Mixed stew

Mixed stew

Samlaa kako

South East Asian Food

This dish, which serves very well as a one-pot meal, is one of the best known and most popular Cambodian dishes. It resembles the Lao olam.


Quantity Ingredient
250g belly pork with lean, fat and skin
125g snakebeans or stringless beans
100g zucchini
2 golf-ball eggplants, (optional)
1/2 medium-sized purple eggplant
175g white or wax gourd or choko or white marrow
400g pumpkin
8 pumpkin flowers with 10 cm of stem attached
25g young pumpkin leaves from the tips of a pumpkin vine or snowpea tips
50g young leaves from the tips of a tomato plant
50g spinach or silverbeet without stems
2 tablespoons uncooked rice
1 can good coconut milk, unshaken
or 1/2 cup thick coconut milk and 11⁄2 cups thin
1 tablespoon oil
250g chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces with or without bone
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded green papaya, peeled, about 1⁄4 of a long green papaya
7 kaffir lime leaves
2 1/2 cups water

Paste spices

Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons the green part of lemongrass, very finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh galangal
or 1/4 teaspoon galangal powder
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh turmeric
or 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon prahoc
or 2 teaspoons fish sauce
4 small garlic cloves, chopped


  1. Cut the belly pork into 5 cm strips and then across into 1 cm slices.
  2. Wash, top and tail the beans and break them into 5 cm lengths. Top and tail the zucchini, cut it into half lengthwise and then across into 2 cm pieces. Trim golf-ball eggplants, cut them downwards into 4 wedges and put them into a bowl of water to soak and to retain their colour. Cut the purple eggplant, unpeeled, into 4 cm rounds and then into 4 cm wedges and soak in water. Peel the gourd, leaving in the seeds, cut it into 2.5 cm rounds then cut each round into 6 wedges. Peel and seed the pumpkin and cut it into 5 x 3 cm pieces. Pull the stems and the stamens off the pumpkin flowers, discarding the stamens. Peel the stems and break them into 5 cm lengths. Pull the flowers apart into 3 pieces and set them aside in a bowl.
  3. Pull the tendrils off the pumpkin shoots and discard them. Take the larger leaves off the main stems and tear them into two, rubbing each piece between your palms in order to bruise and dehair them as you go. Leave the young pumpkin leaves and tips on the stems but gently peel the skin off the stalks. Rub these between your palms as well. You should end up with about 1 cup of leaves.
  4. Wash the tomato tips as they are, drain them and set them aside. Wash the spinach or silverbeet, cut in half and then into 3 cm strips crosswise.
  5. In a mortar or a blender pound or grind the lemongrass until it is a fine paste. (It is important to use the green leafy part only for this dish in order to produce a rich green colour.) Remove half of the paste and keep aside. To the half that remains in the mortar add one by one and pound to a fine paste the galangal, the turmeric, the prahoc if you are using it and the garlic. Leave this mixture aside as well.
  6. Heat a heavy frying pan without any oil in it. Put in the rice and roast it, stirring all the time, until it is light brown. Remove it and grind it in a blender or a spice grinder until it is the consistency of coarse sand.
  7. If you are using canned coconut milk open the can and scoop 1⁄2 cup thick cream from the top. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot and add the scooped off cream or your 1⁄2 cup of thick (first squeeze) coconut milk. Stir the combination until most of the water has evaporated from the coconut milk and the oil is floating on top. Now add the mixed spice paste, the pork and the chicken and stir-fry until everything is aromatic. Add 3⁄4 cup of the remaining coconut milk from the can and 3⁄4 cup water or 11⁄2 cups thin (second squeeze) coconut milk and stir. Add the sugar, the fish sauce if you are using it instead of prahoc, and the salt to taste, and simmer until the meat is cooked.
  8. When the chicken is tender add the non-leaf vegetables, the ground rice and the lime leaves and 21⁄2 cups water and stir again. Simmer until these vegetables are sufficiently cooked, then add the leaves, the pumpkin flowers and the rest of the lemongrass. Stir again, adjust the seasonings and serve. The stew should not be too thick and it should have a bright green colour.
  9. Samlaa Kako can be made using either pork or chicken alone or fish such as catfish or other firm-fleshed fish, either freshwater or from the sea. If you use fish add 1 teaspoon chopped Chinese keys (kcheay) to the curry paste should it be available.
  10. You may also make Samlaa Kako without coconut milk and it can be made with any combination of vegetables, as long as there are plenty of them. Ideally though the combination should include some pumpkin, beans, leafy vegetables and eggplant. Use roughly twice the weight of vegetables as meat.
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