows us to conclude that the dish was found inland, probably from the area near Tonle Sap Lake.

In the 1970s, Cambodia suffered a genocide of its people as a result of the Khmer Rouge, killing 1.7 million. The genocide caused much of the country's cultural heritages to be erased, including primitive recipes and culinary knowledge. The aftermath of the genocide left many traumatized, except many worked hard to restore the culture. Eventually, Amok was brought to the table again.

Even though Fish Amok is Cambodia's national dish, it is often saved for special occasions. In fact, it is so special that it is the main dish served during Cambodia's Water Festival, which celebrates the flowing of the Tonle Sap Lake (Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake). Therefore, it makes sense why fish amok is served: the freshwater fish and fertile land allow for the dish to flourish. It is believed that the Mekong River blessed Cambodians with such beautiful fish and land.

Personally, I am interested in trying the famous Fish Amok dish of Cambodia. It is clearly rich in its history, which can be noted in early centuries. Although fish amok's preparation time is one to not mess with, I believe it would be worth the wait. Again, hopefully I can try it!