Cambodian cuisine


Cambodian cuisine
Amok, a popular Khmer dish

Khmer cuisine (Khmer: សិល្បៈខាងធ្វើម្ហូបខ្មែរ) is another name for the foods and cuisine widely consumed in Cambodia. The food of Cambodia includes tropical fruits, rice, noodles, drinks, dessert and various soups.

The staple food for Cambodians is rice. Almost every meal includes a bowl of rice, although noodles are also popular. A wide range of curries, soups and stir fries are served with rice. Many rice varieties are available in Cambodia, including aromatic rice and glutinous or sticky rice. The latter is more commonly found in desserts with fruits like durian.

Khmer Cuisine shares much in common with the food of neighbouring Thailand, although it is generally not as spicy; and Vietnam, with whom it shares and adopts many common dishes and a colonial history, both being part of the French colonial empire in Southeast Asia. It has also drawn upon influences from the cuisines of China and France, both of whom are powerful players in Cambodian history. Curry dishes, known as kari (in Khmer, ការី) show a trace of cultural influence from India. The many variations of rice noodles show the influences from Chinese cuisine. Preserved lemons are another unusual ingredient not commonly found in the cooking of Cambodia's neighbours, which is used in some Khmer dishes. Coconut milk is the main ingredient of many Khmer curries and desserts.

A legacy of the French is the baguette, which the Cambodians often eat with pâté, tinned sardines or eggs. One of these with a cup of strong coffee, sweetened with condensed milk, is an example of a common Cambodian breakfast.

Typically, Cambodians eat their meals with at least three or four separate dishes. A meal will usually include a soup, or samlor, served alongside the main courses. Each individual dish will be either sweet, sour, salty or bitter. Chili is served on the side, and left up to individual diners and to their taste. In this way Cambodians ensure that they get a bit of every flavor to satisfy their palates.

Several cooking courses are now run in popular tourist areas, giving visitors the chance to share the culinary secret of the Khmers.

Contents

Ingredients

Prahok fried in banana leaves with fresh green vegetables and steamed rice.

Prahok

A common ingredient, almost a national institution, is a pungent type of fermented fish paste used in many dishes, a distinctive flavoring known as prahok (ប្រហុក). It's an acquired taste for most Westerners, but is an integral part of Khmer cuisine and is included in many dishes or used as a dipping sauce. The liberal use of prahok, which adds a salty tang to many dishes, is a characteristic which distinguishes Khmer cuisine from that of its neighbours. Prahok can be prepared many ways and eaten as a dish on its own right. Prahok jien (ប្រហុកចៀន), is fried and usually mixed with meat (usually beef or pork) and chilli. It can also be eaten with dips, vegetables like cucumbers or eggplants, and rice. Prahok gop or Prahok ang (ប្រហុកកប់) or (ប្រហុកអាំង) is covered with banana leaves and left to cook under a fire under pieces of rock or over the coals.

When prahok is not used, kapǐ (កាពិ), a kind of fermented shrimp paste is used instead. Khmer cuisine also uses fish sauce widely in soups and stir-fried dishes, and as a dipping sauce.

Spices

The Cambodian herb and spice base paste Kroeung.

Unknown in Asia prior to the 16th century, the chili pepper arrived with the Portuguese. More years still passed before the chili pepper reached Cambodia, and to this day it lacks a certain status in Khmer cooking and is not extensively used, unlike neighbouring Thailand, Laos or Malaysia. Black pepper is the preferred choice when heat is required in a dish. Tamarind is commonly employed as a soup base for dishes such as samlar machu. Star anise is a must when caramelizing meat in palm sugar like pork in the dish known as pak lov. Turmeric, galangal, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are essential spices in Khmer cooking, Khmer stews, and nearly all curries.[1]

As the country has an extensive network of waterways, freshwater fish plays a large part in the diet of most Cambodians, making its way into many recipes. Daily fresh catches come from the Mekong River, Bassac River and the vast Tonlé Sap. While freshwater fish is the most commonly-used meat in the Cambodian diet, pork and chicken are also popular. Though not as common as in neighboring Vietnam, vegetarian food is still a part of Khmer cuisine and often favored by more observant Buddhists.

