Curry Fish at Cheng Heng in St. Paul

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

Last year we enjoyed the affordable, Vietnamese-meets-Thai style grub at Cheng Heng, a Cambodian restaurant on University Avenue. But a recent return trip got our hearts pumping for bachelor #32 on the menu: the Curry Fish ($9).

Also called amok or ho mok, this curry is sometimes considered Cambodia’s national dish. Just one bite of it unlocks a steamy cavern of flavors that slowly reveal themselves like turns in a winding passage.

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

Cheng Heng’s version is equal parts sweet and savory. The bowl of custard-like yellow salmon is steamed in banana leaves and swollen with a rich coconut curry that absorbs and enhances the ultra earthy characteristics of the fatty fish. Something terrific and boozy, like roasted tomatoes, gives the milky sweet curry an extra heady quality, and kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass add a streak of zing. Then tender stalks of bitter Chinese broccoli cut the luxury in a great way. We’re talking a flavor orchestra, here. It’s marvelous. And hot. And under 10 bucks! National dish, indeed.

Cheng Heng, 448 University Ave W, St. Paul, MN 55103; 651.222.5577

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

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About the Author

Emily Schnobrich

Emily comes from a family notorious for dunking whole pieces of cake into cold glasses of milk. It’s no surprise she inherited their angry sweet tooth and a devotion to pudding. Between a string of restaurant industry gigs, she has tutored writing, biked across Quebec, studied cheese, and baked cakes professionally. A perennial Minnesotan, Emily is at home in South Minneapolis where parking is prolific and the livin' is easy.

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  1. Looks YUMMO! Thanks for featuring a University restaurant, they all need our help! The light rail construction has made it very hard for a person to check these great restaurants out, without customers they have no business! Thanks again, Lynn

  2. Hazel Stone 08/19/2012

    Wow, I fell in love with this dish the first time I had it in Thailand, it is really amazing if prepared well. I must run over and try it at Cheng Heng.