Taking a dog to the US

Want to take your pet out of Cambodia with you? Airline rules are changing in Phnom Penh. Small pets (<5kg) can still be stowed in the cabin with you. Pets over 5kg must go in the cargo, but several carriers have recently announced that aircraft flying out of Phnom Penh are too small for them to safely transport live animals in the cargo. The expat community was incredibly helpful when I posted a query on several forums for any experience in getting pets out of Phnom Penh, and compiled here the options (as of 2015): . I. Go overland Phnom Penh to Bangkok. Bus companies like Virak-Buntham does trips Phnom Penh-to-Bangkok via Koh Kong, without making passengers transfer to another bus at the Thai side of the border. … [Read more...]

Koh saek chrook k’nao (Pork stew with jackfruit)

Koh saek chrook is usually a plain beef stew (of garlic, onions, soy sauce, fish sauce and small amounts of tubers) when our nanny Sopheap makes it for us. This variation below is with jackfruit, which lends a sweetness so that there's no need to add sugar. (With growing affluence and its associated sweet tooth, sugar is increasingly added to Khmer dishes like this one.) Tender shreds of meat are what's left after the yellow fruit is taken out and the tougher rind and tendrils discarded. The seeds of jackfruit are edible when boiled. It has a hard shell that's easily cracked and removed. They can be tossed into the dish as well. Sopheap leaves this shell on, but if I were to cook it myself I'd take them off. First, garlic is … [Read more...]

Phở shops in Khan Chamkarmon district

Phở is the most famous of Vietnam's culinary repertoire. A lot of what goes in it depends on whether the cook is Hanoian or Saigonese, with the latter dominating in this area of Phnom Penh. Its base is a murky broth of beef and chicken bones, boilded with some dried squid, garlic, shallots and other things. Thin slivers of raw beef are added to the bowl of noodle while the broth is still piping hot, and the phở is accompanied by a plate of vegetables and herbs: bean sprouts, onions, cuts of lime, rice paddy herb (ma-om), sweet basil (chee korhom), and saw leaf herb (chee bonla). It's served with hoisin, soy, chili sauces, which can be mixed into the broth or into a small condiment dish for dipping the meat into. Everyone has their … [Read more...]

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...]

Phnom Penh in photos

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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, 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 great for kids to see such differences in our daily lives around the world and yet, how much of … [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...]

Stir fry pumpkin flower (Chaa lapeau)

Young leaves and pumpkin flowers being prepared for stir fry.

Pumpkin flowers - it's available in the markets, early in the mornings. In a stir fry dish it has a taste and crunch similar to morning glory. Love this dish! In many articles I've seen online, people pop off various parts of the flower to trash as they process it for cooking. But the Khmers I've seen cook it just cut them up and toss it all into a pot. Taste of Nepal has some great photos and a recipe. And here's a short explainer on pumpkin flowers from Tyrant Farms: No matter how you eat them, you’ll enjoy knowing that a single cup of pumpkin flowers contains: 643 IU Vitamin A 9 mg Vitamin C 57 mg Potassium a host of other essential micronutrients to keep you healthy Remember: only eat the male pumpkin flowers! … [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...]