Cambodia – Samlar Machu

by Fauzan Anandika

When we heard Cambodia, our mind will flash to an iconic character of Lara Croft in Tomb Rider movie. A place where the beautiful Ta Prohm temple and also the biggest religious site Angkor Wat are located. Cambodia is not only known for its temple, but also for the river that flows both ways seasonally, Tonlé Sap.

Tonle Sap is a river and lake in Cambodia that flow in two different way during the year. Tonle Sap river meet Mekong river in Phnom Penh, then flow through Vietnam and end up in the Mekong River Delta, that’s how it flows between November and Mei.

Contrarily, during the monsoon season, the river swells so much that water flows back to Tonle Sap lake. This phenomenon makes Tonle Sap water volume four times larger than usual and becomes the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.

In the monsoon season, Tonle Sap lake provides lots of food, freshwater fish that swim upstream. The farmer uses it to irrigate their crop and become Cambodian people’s food stock to create their delicious cuisine.

As an agricultural country, Cambodia has many delicious food variants, especially soup. Samlar Machu is one of the Cambodian sups that have a sour taste (Machu). The sourness comes from lime juice, tamarind, tomato, and pineapple. They also use Tilliacora Triandra leaves to add a rich flavor to the dish.

There are many kinds of Cambodian sour soup, but the most popular is Samlar Machu Moan, or sour chicken soup. The other type uses fish or pork as the meat topping. To cook Samlar Machu, you need to use fresh chicken or fish meat to get the best taste and tamarind for the sour taste. In this recipe, you can learn how to cook fish Samlar Machu.


  • 1 liter of water
  • 1 freshwater fish, cut into 5 part
  • 6 pieces of dried shitake mushroom, thin sliced
  • 3 pieces of jelly ears mushroom, thin sliced
  • 150 gram of bamboo shoot, sliced
  • 1 big size of tofu, slice into 4 part
  • 2 pieces of egg, mixed
  • 1.5 liter of chicken broth
  • 6 tablespoon of salty soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon of sweet soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoon of chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 teaspoon of chicken broth powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 4 tablespoon of vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon of cornstarch pour some water
  • 1 tablespoon of sesame oil


  • Fried garlic
  • Coriander leaves
  • Green onion
  • Fish sauce
  • Sliced lime

Pumpkin Custard (dessert)

  • 1 medium pumpkin
  • 6 pieces of egg yolk
  • 2 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 cup of palm sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

How to cook

Pumpkin Custard

  1. Craft the top of the pumpkin, remove the seed and fiber in the center. Keep the top cover later.
  2. Wash pumpkin and wait until dry.
  3. In a saucepan with medium heat, mix slowly egg yolk, palm sugar, coconut milk, and salt.
  4. Pour mixture into the pumpkin and cover with the carved top.
  5. Steam pumpkin in a big steamer for 1 hour.
  6. Steam until pumpkin flesh feels soft enough to spoon out of the pumpkin.
  7. Leave pumpkin until completely cool to allow the custard to set in.
  8. Slice the pumpkin and serve as a dessert.

Samlar Machu

  1. Boil water in a boiling pot.
  2. Add chicken broth, mushroom and bamboo shot.
  3. Add sweet and salty soy sauce, chili sauce, chicken broth powder, sugar, salt, and pepper.
  4. Add the fish and boil for 15 minutes.
  5. Add egg and cornstarch.
  6. Add vinegar and tofu, stir slowly.
  7. Adjust the taste with salt and sugar.
  8. Add sesame oil.
  9. Serve Samlar Machu in serving bowl.
  10. Garnish with green onions, fried garlic, coriander leaves, sliced lime, and fish sauce

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