The kroeung (or herb paste) is the basis of Cambodian cooking. This is what gives the dishes their distinct exotic flavors and aromas and distinguishes Khmer dishes from neighboring Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.

It is usually made from lemon grass, galangal, rhizome, turmeric, zest of kaffir lime, garlic and shallot. These seven herbs are the basis for almost every kroeung.

So, you think they all are the same? Definitely not.

Three Colours

For different kroeungs these herbs are supplemented by either or a combination of dried red chillies, grilled or steamed kapi or prahok, roasted peanuts and julienned cubanelle peppers which may or may not be pounded into a paste together with the key herbs.

Kroeung comes in three colours, green, yellow and red, depending on ingredients used.

Pounding the kroeung for curryRed kroeung receives its deep color from a type of chilli pods which contributes very little flavor to the Kroeung.

The green kroeung uses more leaf than stalk of the lemon grass, giving it the green colour.

And the yellow kroeung uses stalk of lemon grass only, it is the basis for a famous sour soup Samla Machou Kroeung.

The art of Khmer cuisine

Cutting ingredients for kroeung, the heart of curriesThe heart to achieving the right kroeung lies not only in the freshness of the herbs and ingredients, and the quantities used, but also in the art of cutting each herb to ensure they will become a paste and pounding them in a mortar.

When making a kroeung, you always start with the toughest ingredients, which need longer to pound. The hardest are the leaves.

Furthermore, the type of mortar and the weight of the pounding are also important.

Learn to do it Yourself

Sounds difficult? Not at all, our instructor at the cooking school will teach you how to do it right and give you tips & tricks. Learn how to do it yourself and sign up for a cookery class at the original Cambodia Cooking School in Phnom Penh.