Cambodian ginger fish is crispy fried fish topped with ginger and salted soybean; it’s crispy, tangy with a hint of sweetness and a lot of bite. However, I think ginger is one of those food items where either you love it, or you hate it. I obviously belong to the former; I can’t get enough of it. When I’m sick, I make my chicken soup with ginger and shitake mushroom. I would also boil some hot water, place a few pieces of crushed ginger, and turn it into ginger green tea. Of course, with a little bit of manuka honey for sweetness and to boost my immune system in order to combat the cold. I am allergic to most cold medication (I get hives or rashes depending on which type), so for me, the only way to battle my illness is through natural remedies. In my opinion, based on my own personal experiences, I think it works. Most people battle the flu for weeks, I conquer mine in 2-3 days.
Benefits of Ginger
This should come as no surprise, ginger has been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years and is said to help soothe digestive disturbances, alleviate nausea, calm coughing, reduce fever, relieve muscle aches and pain, lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Ginger is also used as a preventative measure in some cases. For example, before visiting the hospital, either to visit a sick friend or a friend who’s undergoing surgery, my mother would always force me to either drink her ginger tea concoction or bring some ginger essential oil. She would tell me to add a few drops (2-3) of it to my drinking water, saying, ‘I don’t want you coming home with a staph infection or something!’
I usually don’t argue with her logic because she’s just looking out for me. So I do it. I don’t know if it helps, but I never once got sick when visiting sick friends or the hospital. Is it a placebo effect or does it actually work? I don’t know for sure, but if it’s working, I’m not going to stop this ritual anytime soon.
Ginger in Cambodian Recipes and Beyond
For years, fresh ginger was something I used in many Cambodian recipes. Living with my parents, all they ate were Cambodian food so I thought ginger was an ingredient mostly prevalent in Asian cuisine as I hardly see it used in Canadian cuisine either in restaurants or while enjoying dinner at my Caucasian friend’s home.
However, lately, while trying out a couple of fusion restaurants during my travels, and the ones that have recently popped up in Canada, I’m starting to view ginger in a new light. Beyond Asian cuisine. Ginger’s light spiciness, coupled with its tangy freshness, and soft, mellow sweetness complement many recipes from sweet to savoury.
Although most Asians recipes call for ginger in fried rice, dipping sauces and stocks, in Cambodian cooking, we also use ginger in many of our dessert recipes. And beyond Asian recipes, ginger is actually quite delicious in lemonade, especially when mixed with maple syrup. When using maple syrup to make glazes for vegetables or meat, infusing ginger into the mix gives the glaze a certain tanginess/spiciness to the flavour, making it bolder. Although paired well with any vegetables, ginger has a natural affinity to meats, poultry, and fish. I especially love the pairing of ginger and fish. The delicate flavour of the fish is perfectly balanced by the tanginess of the ginger. You just can’t go wrong with ginger and fish. Which is why I love this Cambodian Ginger Fish with Salted Soybean recipe.
Ginger Fish. A Great Combination.
In Asian cooking, there are probably many variations of fish and tomato recipes, but you won’t find many that calls for fish and ginger. Not that I know of anyway. Since we don’t use tomato or any lime in this recipe, it’s not sweet and spicy, but more salty and tangy with a bit of a kick. Although traditionally, this recipe calls for freshwater fish, I substituted that with fresh fish from the seafood stall at my local farmer’s market. Any fish will do for this Cambodian Trey Chean Choun recipe. I prefer whole fish, however, you can substitute with any fish fillet of your choosing. Like many other Cambodian recipes, it’s incredibly easy to make with minimal ingredients. If you want a healthier main dish, you can pan fry the fish instead of breading and deep frying. I love the crispiness of fish deep fried, so I will be using peanut oil. My ‘I’m trying to go healthy, but failed‘ oil of choice.
The two main ingredients for this popular Cambodian recipe are thinly sliced ginger, fish and salty fermented soybeans. The variation I’m using is of the South-east Asian variety, the yellow bean sauce is light in colour and clear yellow, not dark brown, whole, not pureed soybeans. Salty fermented soybeans are made from cooked soybeans which have been heavily salted and then packaged in large jars. It is a very salty ingredient, and the degrees of saltiness differs widely among the various brands sold. That being said, my favourite brand is Yeo; the beans are whole and uncrushed, and the saltiness has an added umami different from the other brand I’ve tried. Once opened, they’re good for 3-4 months in the refrigerator. Try this recipe out, and cater it to your preference. I love ginger, so in my recipe, I will be using a ton of it. I hope you give this fried fish topped with ginger and salted soybean recipe a try today. It’s quite delicious. Bon appetite!
Ginger Fish with Salted Soybean Recipe (Trey Chean Choun)
- 1 cup ginger julienne
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 whole shallot minced
- 5 tablespoon salted soy beans
- 2 teaspoon vinegar
- 2 teaspoon fish sauce
- salt to taste
- sugar to taste
- 1 stalk green onion garnish
- 2 stalk cilantro garnish
- 1 whole tilapia
- 1/4 cup potato starch
- peanut oil for frying
- Clean and wash your fish. Toss the fish with potato starch and pat it to press the flour tightly to the fish. Set aside for now.
- In a large nonstick fry pan add enough peanut oil to deep fry the tilapia. Set the heat to medium and wait until it is hot enough to add the tilapia. Place the fish in the oil and deep fry for 8 – 10 minutes on each side, depending on the size of your fish. Remember, flip only once, you don’t want a greasy fish. Take the fish out once it's golden brown, and place it in a strainer to let the oil drip. I also use paper towels to pat the oil off the fish. Once you’re happy with the fish, place it onto a serving plate and set it aside for now.
- Mix the vinegar and fish sauce in a bowl and set aside. In the same pan you used for frying the fish, take some oil out; you only need a small amount (1 or 2 tablespoons) to fry the spice ingredients. Heat the pan back up until hot, then add the minced garlic and shallot. Fry until the garlic is aromatic and brown, then add ginger. Stir for a bit first, and then add the vinegar and fish sauce mix. Now add the salted soy beans. Stir some more to mix the flavourings. Taste it now and see if you want to add more salt, or sugar (if you want it a bit saltier or sweeter). Cook until the ginger is tender.
- Add the ginger and soybean mixture on top of your fried fish and garnish with chopped green onion or cilantro/mint/basil. Enjoy!
I usually enjoy any fish dishes with a delicious hot fruit tea.