Groeung: Cambodian Lemongrass Herb Paste
Understanding how to cook with Groeung is integral to learning Cambodian Cuisine
Groeung (also pronounced Kroeung with a ‘k’) is such an important ingredient in Cambodian cooking. It is uniquely Cambodian. With its distinct flavours and aromas, this is an ingredient that truly distinguishes Cambodian cuisine from its neighbours in Thailand, Laos, & Vietnam.
Groeung provides the foundation of multiple dishes in Cambodian cuisine, just to name a few such as Salaw Majoo (Beef Sour Soup), Salaw Karee (Red Curry), Pahet (fish cakes) and Cha (Stirfrys with beef, chicken, pork & offal). It is also used as a marinade for beef skewers, pork ribs, chicken wings, grilled pork chops and whole roasted chicken!
Unlike a curry paste that is heavy with dried chilies and contains ground spices, Groeung is an unseasoned herb paste. Seasoning with salt, sugar, and msg takes place when you’re cooking the meal.
Every family will have their own recipe for Groeung where the ratios of each ingredient varies, which will in turn drastically change the taste of your dish from family to family.
Our family leans heavier on the lemongrass and the garlic. Others will also add shallots to the mix or more chilies for extra spice.
You’ll find you never make just enough paste for the single recipe you’re cooking, you always end up having extra Groeung left over. It freezes extremely well and will keep in your freezer for months. Pre-portion your paste into zip lock bags and pull out to defrost an hour before cooking.
Once you master a Groeung recipe you’ll have no problem cooking delicious Cambodian meals. Below is my recipe that will yield approximately 2 cups of Groeung Paste.
100 grams sliced fresh Lemongrass
90 grams peeled Garlic cloves (20-25 cloves)
15 grams fresh or frozen Lime Leaves (not dried)
40 grams chopped fresh or frozen Galangal (not powdered)
30 grams chopped fresh or frozen Turmeric (not powdered)
1-2 fresh Thai Chilies
1/4 to 1/2 cup of water
How to make Groeung
We only want to use the “softer” white parts of the lemongrass which is usually the bottom half or quarter of the lemongrass stalk.
With a heavy sharp knife (preferably a clever) chop the hard root end of the lemongrass and chop the top half that you won’t be using.
Peel away the hard outer layers of the lemongrass stalk. Starting from the root end, carefully slice the lemongrass as thinly as you can.
Peel and roughly smash the garlic. Since it will be going into a blender or mortar and pestle it doesn’t necessarily need to be chopped
Galangal & Turmeric
If you can only find frozen make sure to defrost before chopping. Peel skin and roughly chop into 1cm chunks
Tear the leaves from the stems and thinly slice
Place all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and add half of the water at first. Blend until it turns into a soft paste adding water as needed. If you are looking for an arm workout you can ground out this paste in a mortar and pestle!