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Cambodian/Khmer Cooking


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#61 Chris Amirault

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 07:45 PM

I am a terrifically big fan of Solomon's book, but the Cambodian & Laotian sections are not very strong. I want that Riviere book!
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#62 Chris Amirault

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 02:08 PM

Just ordered the Riviere Cambodian Cooking book Peter references above, in anticipation of my own Kmher fest over the next several weeks.
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#63 dmreed

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Posted 18 May 2009 - 05:58 PM

I am a terrifically big fan of Solomon's book, but the Cambodian & Laotian sections are not very strong. I want that Riviere book!

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amazon even has used copies!
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#64 Ce'nedra

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 04:54 AM

I am a terrifically big fan of Solomon's book, but the Cambodian & Laotian sections are not very strong. I want that Riviere book!

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Cambodian, Laotian -and let's throw in Korean and Filipino- cuisines are often neglected in 'Asian' cookbooks. It's a real pity actually; particularly with Korean since I have particular interest in the cuisine and I find it to be a real hidden treasure (in the way that it's not well appreciated) in the West.
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#65 Chris Amirault

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Posted 28 May 2009 - 01:04 PM

Found a great store here in Providence that makes their own kroeung in little bags. I made an impromptu beef salad -- not quite luk lak -- with it the other day and it was excellent. I'm eager to return for the fresh turmeric that they always seem to have on their shelves.
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#66 Peter Green

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 12:43 PM

Found a great store here in Providence that makes their own kroeung in little bags. I made an impromptu beef salad -- not quite luk lak -- with it the other day and it was excellent. I'm eager to return for the fresh turmeric that they always seem to have on their shelves.

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Cool! In Providence, too!

Definitely buy some turmeric. Just get used to the idea that you're going to have yellow fingernails for the next few weeks. For some reason, he body just seems to force it out through my cuticles.

Will they let you take pictures in the store?

#67 Adam Balic

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Posted 29 May 2009 - 05:18 PM

The excellent "South East Asian Food" by Rosemary Brissenden has a very good selection of Cambodian recipes.

#68 Chris Amirault

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Posted 30 May 2009 - 05:59 AM

Found a great store here in Providence that makes their own kroeung in little bags. I made an impromptu beef salad -- not quite luk lak -- with it the other day and it was excellent. I'm eager to return for the fresh turmeric that they always seem to have on their shelves.

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Will they let you take pictures in the store?

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I've been establishing a relationship with the owners for an article I'm working on, and I'm hoping to get snaps soon.

The excellent "South East Asian Food" by Rosemary Brissenden has a very good selection of Cambodian recipes.

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Adam, what recipes are in that book?
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#69 Adam Balic

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Posted 31 May 2009 - 02:10 AM

Let me know if you want an English description.

Sngo Chrouk Bangkang
Sngo Choeung Chamni Chroux
Samlaa M'Chou Moan
Chang Ploeung
Samlaa Kako
Samla Kaeng Phet
Ngiev Kroeung
Samlaa Sach Tia Nung Phile
Trey Chamhoy
Amok
Chion Trey Chab
Chion Trey I
Chion Trey II
Loclac
Chha Sakh Ko Kroeung
Chha Sakh Ko
Chha Sakh Ko Khatna
Chha Sakh Chrouk, Tauhou, Sandaek Bandoh
Chha Sakh Chrouk, Chamlok, Holantav
Chha Mii Su
Chha Dangkeab Kdam
Chha Tompang
Sakh Ko Changkak
Nheam Moan
Nheam Sakh Ko Salat

#70 Peter Green

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 09:30 AM

I went back and took a another shot at the sweet and sour fish. I'm very fond of the use of green mango here for the sour part.

An import change I wanted to do was try using smaller fish. My frying of the large fish is....well....challenging for those who have to clean up after me. And the tilapia that have been available are extremely plump, lately.
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Another move was to add in some capsicum, both for colour and for a bit of crunch.

The result was good, and handy as this would allow me to have a separate fish for each guest.
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I'll have to go and look at some of the salads for this weekend. The watermelon is in season here!

(I should see if I can find a copy of the Brissenden book to leaf through. That's a good list of recipes, and I wonder what the other sections are like)

#71 dmreed

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Posted 15 August 2009 - 06:14 PM

My former landlady [from Cambodia] used to cook something she called an amok that was like Peter's and unlike the leaf-cup type I have cooked for my Lao boss in his restaurant [with dill, not lime leaf]. She used to make a huge bag of blackened red pepper flakes, minus the seeds, during the warm months. This she would use liberally during the middle to last stages, after adding the coconut milk.

So: oil, paste, fry, then stuff, then coconut milk, then a huge fistful of the blackened flakes [enough to turn things a murky grey], then cook some more.

Some northern Thai use blackened pepper whole pepper, either fire-roasted or fried until the skin is almost about to disintegrate, so do the Burmese, so do Indians, but never in such quantity that I know of, and never minus the seed (?). The flavor here is different from Chinese use of blackened pepper much like very dark Cajun roux is to the merely very brown.

Has anyone seen or tasted this flavor combination? BTW, landlady was extremely coy & secretive about her kroeung, so no luck there!! But really delicious.

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any idea how she made the blackened red pepper flakes?
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#72 Hetta

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 01:44 AM

any idea how she made the blackened red pepper flakes?

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I hope this is not a silly question - after blackening the pepper, do you think it is dried in the oven with the blackened skin on? I am asking because you said that the food would go a grey colour.

#73 v. gautam

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 08:47 AM

I believe [not 100% certain] the longish, fairlry hot peppers, but NUMEX dry red may be used too, are stemmed & deseeded. They are then deep-fried in big batches in vegetable oil until past the mahogany stage. When taken out, drained & cooled, they will still be turning color, still cooking from the residual heat so this factor needs to be taken into account to judge the final "blackening" to be achieved.

Since the ribs [placenta] contain the active principle capsaicin, the fumes from frying even deseeded mild to medium hot pods are noxious. The lady did this outdoors in the summer!! She would make a huge bag, and crumble them like crushed corn flakes, to be stored in the freezer for the whole year.

The flavor principle of whole dry red peppers charred near-black is not unknown in India, but is used sparingly in ones and twos, and only as an adjunct or relish, never in handsful as a principle flavor. I was intrigued to learn that northern Burma ramps up the use of charred dry peppers, but still less than what I have seen with this particular Cambodian family. The quantity increases in parts of northern Thailand that share a link with Burma.

Cambodia is distant from this area, and I wonder if there is a Muslim link or some other cultural connection, or if this is a purely independent development. So far, I have been unable to extract any meaningful cultural information, because these people become very defensive and suspicious when their recipes and food secrets are probed. There is the language barrier, the unfortunate history of this region and a very characteristic Asian secretiveness [that I have found in Indian women as well] regarding recipes. Far better that recipes be lost than they be handed down to anyone, even to relatives (save direct descendants). Recipes will never be denied but neither accurately transmitted, seemingly minor but essential tips omitted.

#74 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 09:47 AM

Thanks for the chili information, v. gautam. As you know, some Indian women share their recipes with abandon!

I wanted to document today's shop at Narin Market, on Potters Ave just east of Cranston Street. As you can see, it's sitting on the bottom of a typical, urban Rhode Island triple decker:

Posted Image

I learned about this market from a friend who is married to a Khmer guy, and on this early Sunday morning it was bustling with folks filling their carts. I convinced Narin to let me take a few photographs (no people, of course) so that you could have a sense of the place.

Wide selection of meat, including a lot of pork cuts that are hard to find elsewhere

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Packaged and homemade roasted rice powder (they also make their own kroeung):

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Frozen foods, including pickled crab for som tam:

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Wide array of produce (as you will see, I got quite a few things):

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They were out of fresh turmeric, sadly; I've seen it there quite a few times. They did have purple water lily stems, which I left on the shelf bc I wasn't sure what to make with them:

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Big aisle with cooking equipment:

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Small selection of mortars:

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I made a note that this dried fish looked as good as the stuff I saw in northern Thailand:

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Lots of takeout available (I grabbed some lunch):

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I wasn't sure what these were.... Ideas?

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I've cleaned everything and am heading out for a few errands. Dinner is the grilled eggplant with pork, a mushroom & wing bean salad, shrimp with green pepper & cilantro, and who knows what else.
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#75 Peter Green

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 10:00 AM

Posted Image

I think I've had these. Crispy rolls of flour (or rice flour?), sort of like an Indian dosa, but much smaller. One of those things you bite into with relish, and then you realize you're wearing 1/3 in the form of flakes on the front of your shirt.

Good market shots.

The blackened chili peppers is an interesting item. I wonder if arrived through Thailand, as the Cambodians were kept cut off from much of the early maritime trade of the Portugese (and their trade in firearms), and so weren't introduced to the chili pepper until much later.

And those dried fish are exactly what I was looking for to work up that watermelon salad recipe!

Cheers,

Peter

Note: edited a couple of times as I suffer from IMG dyslexia tonight.

Edited by Peter Green, 16 August 2009 - 10:04 AM.


#76 v. gautam

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 12:35 PM

Chris,

You are fortunate to have met an enlightened & modern woman. Ask her about her forbears and near relations and you will hear stories that will make you laugh and weep at the same time. At GourmetIndia we have started a disscussion on this topic because many of us have witnesssed precious swathes, not just small numbers, but entire corpus of recipes of certain ethnic traditions vanish with maiden aunts and aged parents.

The pace of change is so extreme in India, the dislocation from rural roots alsos so extreme, and the types of foods require space, time, labor, rural products and an extreme desire to sacrifice oneself for the family. Therefore, one prerogative might be to hold closely to such treasures and be lauded for these, slim returns for a life spent laboring over practically nothing. Underlying this is a subconscious bitterness or a complicated psychology that I will leave for more expert minds. Anyway, the net result is that more than 75% of the foods I have known and relished in my childood are completely lost, and unknown to the next generation, which is regarded by many in my generation as some sort of cultural and spiritual savages, irredeemable!! They likewise share a similar view about us!

Returning to the Cambodian kroeung in question, I woul be very grateful if you could make some inquiries at your end, and see where that leads. I have a suspicion, where the kroeng paste itself is concerned, for this "chicken curry", there are shades of a generic peninsular Indian cooked spice paste at work here:

The peninsular masala paste would start with a small red shallot or boiling onion + some cloves of garlic being roasted on embers or hot ashes; on a gas flame, here in the USA. Then, peeled and slowly roasted in oil with some whole spices, then ground to a wet paste. To simplify even more, but lose some depth of flavor & smokiness, sliced or diced onion/shallot & garlic can be slow-roated with whole spices [not too slow because the essential oils will evaporate] & wet ground.

As far as I can gauge, the ingredients include:

Shallots or boiling onion

Garlic

Galangal

aromatic dry red pepper, like BOLDOG paprika or gochugaru whole or ancho, soaked, flesh scraped out, pounded: idea is to create not heat but a flavor base, remembering that the blackened flakes will also add some heat of their own. The whole dish must be pleasant, piquant-warm, on the mild side, no macho heat competition here.

coriander seed

black peppercorns

Star anise

fennel

green cardamom

cassia bark [ that which is sold as cinnamon, for the most part!]

nutmeg

You can adjust the spicing to your liking, remembering that there will be coconut milk entering the picture to tame the sharp edges as well as potatoes, plus sweet potatoes & bamboo shoots if you like. Some Cambodians love a LOT of lemongrass, but YMMV.

NB: You can also use some anchovy fillets here to good effect, if you do not have/tolerate some of the more exotic fermented fish products.

Cornish hens work really well, failing which skinned thighs cut into boneless cubes, throwing the bones into the pot as well. With the Cornish hens or poussins, wash dry, joint and rub with salt & turmeric. This will form a thin coat & prevent spattering +help browning. Lightly brown in peanut oil & set aside. In the same oil/pan, brown halved/quartered russets/Yukon Golds, and sweet potatoes if you like.

Next, gently brown a small amount of very finely sliced onions, covering them to wilt, then uncovering them to brown. Add a tiny amount of sugar after they are golden, then kroeng paste, cook for a bit, add chicken. Some like to add cilantro or Thai lime leaves, either to paste or to the pan. Let your tastes guide you. Too many flavors piled on top of one another may be counterproductive.

Thin coconut milk may be added now, i.e. the cream spooned off and saved for the very end. Simmer covered, with salt until potatoes, sweet potatoes and or bamboo shoots done. Add a judicious amount of blackened chili flakes. Things will look terrible. Cook a tiny bit longer, like 3 minutes, then add reserved coconut cream and balance seasonings. Correct with fish sace, sugar salt.

#77 dmreed

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 03:30 PM

I believe [not 100% certain] the longish, fairlry hot peppers, but NUMEX dry red may be used too, are stemmed & deseeded. They are then deep-fried in big batches in vegetable oil until past the mahogany stage. When taken out, drained & cooled, they will still be turning color, still cooking from the residual heat so this factor needs to be taken into account to judge the final "blackening" to be achieved.

Since the ribs [placenta] contain  the active principle capsaicin, the fumes from frying even deseeded mild to medium hot pods are noxious. The lady did this outdoors in the summer!! She would make a huge bag, and crumble them like crushed corn flakes, to be stored in the freezer for the whole year.

The flavor principle of  whole dry red peppers charred near-black is not unknown in India, but is used sparingly in ones and twos, and only as an adjunct or relish, never in handsful as a principle flavor. I was intrigued to learn that northern Burma ramps up the use of charred dry peppers, but still less than what I have seen with this particular Cambodian family. The quantity increases in parts of northern Thailand that share a link with Burma.

Cambodia is distant from this area, and I wonder if there is a Muslim link or some other cultural connection, or if this is a purely independent development. So far, I have been unable to extract any meaningful cultural information, because these people become very defensive and suspicious when their recipes and food secrets are probed. There is the language barrier, the unfortunate history of this region and a very characteristic Asian secretiveness [that I have found in Indian women as well] regarding recipes. Far better that recipes be lost than they be handed down to anyone, even to relatives (save direct descendants). Recipes will never be denied but neither accurately transmitted, seemingly minor but essential tips omitted.

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thanks for the details...it occurred to me that, depending on the amount of oil used for deep frying the peppers, one could strain the oil after the deep frying and chili oil would be the result...so two cooking ingredients for the price of one!
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#78 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 06:41 PM

v., I'll try to see what I can find out about the kroeung, but given the focus of the research I'm doing (it's on Khmer-American home cooking), I think I'm going to get variations within a general theme. The kroeung sold at the Narin Market is, I think, very basic: ground (or processed -- no pounding here) lemongrass, kaffir lime, shallots, galangal, and that may be it. No spices, no heat, no roasting in evidence, no garlic -- all iirc.

Next time I go I'll pester them to see what I can learn. Turns out a tall white guy buying lort, sdao, galangal, and so on gets a lot of friendly attention/advice.

When a friend texted me today and asked me what I got, I realized that some people tuning into this topic might benefit from an ingredient primer, so:

Posted Image

From left to right, cilantro or coriander (with roots -- important), holy basil, and sdao, or what Riviere calls bitter Khmer leaves. Riviere compares them to sorrel, which makes sense only if you add an astringent, bitter edge to the sorrel; spinach would miss the point entirely. I was strongly discouraged from buying sdao by three different people in the store.

Posted Image

Left column: winged beans, very fresh today, so I got a few to add to a mushroom salad I was making for lunch; Thai red and serrano chiles; the cleaned and trimmed coriander roots. Center is scallions and galangal. Right: kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, ginger.

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A simple pickled chile condiment found throughout Thailand; green peppercorns in brine (at about a 95% savings over Williams Sonoma); krachai in brine. One day I hope to find both of the latter items fresh at Narin....

Oh, and breakfast:

Posted Image

Lort (or lot), the taro, pork, and peanut fried snack (good looking recipe here). I could eat fifty of these per day. Sriracha in the little dish.
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#79 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 August 2009 - 07:31 PM

When I can find good looking oyster mushrooms, I try to make David Thompson's simple, delicious mushroom salad. I made it early, blanching then shocking the beans and then quickly cooking first the oysters then the shiitake. A few more ingredients and... lunch:

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I made two dishes, as I mentioned above. I was going to sub out the black for green peppercorns, but then decided to stick to the Riviere recipe for shrimp with black pepper and cilantro:

Posted Image

This very simple recipe is really good. The step that intrigued me was adding the shrimp, garlic, and oil all at once to the caramelizing sugar. I made this in a wok -- mistake -- so I had a hard time reading the darkness of the caramel. I added the shrimp too early, stopping the caramelization before it was sufficiently dark. As a result, I was worried about overcooking the shrimp, so I removed them to reduce the sauce and then add the pepper, fish sauce, and coriander.

Next time: no wok (stainless saute pan), less oil, and darker caramel. But this was great, the sweetness of the caramel and shrimp playing off the bite of the pepper. I added minced coriander root to the dish to brighten it up a bit, which was a good idea.

Here's the grilled eggplant with pork.

Posted Image

I had variations of this dish in Chiang Mai, though with holy basil instead of cilantro, and so I subbed that in. I also added a couple of minced kaffir lime leaves -- again, like the coriander root above, to add a bit of an edge.

Though it looks like -- well, you know what it looks like -- it's a truly classic dish. The key is to let the pork and aromatics fry for a good long while, until the meat has started to brown. That gives a nutty quality to the dish that is lacking otherwise. I added the sugar a bit early, to let it caramelize slightly as well.

Very eager to continue with the book. However, I'm wondering if it's a bit cleaned up for the generic reader. In particular, I'm wondering how bitterness plays in the cuisine when not framed for Westerners....
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#80 Chris Amirault

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 09:52 AM

Lunch note: that pork & eggplant dish reheats extremely well.
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#81 Peter Green

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 11:24 AM

There's a piece in the latest Bayon Pearnik, issue 156 on the 2nd to last page of the pdf that discusses "Strange Cambodian Foods", written by Steve Hili.

It talks in general about the usual sensational items (yes, the tarantula legs do sort of taste like crab) but he dwells upon something I hadn't seen in mainland South East Asia before - chicken fetuses (fetii? fetid?) in the shell, or balut to everyone familiar to the Philippines.

Interesting, and I understand ethnography places the Khmer closer to the Malay, so it makes sense.

It's just not something I'd thought I'd find there.

I should go back soon.

#82 prasantrin

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Posted 17 August 2009 - 11:27 AM

There's a piece in the latest Bayon Pearnik, issue 156 on the 2nd to last page of the pdf that discusses "Strange Cambodian Foods", written by Steve Hili. 

It talks in general about the usual sensational items (yes, the tarantula legs do sort of taste like crab) but he dwells upon something I hadn't seen in mainland South East Asia before - chicken fetuses (fetii?  fetid?) in the shell, or balut to everyone familiar to the Philippines.

Interesting, and I understand ethnography places the Khmer closer to the Malay, so it makes sense. 

It's just not something I'd thought I'd find there.

I should go back soon.

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I thought the Vietnamese also had a balut-like egg. I vaguely remember seeing Bourdain eating one in Vietnam on Cook's Tour way back when.

#83 v. gautam

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 07:55 PM

The Khmer Krom are today an ethnic minority in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Long ago, they were perhaps far more significant there, so their situation now is not good. Anyway, they have a neat website with some really interesting recipes, including purely vegetarian ones, quite a rarity in this part of the world.

One more addition to the annals of Khmer cooking:

http://www.khmerkromrecipes.com/

#84 MikeHartnett

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Posted 18 August 2009 - 08:32 PM

Here's the grilled eggplant with pork.

Posted Image

I had variations of this dish in Chiang Mai, though with holy basil instead of cilantro, and so I subbed that in. I also added a couple of minced kaffir lime leaves -- again, like the coriander root above, to add a bit of an edge.

Though it looks like -- well, you know what it looks like -- it's a truly classic dish. The key is to let the pork and aromatics fry for a good long while, until the meat has started to brown. That gives a nutty quality to the dish that is lacking otherwise. I added the sugar a bit early, to let it caramelize slightly as well.

Very eager to continue with the book. However, I'm wondering if it's a bit cleaned up for the generic reader. In particular, I'm wondering how bitterness plays in the cuisine when not framed for Westerners....

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Sorry if I just missed this upthread, but which book are you referring to?

#85 Chris Amirault

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 04:38 AM

Riviere.
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#86 Peter Green

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Posted 19 August 2009 - 08:27 AM

I had some feedback from my friend's Khmer wife:

She "says they use 90% of the time, duck egg, not chicken. Though there is some chicken done too. You'd have to talk to her cause its a wierd sounding name.

duck egg = bong thea kon (something like that).

chicken = bong moen kon.
"

I gave up long ago on transliterating Khmer.

note: edited to remove a name I'd missed.

Edited by Peter Green, 19 August 2009 - 08:28 AM.


#87 MikeHartnett

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Posted 20 August 2009 - 08:44 AM

Lunch note: that pork & eggplant dish reheats extremely well.

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Bought the book, and it certainly does. Delicious.

#88 Ce'nedra

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 07:28 AM

Apparently many Cambodian dishes employ fermented fish? I've had a Vietnamese noodle soup that's fermented fish-based and apparently it's Cambodian in origin (therefore, it's Cambodian and not Vietamese I guess?). Pungent -not the greatest pleasure to smell it -but the dish has a real depth in flavour and is absolutely addictive once you develop a taste for it!
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#89 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 07:48 AM

Fermented mudfish appears in many of the Khmer recipes I've been seeing, providing that umami boost with or instead of fermented shrimp, fish sauce, and so on.
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#90 Chris Amirault

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 05:01 AM

Last weekend I spent some time making a few different Khmer dishes from Riviere along with the chicken samla in Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet. I didn't take photos of the final dish but I did take a few snaps of the prep.

Mint and basil from the garden:

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Some of the other ingredients for the meal:

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Here's the fresh turmeric root that got me thinking about the samla:

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The start of the paste:

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45 minutes (and 1 1/4 c of lemon grass later):

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I did manage to photograph the shrimp fritters from Riviere, which were excellent, if a bit malformed:

Posted Image
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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts