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...]

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...]

at the end of the work week – blue crabs for lunch in Kep’s Psar Kdam

It's always nice when work takes you down to the coast. This is our team's last trip to assess public health facilities. That we were in Kep was much appreciated! Kep is a small seaside province which has been designated a resort area so it is rapidly developing - see some photos of Kep on our Flickr. The crab market (Psar Kdam) is an especially big attraction. There are all manner of seafood on the grill for sale here. Ten squid on a stick cost 20000Riel (US$5). Whole chicken on the grill is around 30000Riel too. Big fish are around 8000-12000Riel each. Blue crabs are the signature catch for Kep, so we splurged on these for lunch on our last day. For small crabs we were able to haggle 18000Riel/kg (~US$2/lb). For 35000Riel/kg the crabs … [Read more...]

Khmum Ang (Bee larvae cake)

This is a bee larvae cake, a dish from the ever-popular Sovanna restaurant (No 2C St 21, just south of Sihanouk Blvd). It's steamed with spices in banana leaves, and picked at like a snack. We had a friend visiting Cambodia who wanted to sample Khmer cuisine, and what better way to do that than to get a big group together so you can toss something like this into the meal mix? ;-) It has a gummy sort of texture, and the larvae pop like a pocket when you bite down on them. It's got a nutty taste, a little sweet, with a hint of honey. No one disliked it, though it won't be something we will normally order. Photo from Keith Kelly. … [Read more...]