Khmer cuisine: 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...]

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

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

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)

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)

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...]

Quick eats in Phnom Penh: Bánh hỏi for lunch

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...]

food as a cultural experience for preschoolers

Welcome to the April 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Pastimes This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about family pastimes. Our preschooler tried a bite of vindaloo. He’s trying to like it, but his face blanched and he tried to wipe the heat off his tongue with a napkin. I slid a glass of mango lassi his way. Eating out remains a treat we indulge in, and we regularly bring the kids. It entails lots of advance notice and build-up (reward system). Our older one loves the novelty of a restaurant meal so we use that. Our agreement? He can join us on these special nights out if he will … [Read more...]

Street stall dining in Battambang

Battambang is a culinary destination. There are varieties of fruits and vegetables native to this region that don't grow as well anywhere else. And the local preparation of many condiments and foods have a distinct character to them. Every night on the riverside, food vendors set up shop. On the far end of (further from the market than the tokalok, or fruit shake, stalls) is a routine stop whenever my colleagues and I are in town. I think two or three vendors cook the same thing but my colleagues prefer the family at the end; the woman in the picture below is the main cook and everyone else helps with other parts of the operation.  Grilled in banana leaves and eaten with rice, sangvaec* is a processed fish product made over the course of … [Read more...]