When I asked my friend So for a Cambodian recipe, he sent me a few. This recipe for beef and spinach soup was the first one I tried. In fact, the full name of the recipe is Beef and Water Spinach Sour Soup. The spinach refers to water spinach, which is a hollow-stemmed leafy Asian vegetable. I found it easily at the Chinese supermarket in London. However, it has a different texture to our common spinach because of the crunchy hollow stem. Also the leaves do not get as soft. The sourness comes from tamarind. Additionally lemongrass is a predominant flavour as the main ingredient in the kroeung or paste.
Although there are many ingredients, the recipe for beef and spinach soup is relatively easy. The most time-consuming part is making the kroeung. The different flavours are distinct and blend well together, resulting in a tasty soup. Also, it is relatively healthy as there is minimal oil and sugar. I had some leftoves but I can advise that the soup tastes best eaten on the same day!
1 bunch water spinach
500g beef loin, sliced very thinly
2 Tbsp Yellow kroeung (see below)
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp Prahok (fermented fish paste) dissolved in water and strained
5 Tbsp Wood apple or 2 Tbsp tamarind powder
1/2 tsp palm sugar
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1.5 litres water
3 Kaffir lime leaves
a few curry leaves for garnish
60 g lemongrass stalks peeled, chopped and outer layers discarded
3 tsp galangal peeled and chopped finely
1 tsp kaffir lime zest
1 tsp turmeric peeled and chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped finely
1 shallot peeled and chopped finely
First, make the yellow kroeung by gently pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, then set aside.
Second, wash spinach and cut into 4-cm (1 1/2 inch) sections. To prevent water spinach from turning brown, leave to soak in cold water. Drain before using.
Next, in a mixing bowl, combine beef and kroeung. Season with salt, fish sauce, prahok, wood apple or tamarind powder and palm sugar. Combine well.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir-fry the mixture for about 10 minutes. Add water, then water spinach. Leave to simmer over medium heat until the beef is tender. When cooking is almost done, add the Kaffir lime leaves.
Remove from heat and serve in bowls with curry leaves as garnish.
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