The Mekong weaves through six countries on its way to the South China Sea, proving an irreplaceable lifeline for those who live on its banks. From the high plateaus of Tibet to the exotic swathe of the Mekong Delta, this great river is steeped in mystery, beauty and intrigue — perfectly showcasing authentic local life in South East Asia.
While temples, shrines and traditions have come to typify the Mekong, there’s more to discover on this timeless passageway than ancient customs and spirituality. With millions relying on the river’s life-giving flow, the Mekong can reveal much about the local way of life — including the colourful dishes and foods which have originated on its banks.
Staying true to a simple way of life thousands of years in the making, the people of the Mekong rely on recipes passed down through the generations. Most dishes comprise of ingredients locally sourced and produced, with meat, fish, fresh vegetables and spices dominating regional plates and delicacies.
The timeless dishes of the Mekong River can reveal much about the countries and regions the river flows through. Here, we offer five recipes which have come to embody the cuisine of this South East Asian waterway, so you can bring a taste of the exotic Mekong to your kitchen.
Cambodia has shrugged aside its turbulent past to become South East Asia’s most up-and-coming destination, with mystical temples, beautiful beaches and delicious cuisine helping the country flourish. Street food is popular across Cambodia, and a much-loved dish served up by local vendors is seafood amok — a sweet, spicy curry served in a bowl of banana leaves.
During the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s, Cambodia’s recorded history of cooking was largely destroyed. When the regime fell at the end of the decade, a cookbook called From Spiders to Water Lilies emerged, detailing historic Cambodian recipes for future generations to enjoy. Seafood amok became one of the most popular of these new-generation dishes, and is now considered a national dish enjoyed by all.
Characterised by its custard-like consistency, seafood amok is a simple, inexpensive curry best enjoyed when steamed in banana leaves. For those who’d like to recreate the dish at home, here’s a recipe for authentic fish amok.
Serves 2-3. Prep Time: 15 Minutes. Cook Time: 20 Minutes.