Cambodian Birds in a Bengali Curry

Here’s the recipe for a dish I cooked a few weeks back. I was in the old market and saw these birds and got over excited and bought a 6-pack or was it 5??

I’ve never cooked small birds like these before. I’ve ate pigeons and quails many times in Bangladesh and here in Cambodia. But I’ve never gotten round to cooking anything like this until now!

Oh and a bit of warning-this post might come across as gruesome-but I’ve written it as it was for me. And to eat meat (or fish) “gruesome” preparation may be a necessity if you don’t get it at the supermarket.

Finger root (bottom left), turmeric root (bottom right), dried chillies (top left) and dried mexican chillies (top right)

Dry pan roasted whole cumin and coriander seeds

Bird on a flame

Gutted bird

Birds in a colander

Win their hearts and minds…I mean lungs!

Bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamon and cloves for dinner

Fry those onions without and then with the birds

Add the spices and slowly looking edible

ꉻ      ꉻ      ꉻ

Cambodian Birds in a Bengali Curry


 5 small birds (quail or other)

2 large potatoes-cut into 1 inch cubes

1 ripe plum tomato

2 large onions-cut into 1 inch strips (¼ inch wide)

6 cloves of garlic-peeled and squashed

¼ cup turmeric root-washed thoroughly and cut into ¼inch pieces (or 1 level teaspoon turmeric powder)

¼ cup finger root -cut into ¼inch pieces (or 1 inch piece of ginger)

8 dried mexican chillies soaked in hot water then pounded in mortar and pestle or blended with a little water

6 thai chillies

1 tablespoon whole cumin dry roasted then ground in a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder

1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds can be roasted and ground with the cumin together

1 inch long piece indian cinnamon (if thin take 2 pieces)

5 bay leaves

5 whole cardamom

5 whole cloves

10 whole black pepper

half a cup of vegetable oil

1 level teaspoon salt

¼ cup of fresh coriander chopped

2 small spring onions


1. Burn off any remaining feathers on an open flame. This is only necessary if you want to keep the skin on the birds. The flame makes the remaining bits of feather and the roots (I don’t know if you call them that but you know what I mean…!!) easy to pull out so the skin is feather free. In the end I just pulled off all the skin anyway so this step was superfluous.

2. Chop the beaks off at the skull so that no bits of beak remain. Then off come the feet,  and out come the guts. Finally poke out the eyeballs with a sharp pointy knife.

3. Make sure there’s no bird-shit left in the guts of the bird (see notes below!)

4. Wash the birds thoroughly!!!!

5. Heat the oil in a pan (medium heat) and add the garlic, turmeric and finger root. After about 2 minutes add the onions and salt.

6. After another 3 minutes whilst stirring add the cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves, whole black pepper and cardamom. The delicious aroma from the whole spices will soon fill your kitchen.

7. When the onions start to brown add the birds, their hearts and lungs.

8. Stir carefully and let the birds fry on the onions and oil for about 5-10 minutes.  If any liquid comes off the birds, this should evaporate first  before the next step. This is important!

9. Once any liquid has evaporated the birds should start to brown slightly. Add the ground coriander and cumin and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the Thai chillies. Keep stirring until the coriander and cumin starts to roast and gives off an aroma. Be careful not to burn it at this stage.

10. After 3-5 minutes or when it starts to burn at the bottom of the pan, add the mexican chilli puree and stir well.

11. Now you can add 1-2 cups of water depending on how runny you want the sauce. Add the potatoes then cover the pan and let simmer for 20-30 minutes checking and stirring occasionally. When the potatoes are done and the sauce has thickened you can throw in the tomatoes and let simmer for a further 3-5 minutes.

12. Take the pan off the heat and sprinkle the fresh coriander and spring onions on top.

13. Serve with steamed rice and fried chinese cabbage as a side dish.

ꉻ      ꉻ      ꉻ


Preparing these birds was a fucker to say the least. First mistake -I didn’t let the woman in the market de-gut the birds because I wanted to take pictures of them whole. That meant when I got home I had to de-beak, de-eyeball and de-gut the birds. On top of that I won’t forget whilst de-gutting them, yellow bird shit squirted out of their bums all over my hand. That was so gross (and afterwards funny:-)). I wanted to make  sure that there was no more bird shit left in them so in the end I just cut off their bums.

Getting the eyeballs out with a sharp pointy knife was also some effort to say the least. I had to be careful not to squash the head in the process cos then the brains came oozing out (yes that happened with one of them).  I could’ve just chopped the head off and made my life a whole lot easier….but then I’d lose the brains (which is a delicacy in our culture).

Categories: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Poultry, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Cambodian Birds in a Bengali Curry

  1. Reggie

    carnal meal. your right about the brain. yumm.

    • Yeah, especially when you have to crack open the skull between your teeth to get at it…..but not too much pressure otherwise the brain gets squashed….:-)

  2. lizeccentric7

    Have to admit these photos made me Squamish.

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