Kroeung

From India, by way of Java, Cambodians have been taught the art of blending spices into a paste using many ingredients like cardamom, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and turmeric. Other native ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, garlic, shallots, cilantro, and kaffir lime leaves are added to this mix to make a distinctive and complex spice blend called "kroeung." Other ingredients for kroeung used by Khmers in America are lemongrass, turmeric powder, garlic, prahok, and lemon leaf. This is an important aromatic paste commonly used in Cambodian cooking.[2]

Vegetables

Many vegetables used in Khmer cuisine are also used in Chinese cuisine. Unusual vegetables such as winter melon, bitter melon, luffa, and yardlong beans can be found in soups and stews. Oriental squash can be stewed, stir fried or sweetened and steamed with coconut milk as a dessert. Vegetables like mushrooms, cabbage, baby corn, bamboo shoots, fresh ginger, Chinese broccoli, snow peas, and bok choy are commonly used in many different stir fry dishes. Together these are known by the generic term chha (ឆា). Banana blossoms are sliced and added to some noodle dishes like nom banh chok.

Fruits

Fruits in Cambodia are so popular that they have their own royal court. The durian is considered the "king," the mangosteen the "queen," sapodilla the "prince" and the milk fruit (phlai teuk doh ko) the "princess." Other popular fruits include: the jan fruit, kuy fruit, romduol, pineapple, star apple, rose apple, coconut, palmyra fruit, jackfruit, papaya, watermelon, banana, mango and rambutans. Although fruits are usually considered desserts, some fruits such as ripe mangoes, watermelon, and pineapples are eaten commonly with heavily salted fish with plain rice. Fruits are also made into beverages called tuk kolok (ទឹក កលក់), mostly shakes. Popular fruits for shakes are durian, mangoes, bananas.

Meat

Fish is the most common form of meat in Khmer cuisine. Dried salted fish known as trei ngeat (ត្រីងៀត) are a favourite with plain rice porridge. The popular Khmer dish called amok uses a kind of catfish steamed in a savoury coconut-based curry. Pork is quite popular in making sweet Khmer sausages known as twah ko (ត្វារគោ). Beef and chicken are stewed, grilled or stir fried. Seafood includes an array of shellfish like clams, cockles, crayfish, shrimp and squid. Lobsters are not commonly eaten because of their price, but middle class and rich Cambodians enjoy eating them at Sihanoukville. Duck roasted in Chinese char siu style is popular during festivals. More unusual varieties of meat include frog, turtle, and various arthropods like tarantulas; these would be difficult to find in Khmer cuisine abroad, but are used in everyday dishes in Cambodia.

Noodles

Mee Kola, a vegetarian noodle dish

Many elements of Cambodian noodle dishes were inspired by Chinese and Vietnamese cooking[3] despite maintaining a distinct Khmer variation. Prahok is never used with noodle dishes. Rice stick noodles are used in Mee Katang (មីកាតាំង), which is a Cambodian variation of chǎo fěn with gravy. Unlike the Chinese styled chǎo fěn, the noodles are plated under the stir fry beef and vegetables and topped off with scrambled eggs. Burmese style noodles (មីកុឡា - Mee Kola) is a vegetarian dish made from thin rice stick noodles, steamed and cooked with soy sauce and garlic chives. This is served with pickled vegetables Jroak (ជ្រក់), julienned eggs, and sweet garlic fish sauce garnished with crushed peanuts. Mi Cha (មីឆា) is stir fried egg noodles.

Popular dishes

Bok L'hong, the Khmer variation of the Laotian papaya salad Tam mak hung.
Banh chiao, Cambodian-style Bánh xèo.
A bowl of ka tieu.
Caw, a Cambodian hearty pork or chicken stew with whole eggs.
Cha knyey Cambodian peppered chicken with julienned ginger root.
Pleah, Beef salad with prahok (ប្រហុក).
  • Amok trey (អាម៉ុកត្រី) - Fish covered with kroeung and coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.[4]
  • Ansom chek (អន្សមចេក) - A cylindrical rice cake wrapped in banana leaves and filled with bananas (sweet). There is also a savoury version filled with pork and mung bean paste called ansom chrook (សន្សមជ្រូក).
  • Babar (បបរ) - A type of congee or rice porridge, plain or usually with chicken or pork served with fresh bean sprouts and green onions. (Babar Praey - salted Congee)
  • Bai cha (បាយឆា) - A Khmer variation of fried rice which includes Chinese sausages[citation needed], garlic, soy sauce, and herbs, usually eaten with pork[citation needed].
  • Banh chiao (ព៉ាញ់ឆៅ) - The Khmer version of the Vietnamese dish bánh xèo.
  • Ban hoaw (បាញ់ហយ) - Steamed rice vermicelli noodles with mint, crushed peanuts, pickled vegetables, and deep fried egg rolls, cut into bite sized pieces, lathered in sweet fish sauce.
  • Bok L'hong (បុកល្ហុង) - Khmer green papaya salad, pounded in a mortar and pestle. Related to Laotian Tam mak hoong, the salad may include the herb kantrop, asian basil, string beans, roasted peanuts, cherry tomatoes, salted preserved small crabs, smoked or dried fish, and chili peppers. Mixed with a savory dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and/or prahok.[5]
  • Caw (ខ ឬសម្លខ) - A braised pork or chicken and egg stew flavored in caramelized palm sugar. It may contain tofu or bamboo shoots. A typical Khmer Krom dish, who are ethnic Khmer indigenous to southern Vietnam, this dish is similar to the Vietnamese dish of Thịt Kho and the Filipino dish called Humba.
  • Cha knyey (ឆាខ្ញី) - A spicy dish of meat stir fried with julienne ginger root, black pepper, and fresh jalapeños or fresh peppers.
  • Jroak sway (ជ្រក់ស្វាយ) - Unripe julienned mango salad flavored with fish sauce and peppers. Usually served as a side dish with fried or baked fish and rice.[6]
  • Ka tieu (គុយទាវ) - This traditional pork broth based noodle soup dish is a popular dish in Cambodia. It is served with the garnishes of fresh bean sprouts, chopped green onions and cilantro.
  • Kralan (ក្រឡាន)- A cake made from steamed rice mixed with beans or peas, grated coconut and coconut milk.
  • Loc Lac (ឡុកឡាក់) - Stir fried cubed beef served with fresh red onions, served on a bed of lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes and dipped in a sauce consisting of lime juice[7] and/or black pepper.[8] It is the Cambodian version of the Vietnamese Bò lúc lắc.
  • Lou - Cambodian thick short noodles, with added eggs and chicken, eaten mainly with fish sauce.
  • Mee Katang (មីកាតាំង)- Wide rice noodles in an oyster sauce typically stir fried with eggs, baby corn, carrots, Chinese broccoli, mushrooms and a choice of meat, usually beef. This dish is similar to the Thai dish Rad Na.
  • Mee M'poang - crispy yellow noodles served under a gravy sauce of eggs, carrots, Chinese broccoli, bok choy and a meat.
  • Ngam nguv (ឡុកឡាក់)- A chicken soup flavored with whole preserved lemons.
  • Num Yip- yellow star like dessert made of egg yolk, flour, and sugar.
  • Pleah (ភ្លា) - Partially cooked beef salad with beef tripe, flavored with prahok and tossed with onions and fresh herbs.
  • Samlor kari (សម្លការី) - A traditional spicy coconut chicken curry with a soupy consistency, often cooked with sweet potatoes, julienned onion, and bamboo shoot. The soup is also used as a dipping sauce for fresh baguettes.[9]
  • Samlor machu (សម្លម្ជូរយួន) - A popular sour soup with a tamarind base. Includes meat such as chicken or fish, tomatoes, lotus roots, water greens, herbs and may be flavored with prahok.[10][11] It is derived from the Vietnamese sour soup canh chua.
  • Sankya Lapov (សង់ខ្យាល្ពៅ) - A dessert made of pumpkin and coconut flan.
  • Yao hon or yaohon (យ៉ៅហ៊ន) - A Khmer-style hot pot for dipping beef, shrimp, spinach, dill, napa cabbage, rice noodles and mushrooms. It is similar to the Japanese sukiyaki, however, it is derived from Chinese hot pot.
  • Num Ppang Chen (literally Chinese Bread): Spring onion bread often referred as Chinese pizza. It combines Chineses and French styles foods. It is flat and bake and fry simultaneously rather than simply being fry like its Chinese counterpart.[12]

References

  1. ^ Recipes 4 Us Cooking by Country: Cambodia Accessed 21 July 2007.
  2. ^ Star Chefs Five main Cambodian ingredients Accessed 21 July 2007.
  3. ^ The Worldwide Gourmet Saveurs du Cambodge All you want to know about Cambodian Cuisine Accessed 21 July 2007.
  4. ^ Mass Recipes Amok Trey Fish Mousselline Accessed 22 July 2007
  5. ^ Tamarind Trees Bok Lhong Accessed 10 July 2008
  6. ^ Clay's Kitchen Cambodian Recipes Green mango salad Accessed 23 July 2007
  7. ^ Dudley Brown More than a meal in store Accessed 25 July 2007
  8. ^ Phil Lees Phnomenom Loc Lac Accessed 22 July 2007
  9. ^ Chicken Curry Curry Mouan Accessed 26 July 2007
  10. ^ Lisa Jorgenson, Bonny Wolf Cambodian sweet-and-sour soup Accessed 24 July 2007
  11. ^ Leisure Cambodia Khmer Sour Soup Accessed 23 July 2007
  12. ^ http://www.phnomenon.com/index.php/cambodian-food/street-food/spring-onion-bread-khmer-focaccia/

Further reading

External links


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