Nom banh chok (also known as “num banh chok” and simply “Khmer noodles”) is a quintessential Cambodian breakfast dish you’ll find at virtually every street corner around the morning rush hour. The dish comprises a fish curry served over a bed of fresh rice noodles, wild herbs, and vegetables. The curry broth is rich, with a delicate balance between sweetness and umami, and a distinct citrusy flavor that’s so prevalent in Cambodian cuisine.
Cambodia’s beloved Khmer noodles have countless regional variations. That said, whether you’re in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, or any other urban or rural center, the primary components of nom banh chok are kreung, coconut milk, mudfish, fresh rice vermicelli, and various fragrant herbs and crisp, fresh vegetables. Our Cambodian nom banh chok recipe uses all of the authentic Cambodian ingredients, which we were quite lucky to source without much effort at Asian grocery stores in Vancouver. However, for your convenience, we’ve included alternatives that you’ll easily find at any large chain supermarket in the US and elsewhere.
One thing to note, before you start: Cooking nom banh chok is not all that complex, but the process is tedious and takes a while. So, we’d suggest setting aside at least 2-3 to prepare nom banh chok the first time you attempt it (my first time took me 4 hours, and each subsequent try was shorter). Because of the time and effort involved in making Khmer noodles, it’s best to prepare this dish in large portions on special occasions — or if you want to cook ahead for the week.
Nom Banh Chok Recipe
- Mortar and pestle or food processor
Fish curry ingredients
- 1/2 teaspoon Sugar palm sugar for a caramel flavor
- 400 ml Coconut milk coconut cream as an alternative
- 1/2 tablespoon Prahok some iterations of this dish may call for kapi, or shrimp paste
- 1/2 teaspoon MSG
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 3 quarts Cold water
- 1 inch Turmeric root use 1 teaspoon of powdered turmeric as an alternative
- 3 stalks Lemongrass
- 5 leaves Kaffir lime leaves
- 5 Garlic cloves
- 1 Mudfish (medium sized, approximately 1 pound) any freshwater fish will do
- 1½ inch Galangal
- 3 Fingerroot ginger ginger will do as an alternative
- 2 stalks Green onions
- 1 lb Rice noodles Bun Tuoi dry rice vermicelli works well
Herbs and condiments for serving Nom Banh Chok (all of these are optional)
- Banana flower to taste
- Bean sprouts to taste
- Sesbania blossoms to taste
- Cucumbers to taste
- Green chillies to taste
- Thai basil to taste
- Cilantro to taste
- Any other fresh herbs or seasonal vegetables of your choosing to taste
- Fish sauce to taste
Nom Banh Chok Preparation Instructions
- Scale and gut the mudfish, then boil in a large pot for 20 minutes.
- Add a pinch of salt to the fish.
- Cut lemongrass into thin slices and place into the mortar.
- Clean and thinly cut galangal, turmeric, fingerroot ginger, chilli peppers, and garlic cloves, and place in the mortar.
- Slice kaffir lime leaves into strips and add to the mortar.
- Pound the ingredients in the mortar using a pestle until you achieve a paste-like consistency.
- Remove the fish from the boiling water and set aside.
- Strain the water in which you boiled the fish through a sieve and set the fish broth aside.
- Separate the fish meat from the skin and skeleton, ensuring that you discard all bones. Add the fish meat to the mortar with the kreung paste, but discard the skeleton, skin, and head.
- Gently pound the fish meat together with the kreung paste until you create an even mixture of all ingredients.
- Boil half a can of the coconut milk in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the fish mixture to the boiling coconut milk and mix together.
- Place the fish broth into the pot and mix all the ingredients together.
- Add prahok to the pot and stir.
- Add the other half of the coconut milk can to the pot and mix all the ingredients together.
- Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot and stir.
- Cook the resulting fish curry for 15 minutes over medium heat.
- Cut green onions and add them to the fish curry just before turning the heat off.
- Remove the fish curry from the heat.
- Boil the rice noodles until soft (usually 10 minutes), then remove from heat and strain.
- Place julienned cucumbers, along with herbs and greens of your choice, into large serving bowls (1 per diner).
- Distribute the boiled rice noodles among the diners' bowls, placing them on top of the vegetables.
- Pour the fish curry over top of the rice noodles.
- Sprinkle the sesbania flowers over top of the fish curry.
What is nom banh chok?
Nom banh chok is a popular Cambodian breakfast dish of freshly-made rice noodles and fish curry. The nom banh chok is made using mudfish, kreung (the citrusy Cambodian curry paste) and coconut milk. The nom banh chok broth is served over freshly cooked rice noodles (known as “Khmer noodles”), crisp raw vegetables, a selection of herbs, and edible flowers.
What are Khmer noodles made from?
Khmer noodles are made from rice. These popular Cambodian noodles are made from fermented rice that’s crushed with stone mills, with the resulting dough getting pressed into the noodles and boiled. Khmer noodles are generally sold and eaten fresh soon after production — they’re never dried or frozen. However, Khmer noodles are not an easy ingredient to find outside Cambodia — even in Asian supermarkets. Your best bet is to buy Vietnamese rice vermicelli like Bun Tuoi and boil them for this nom banh chok recipe.
Also try: Kuy Teav (Phnom Penh Noodles)
Nom Banh Chok: Parting Words on Khmer Noodles
We hope you enjoy making (and eating!) this nom banh chok recipe! Have you made these Khmer noodles already? If so, what did you think? Please share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment!