Khmer food: Svay bok Trai cha-aa

(Smashed grilled fish) I'm always discovering new Khmer dishes I haven't tried yet. My colleague brought some of this the other day for her lunch. The photo doesn't capture it well, but it's a very tasty dish (for those not turned off by pungency, that is)! It's made of fish (grilled river catfish was used here), smashed in a mortar and pestle with grated green mango and spices. I asked Sopheap to make it and watched. Into the mortar with the mango went chopped red and white onion, a little garlic, salt, peanuts, some fish sauce and herbs that they call chee (gee?), for which I don't know the English names. (I'll add to this post when I find out.) Similar to it is the more famous green papaya/mango salad. This salad has river crab, … [Read more...]

Filipino food: Arce Dairy has got the BEST tropical ice cream flavors

I love ice cream. One of the things I was looking forward to most when I went back to Manila after being away for over 20 years is  the ice cream. Mango, ube (purple yam), macapuno (a type of mutant coconut with soft meat inside instead of water), atis (sugar apple), nanca (jackfruit), pinipig (pounded glutinous rice) - just to name a few of the more interesting tropical flavors. Back when I was a kid there the brand to get was Magnolia, but the line seems to have faded a bit. Towards the end of our stay in Manila I had to binge on this one premium brand, Arce Dairy. It's less sweet but packs a denser taste than other brands cuz (or so I'm told) it's made with carabao milk and more natural ingredients.   … [Read more...]

Tropical Fruits in the Philippines

I ate so many fruits while I was there. If I never eat another mango again, I know I'll have eaten the sweetest, most buttery melt-in-your-mouth mangoes on the planet, in the Philippines. Chesa, the two more orange fruits next to the guyabana (green prickly-skin fruit), is grown from an evergreen tree native to Mexico and South America but now cultivated across Asia. It's in the same genus as Cambodia's Lamut, which is smaller and browner. Sri Lankans call their varieties laulu/lavulu/lawalu. Another variety that may have a more familiar ring to English speakers is Sapodilla. Guyabana is a fruit in the Annona genus in the pawpaw/sugar apple family, which I believe is native to the Andes but now cultivated in many countries that don't … [Read more...]

Durian: It’s that time of year again

The hot and sticky summers in April, May and June bring the season of the best fruits of the tropics. This naturally includes durian, which of course you must eat with mangosteens (arguably one of the better things about Asia) or else your body temperature rises too much. But then again, this is when mangoes are falling off the trees on the roads and there's just too much for consumption including exports. So I guess I can handle that waft of durian odor once in a while.... … [Read more...]

5 Ways to Eat a Mango!

Typically existing in two races, the mango finds its roots in Burma and South India, and in Southeast Asia particularly the Philippines.Mango season is one of my favorite things about living in Asia! All the charm and sensuous sweetness that is the essence of the tropics-- in one fruit. Mangoes signal a reprieve from the hot season, heralding the summer monsoons. It kicks off the festive Khmer New Year and launches the summer fruit bounty: rambutan, lychee, mangosteen and durian. Long bamboo sticks with a cage-like trap at the end ensure reach into the highest cluster (these evergreen trees grow to 60 feet tall). Street vendors now walk their bicycle-loads of mangoes, and market sellers pile them on mats and in baskets. National roads are … [Read more...]