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Cambodian Spicy Chicken Stew – Recipe for Samlaa Kaeng Phet


Samlaa Kaeng Phet

Cambodian Chicken Curry

© Dennis K H Sim, licensed to About.com

This Cambodian dish, the Spicy Chicken Stew (Samlaa Kaeng Phet) shares many of the same characteristics as the Thai red curry. The cooking method, however, differs somewhat and each has its own unique flavors.

If you want a healthy meal, this is the ideal recipe to use — just make sure you skin the chicken and remove all the fats; there’s already plenty of fresh herbs and spices in the ingredients and no cooking oil is necessary.


  • 2 lbs of large chicken pieces with bones, of your choice
  • 2 sliced large eggplants
  • 2 cups thick coconut milk
  • 1 ½ cup thin coconut milk
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • ½ cup basil leaves
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ---------------
  • Spice paste
  • _________
  • 14 large dried chilies
  • ½ cup lemongrass thinly sliced
  • 1 slice peeled galangal
  • 2 cilantro roots
  • ¼ tsp sliced turmeric or ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 6 sliced shallots
  • 2 slices kaffir lime skin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried shrimp paste/belacan


Dried Chilies

Soak the dried chilies in water until they soften. Drain the water. Slice the chilies in half down the length and remove all the seeds. Cut the chilies into strips.

Coconut milk

You get thick coconut milk from the first pressing of the grated coconut mixed with water. Thin coconut milk is from subsequent pressings. If you are using coconut milk from a tin, note that the milk is usually thick. In order to get the thin coconut milk, just add water to the thick milk. If you are using coconut powder, add more water to your mixture of coconut powder and water, remembering to leave 2 cups of thick coconut milk.

Dried Shrimp Paste/Belacan

Dried shrimp paste or (belacan) is usually toasted before use. This can be easily done by placing slices of the belacan on a tray in an oven or oven toaster at 375 deg F for about 4 to 7 minutes or until crispy and brown on the edges. You can also roast the belacan in a pan or wok over a low flame. Be careful that the belacan does not burn and ensure it is cooked all the way through.

  1. Blend the spice paste ingredients into a fine paste.
  2. Put the chicken together with the spice paste in a large pot and add 1 cup of thick coconut milk.
  3. Leave the pot on high heat until the mixture starts to boil. Turn the heat to medium, stirring continuously until the coconut milk blends with the chicken pieces and the spices, and gives out a fragrant aroma.
  4. Add another cup of thick coconut milk and the eggplants, and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the thin coconut milk, lime leaves, fish sauce and sugar and simmer for about another 20 minutes.
  6. Test that the eggplants are cooked by using a fork to poke through the skin. If they yield easily, they’re done.
  7. Add the basil leaves and serve with rice and a salad or fried vegetables. Enjoy!

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