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...]

Tropical fruit: A special coconut variety

These coconuts cost 32,000riel (US$8) each at the markets in Battambang town - compared to 2000riel (US$0.50) for a regular coconut. The meat is thick, tender and incredibly sweet. They aren't in season right now and the seller at the market wouldn't tell us when that would be (meaning they won't be so rare thus so expensive). They're a variety called locally as Dong Ktii and they're only available in Battambang and Kampot so far as my Khmer colleagues know. Anyone know what kind of coconut these are, and if they're related or similar to the macapuno variety in the Philippines? … [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...]