Khmer New Year, or Chaul Chnam Thmey, is coming up soon and visions of three day long parties have my thoughts going (quite predictably, as my friends can tell you) to food. I have often been asked, “what is Cambodian food like?” and my first answer is always, “delicious!”
Throughout production, the crew only had a few western meals and quickly developed favorites among the local cuisine: fish amok curry, beef lok lak, and Khmer-style spring rolls. There were many other amazing dishes I’ll always remember*, but these will forever light up our eyes when seen on a menu.
Our schedule was very full and we ended up with only one free day during our shoot in Cambodia to do what we wanted. It was quickly decided that the morning should be dedicated to learning some of the incredible dishes we’d been trying for the past few weeks. I was excited to learn some recipes to bring a little of the amazing country I was learning to love back home with me to share with friends and family.
We went to Nary’s Kitchen in Battambang and were told by an exuberant host named Toot that we were going to learn to make fish amok curry, beef lok lak, and Khmer-style spring rolls! Excited and curious, we followed Toot to the local market where vendors sat with buckets and baskets bursting with the bright colors of fresh produce. There our host hilariously proceeded to carefully name and explain all of the roots, fruits, and vegetables that were actually familiar to westerners like us while ignoring all of the things we couldn’t identify. I asked about some mysterious foliage collected neatly in stacks and was told they were morning glories, although unfortunately not the same kind currently taking over my backyard. After purchasing our ingredients, we walked back to the restaurant for the lesson, which was fun and informative. And the food? Almost overwhelmingly delicious.
If you have yet to try Cambodian food, I urge you to do yourself a favor and make it happen!
Great now I’m hungry,
*pumpkin curry, ansom chek, whole fish in lemongrass, and nom banh chok…..
Recipe for Beef Lok Lak
Simple to make, extremely delicious, and quite healthy.
6 oz steak
4 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp chicken stock powder/buillion
1/2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 tsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp oyster sauce
1-2 tsp mild hot chili sauce or sweet chili sauce
1-2 tsp ketchup
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
Serve with thin slices of tomato, cucumber and red onion, a few leaves of lettuce, and slices of lime. Optional: cooked white rice.
1. Slice steak into half inch cubes and put into a bowl.
2. To the bowl, add 2tsp vegetable oil, chicken stock powder, sugar, soy sauce, salt, oyster sauce, chili sauce, ketchup, and a pinch of black pepper powder and then mix it all up.
3. Thinly slice onion and tomato- you only need a few slices of each – and arrange nicely on a plate with the lettuce.
4. Peel and mince garlic, then set aside.
5. Pour 2tsp vegetable oil in pan and heat on high. While the oil is heating, add garlic and stir fry for 15 seconds.
6. Add steak and stir vigorously until it’s done- about 1-2 minutes each side- and then pour over the veggies on the plate.
7. Fry egg and place on top of steak.
Serves 1 and easily multiplied!