Our neighbors making prahok

Prahok is the soul food of Cambodia. It’s fermented fish (some would say rotted). Eat it straight, add a dab for seasoning, or put some in a bag and let the flavor leach out into whatever you’re cooking. Japanese have fermented soybeans (natto), Koreans have fermented cabbage (kimchi), but Cambodian are the only ones who dare to keep fish for three months outside a refrigerator and then eat it. You gotta love that.

I just read an article about prahok by author Karen Coates on Faster Times.  She laments that some Cambodians who have made it (money) are giving up prahok, as if it’s beneath their rising status. The smell reminds them of worse times. Prahok wreaks, famously so, but that’s no reason to give up a good thing. I can vouch that my neighbors are keeping the faith, and in style. They gather annually to make a year’s supply of prahok, and have a great time. These photos, from earlier this week, will take you through step one: cleaning the fish to prepare it for salting and aging.

It all begins here

Followed by lots of mashing and rinsing

Dress appropriately and enjoy the process

You can’t rinse, or mash, too much

The finished product!

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About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray is a writer and photographer living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and working with Alongsiders International. You can find him puttering around the streets of Phnom Penh on his Suzuki Viva 125, running stoplights and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalks like a local. If you see him in a coffee shop, he'll be the one typing and deleting the same line over and over again. .

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