Prahok, or fermented fish paste, is a standard ingredient in Cambodian cuisine. It has a distinctive, strong flavor, so no matter how you use prahok, a little goes a long way. Prahok sauce, using prahok as the sole ingredient or in combination with a variety of ingredients, is a popular cooking ingredient, a dipping sauce and a common dinner-table condiment.
Preheat a dry saucepan over medium high heat for one to two minutes.
Add the olive oil, minced garlic and lemon grass. Stir-fry for one minute, until the minced garlic turns a light golden brown.
Pour in 1 cup water, and bring it to a full boil.
Stir in the fish paste. Continue to stir until the paste dissolves, then remove the saucepan from your stove.
Stir in the lime juice, sugar and chili paste.
Pour the prahok sauce into a serving bowl, and top it with the red chili peppers and peanuts.
After cooking, taste the sauce and adjust its flavor as you'd like, adding paste to make the flavor stronger and additional lime juice or sugar to counter a “too strong” fish flavor.
To make prahok sauce to use as an ingredient in other dishes rather than as a dipping sauce, eliminate all additional ingredients. Add up to 1/2 cup of fish paste to 1 1/4 cups of boiling water, then reduce your stove heat to medium and let the paste simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain the liquid through a wire sieve, pour into a container, and either use it immediately or store it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Some of the ingredients for prahok sauce may require a trip to an Asian specialty store.