Insect cuisine: Ongkrong saek koo (Beef stir fry with red tree ant larvae)

Stir fried beef with tree ants

The first time I had this dish was in Kampot, at a small stall by the side of a building away from the busy center of town. I loved it! Then one night I sat underneath a particularly bright light source and saw all the ants in my meal. After my initial shock, I managed to have a civil conversation with my Khmer colleagues about the food they had me eating. These ants lend a tangy taste to dishes, especially when paired with meats in a stir fry. I did end up finishing my meal that night, getting over it very quickly. All manner of insects make it onto the menu in Cambodia, so psychologically-speaking it wasn't the worst thing I've ever eaten, and besides it was rather good. There are several names for this ant -- Fire ants, Red tree ants, … [Read more...]

A virtual tour of our usual haunts around Phnom Penh

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The first experiences in this charming little Kingdom of Wonder are a full assault on the senses, despite regular travel outside comfort zones. Our photo archive is bursting with what was once so unique and interesting -- market scenes, street sights, exotic fruits. But after many years of working and living here, these scenes reduce to mundane. Thanks to the gang at the Multicultural Kid Blogs, however, and specifically Annabelle who's hosting this theme of "Neighborhood" on The Piri-Piri Lexicon, I can filter through our images with fresh eyes. In this series, bloggers around the world give a tour of their neighborhood and town. What does a local playground look like in Astana, Kazakhstan, or how about a school in Izhevsk, Russia? It's … [Read more...]

Khmer foods I love: Sa-om pong tia (acacia leaf duck egg omelet)

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I should've put a dollar bill behind the bunch to show scale; it is small and only about the length of a large adult hand (this photo is zoomed in to show the fronds of this fern-like herb). It's common hereabouts, has a mildly bitter taste and a pungent sulfury aroma. I've seen it most commonly chopped off the stems and mixed into duck egg omelets. It's one of my kids' favorite fast foods. In English it's called acacia leaf, and in Khmer it's sa-om. It's eaten with rice and some sweet chili sauce, or as part of an array of dishes that usually includes soups. I wonder what else people use this herb in. … [Read more...]

Bánh hỏi for lunch

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This shop on busy Sihanouk Blvd has been serving fantastic bánh hỏi for years! They serve a set menu that includes sandwiches and meat skewers. It's a picture menu, and easy to point to one of the two big platters of meats and vegetables. Before the food arrives, a small pan of water and slices of lemon is brought to the table for washing hands. Bánh hỏi refers to the rice vermicelli noodle woven into a fine mesh, which looks like gauze. It's paired with foods of different textures and richness - starchy green bananas, sweet pineapples, crunchy cucumbers, meats and fats - all to be wrapped into a fresh spring roll. These fillings are laid out on several platters. One of these platters contains skewered pork meat sliced very thin and … [Read more...]

Escaping a Mekong cityscape for a slice of rural life

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Welcome to the March 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Day in the Life This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have given us a special glimpse into their everyday. *** Escaping the heady concrete jungle of Phnom Penh every once in a while is a necessity for sanity's sake. Most people take off for the coast on a day or weekend trip, or relax for a few hours in any one of the resorts that now dot the outer sprawl of the city. Last weekend, we visited a friend across the river. Our oldest has settled into a reasonable sleep cycle (yey!), but our younger one still wakes up at the crack of dawn (groan). Naturally that … [Read more...]

Where apsaras dance .. updated

Maxence & Dimanche's wedding

The origins and symbolism of Khmer weddings, according to the Khmer Institute: Khmer weddings enact Cambodia's greatest legend. The first Khmer prince, Preah Thong, fell in love with the Naga Princess, Neang Neak, while exiled from his homeland. As a marriage gift to the couple, the father of the Naga Princess swallowed part of the ocean, and out of this was formed the land of Cambodia. … [Read more...]

Desperately seeking peace and quiet in Kampot

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It was a long-overdue trip to escape the ambient noise of Phnom Penh rapidly industrializing. Check out this house! Our friends moved back to Kampot from the US and built this house. It's a modernized version of the traditional house, complete with the stilts and architectural elements that make this country so unique (even to the very closely related Thai constructions). … [Read more...]

Sunset on the Mekong

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Lazy days are ahead.. Floating down the river in a converted old rice boat at sunset is one of the best things about these Mekong capitals. … [Read more...]