Cambodian Grilled Lemongrass Beef Skewers Recipe

Cambodian Grilled Lemongrass Beef Skewers Recipe

A Cambodian paste of aromatics and spices gives great flavor to these grilled beef skewers. [Photographs: Shao Z.]

Most cooks know what mirepoix, soffritto, and the Holy Trinity are...but kroueng? That's a little less likely. The answer is that it's a variety of aromatic flavor pastes used in Khmer cooking, such is in these delicious beef skewers that I learned from my Chinese-Cambodian mother-in-law. Here, I did my best to recreate the original flavor of her recipe using more readily available ingredients. The good news: She approves.

Why It Works

  • A combination of fresh bay leaves, lemongrass, lemon and lime zests, and other aromatics recreate the flavor of much harder-to-find ingredients.
  • A mortar and pestle produces a paste with the most robust flavor.
  • Yield:Makes about 18 skewers
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:1 hour

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass from tender inner core of 2-4 stalks
  • 3 fresh bay leaves, fibrous string removed from each leaf and roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 teaspoons diced fresh peeled ginger
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pound beef sirloin or flank steak, sliced into 1/8-inch thick strips
  • 2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • Bamboo skewers, soaked at least 2 hours or overnight
  • Type of fire: Direct
  • Grill heat: medium-high

Directions

  1. 1.

    In a mortar and pestle or mini food processor, combine lemongrass, bay leaves, thyme, lemon zest, lime zest, ginger, and garlic and pound until well crushed and a coarse paste forms. Add turmeric, lemon juice, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Pound again, mix well, and set the paste aside. The paste can be made ahead and refrigerated up to 3 days.

  2. 2.

    Place beef in a mixing bowl and toss with fish sauce and oil. Stir in aromatic paste until beef is evenly coated. Thread beef strips onto bamboo skewers and set aside until ready to grill.

  3. 3.

    Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill beef skewers over direct heat until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Serve right away.