Khmer Chicken Samla and Pomelo Salad

Posted By Stephen

We had planned to cook rack of lamb tonight but we’re having lunch with Stephen’s sister tomorrow and she told us she’s planning to cook roast lamb. As much as we both love lamb, we didn’t want to eat it twice in a row so found ourselves in a bit of a quandary this morning while we were working out what to eat. I can’t quite remember how we got to this dish but I do know that as soon as Stephen suggested it, there was no other option.


We have cooked the Khmer Chicken Samla with coconut milk before and it worked out very well, but tonight’s version was even better. We only made half the sauce for the same amount of chicken and that seemed about right. It all came together perfectly and we found ourselves fighting over the leftovers and the rest of the sauce in the pan.

It isn’t a quick dish; you need to spend some time making the paste and then leaving it to simmer but it’s definitely worth it. It is rich and creamy but well balanced at the same time so it doesn’t feel heavy. Spicy but not too hot and perfectly rounded with the coconut milk mellowing a punchy lemongrass, garlic and ginger hit and the earthy notes of the roasted shrimp paste filling in the gaps.

For a starter, we had pomelo salad. For those that haven’t encountered it before, a pomelo is a large grapefruit-like fruit. It has a very thick skin and is a lot drier than a grapefruit and is not as sour. As it turned out, we had a salad in the Prince of Wales last night that included it which made us decide to try it ourselves soon, so this was a perfect opportunity.


The recipe for the pomelo salad comes from the book Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, which was also where we got the recipe for our main course. We did pick both the recipes because we liked the look of them, but as it turned out they were both Cambodian in origin, which seemed to imply that they were meant to be together and that we had to make them both.

Ingredients – the book says this serves 4 but we ate all of it between the two of us
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon palm sugar, or brown sugar if not available
1 pomelo
2 tablespoons dry-roasted grated coconut (we left this out as we didn’t have it)
2 tablespoons dry-roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
1 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 bird chillis, finely chopped
lettuce leaves, washed and dried

Mix the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar together until the sugar has all dissolved. We ended up with chunks of undissolved palm sugar in ours, but stirred it every ten minutes over half an hour or so while we prepared everything else and eventually it was all dissolved.

Peel the pomelo and separate into segments. This took us quite a while as the skin is very thick… people who do this in restaurants must be very skilled and have a lot of patience. Then skin each segment and remove the fruit into a bowl. When ready to serve, pour out any juice that has accumulated into the bowl (we didn’t have any, our pomelo was quite dry) and then mix in the coconut (if using), the peanuts, mint, shallots and chilli. Pour the dressing over it and mix well. Adjust the seasoning if needed – we found it just right and didn’t need to do any adjustments.

This salad was really brilliant, and different to the one that we had had at the Prince of Wales because that one included crab and green papaya. This was very fresh and vibrant with a bit of chilli bite and a well balanced combination of ingredients and dressing, bringing the hot, salty, sour, and sweet together in just the right proportions. It felt like it was a palate cleanser as well as a starter and woke up the mouth ready for the main course.

Oct 3rd, 2009

4 Comments to 'Khmer Chicken Samla and Pomelo Salad'

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  1. LexEat! said,

    Beautiful photo of the pomelo salad! Looks delicious!
    .-= LexEat!´s last blog ..Le Gavroche =-.

  2. June said,

    Pomelo salad looks delicious as does the curry! Pomelo’s will be ripe here in another few months. Our citrus is just beginning to change color. This salad will be a great way to enjoy some of it. Thanks for sharing!
    .-= June´s last blog ..Sausages in Beer and Bavarian Cabbage – It’s Oktoberfest =-.

  3. Lizzie said,

    Oooooh that looks delicious! I love pomelo, but have never made anything with it; this looks perfect.
    .-= Lizzie´s last blog ..Polpo, Soho =-.

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