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Prahok: Cambodian Dipping Sauce with Steak

July 14, 2023 - 1360 views

Prahok, also known as Cambodian steak sauce, is one of the most common sauces in the country. It's the fermented fish paste that locals prefer to add to their dishes to enhance the flavor.

Its texture is quite thick and chunky. Many people may feel it unappealing with its gray color and distinctive fishy smell, yet this fish condiment plays an important role in Khmer cuisine.

Prahok - Popular Cambodian Cuisine

For poor local people of the old time, Prahok used to be the only source of protein. During the dry season, when the water level is low, and fish are abundant, they start to preserve fish.

The techniques of salting, drying, smoking, and fermenting have been kept until now. 

This famous sauce is also called "Cambodian cheese"

This famous sauce is also called "Cambodian cheese"

This Cambodian steak dipping sauce has various usages. The most common is it's used as the dipping sauce for beef steak.

Besides, it can act as the main source of the meal's protein, a seasoning to enhance the food flavor, or the main ingredient when fresh fish is unavailable for the soup.


Needless to say, the main ingredient of Cambodian steak dipping sauce is fish. The paste is made from freshwater fish harvested from the Mekong river and Tonle Sap lake.

Interestingly, the fish's name is trey riel, the same as Cambodia's currency. That's why Prahok is considered the country's identity on the food map.

Prahok - Popular Cuisine In Cambodia

Prahok - Popular Cuisine In Cambodia

There are two types of Prahok: Prahok Ch'oeung and Prahok Sach. The first one uses riel fish, as mentioned above, and the other uses larger fileted fish. 

After the fileting and salting process, people put the ingredients in the baskets, let them dry, and then salt them again. The fish is then left to ferment in large jars or concrete vats. 

According to locals, the longer it's kept, the more delicious it will be. The average time of fermentation is from several months to two years. 

Reason To Try

Challenge Yourself

The intensely pungent fish flavor can be a big challenge for those wanting to try Cambodian steak sauce. Some Westerners even may compare it with super fragrant cheeses. 

Foreigners tend to reject the raw Prahok but unintentionally enjoy the dishes, including it as an important ingredient. Local chefs know how strong the paste is and use just enough to fit tourists' preferences. 

Though this Cambodian cheese seems to attract only the most adventurous travelers, you still should step out of your limit and explore the surprisingly pleasant hidden taste. 

Nutritional Benefits

Besides being a good source of protein, Prahok can provide you with the necessary iodine if made with iodized salt. Thanks to this reason, the paste can help you fight against goiters.

Since Cambodian steak dipping sauce is a fermented product, it contains good bacteria for your stomach and your health, thus, boosting your immune system. 

Plus, it has few calories, making it ideal for your diet. However, keep in mind that the paste contains quite a lot of salt, so you should reduce the amount of salt used during the day to avoid overconsuming sodium.

Know More About The Culture

Because of its availability, fish is a main source of food for the local people in Cambodia. Both historically and currently, Khmer people mostly rely on the fermented fish product (Prahok) as an important ingredient in many Cambodian cuisines.

Trying cuisine is one of the best ways to know a culture. If you want to learn more about Cambodian culture, Prahok - the national cuisine of Cambodia, is a famous traditional dish you should taste first.

Where To Eat

Pous Ko Terk Prahok Chomnorn 90

  • Address: St516 Corner St347, Sangkat Beoung Kak 1, Khan Toul Kork, In front of HCN Mall and Residence, Phnom Penh
  • Opening hours: 09:00 a.m - 22:30 p.m
  • Average Price: About US $5

Pous Ko Terk Prahok Chomnorn 90

Pous Ko Terk Prahok Chomnorn 90

The place serves steamed beef tripes and grilled beef with Cambodian steak dipping sauce. The sauce is amazing and adds great flavor to the juicy meat and crunchy vegetables.


Meng Heng Restaurant

  • Address: 41A, St 242, Sangkat Chaktomuk, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
  • Opening hours: 11:00 a.m - 10:00 p.m
  • Average Price: US $5 - 10

Meng Heng restaurant

Meng Heng restaurant

The street food hotspot is a great outdoor barbeque experience for tourists. They have great grilled beef served with authentic dipping sauce.


Sach Ko Ang Oudom Boty

  • Address: 40C, St. 288, adjacent to Aeon Mini Supermarkets
  • Working hours: 05:00 p.m - 10:00 p.m
  • Average Price: About US $3

Sach Ko Ang Oudom Boty

Sach Ko Ang Oudom Boty

The place is well-known among locals, expats, and tourists. Come and enjoy the aromatic beef dipping in Prahok sauce with lime and lemon grass.


Cambodian steak sauce is widely used in many dishes besides the most common beef steak. Don't hesitate to give this fermented fish paste a try! Contact BestPrice Travel to experience more delicacies and more!

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Thu Trang

(Image source: Internet)

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