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Cambodian Spice Paste (Kroeung)

Cook Time
1 hr

“My mom would pack kroeung into bags for me to take back to college,” says Nite Yun, chef and owner of the Oakland Cambodian restaurant Nyum Bai. “It lasts for months in the freezer.”

This beloved, essential seasoning is key for making Cambodian-style beef skewers, but adds zest to Western foods, too: Mix into ground pork for meatballs, sauté with greens, stir into raw rice before cooking, and use to marinate firm white fish. You can find lime leaves (aka kaffir or makrut lime leaves), turmeric, and galangal (a crisp, peppery rhizome) at Southeast Asian markets or on, or use the alternatives here for a different yet delicious paste. Note: If you’re using the kroeung for the beef skewers, increase the amount of lime leaves to 30 (or use 1/2 cup lime zest plus 3 tbsp. lemon zest).

Cambodian Spice Paste

Eva Kolenko
 1 ½ oz shallot
 ½ cup peeled garlic cloves
 16 lemongrass stalks
 1 piece fresh turmeric (or 2 tsp. powdered turmeric)
 1 piece galangal (or 3 garlic cloves)
 7 whole (double-segment) lime leaves (or use 4 tbsp. lime zest plus 2 ½ tsp. lemon zest)

Chop shallot and garlic. Remove root end, leafy top, and 3 to 4 fibrous outer layers of lemongrass stalks. Thinly slice enough lemongrass to make 1 1/4 cups, then mince in a food processor with shallot and garlic.


Peel fresh turmeric and galangal; coarsely chop both. Remove central stems from lime leaves and coarsely chop leaves. Add turmeric, galangal, and lime leaves to processor and whirl into a very fine paste with 2 to 3 tbsp. water, about 7 minutes.