Sunday, November 15, 2009

Noum Bai Chok by the Waterfront, Sihanoukville

Noum Bai Chok (not sure about the spelling), yet another yummy Cambodian dish that came straight our way as we were slurping our mango smoothies, is rice noodles and herbs in a fish curry soup. It's made on the spot by the trusted smiling vendor who wanders around the beach carrying all the products on her shoulders. First she piles a bowl with assorted fresh herbs: mint, banana blossom, green beans and others we could not identify.
Then, she adds a handful of fresh hand-made rice noodles and covers the lot with a hearty fish curry broth.

All that was left for us was to add the condiments of dried/fresh chili, salt and sugar to our liking. God bless.

A word of advice: the best food on Cambodian beaches is sold by these mobile vendors.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Prawns on the Beach, Sihanoukville

Snack vendors roam the sands of Sihanoukville (as in the rest of the coast), offering fresh homemade local treats. We courteously flagged down a passing woman carrying a large platter of piled steamed prawns. After choosing our desired creatures (10 for $4) she cracked them open and peeled the outer layer, so our fingers won't get messy. She then sliced the sides sprinkled salt and pepper and added a squeeze of lime. All we were left to do is indulge.

The Shop, Phnom Penh

Our first choice for brunch in the capital, The Shop serves good sandwiches and coffees to a hungry expat clientele.

The Shop Bakery. 39, 240 street, Phnom Penh
tel: 023 88 60 12/023 986 964

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cambodian Fish Products

The basic ingredient in Cambodian cooking is salty fermented fish paste. We happen to visit a factory that makes this staple in many varieties. The fish is cleaned, de-boned and thrown in a pile on the floor, where salt is added. The pile sits to ferment for two-three weeks. It is then chopped and transferred into large vats where it ferments even further. Different fish, seafood and spices make for different types of paste.

We cannot describe the smell that surrounds the village.

Close by, fish are sun-dried, smoked and sold in brick size bundles. Bits of dried fish can sometimes appear in cold salads or as a beer snack.

Rice Paper, Cambodia

Another small family factory we encountered was making rice paper for spring rolls. An easy task when the whole family helps out.

Batter, made from rice flour and water, is spread on a white cloth over steaming water.

It quickly (about 20 seconds) becomes solid and is placed on tubes to be transferred to bamboo drying racks. They dry in the sun and are packaged for the market.

Sticky Rice in Bamboo, Cambodia

Our first day in Cambodia included lots and lots of tastings by the side of the road. We hired two friendly moto-bike drivers/in-the-know guides to show us the many makeshift family businesses in the villages of Battambang. Most villagers grow rice, but the profit is meager and not enough to support their families. So, many add some income by producing hand-made food products.

One of the more common products is sticky rice in bamboo. This fun snack is picked by the side of the road and has a dense and glutinous texture of sticky rice with a delicate tase of coconut. It is made from rice, coconut cream, salt and black beans all roasted in a bamboo shell. The process is long and difficult:

First the bamboo is cut into 30cm pieces (using a manual saw)

The pieces are cleaned and filled with the sticky rice mixture.

The tops are sealed with crumpled banana leaf and then placed to roast on a grill for half an hour.

When they're ready, the burned shell of the bamboo is removed with an axe.

The final product is peeled like a banana, and you eat it with your hands.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Loi Krathong Street Snacks, Chiang Mai

We happen to be in town during the Loi Krathong festival. While the sky was lit with drifting lanterns and floating candles crowded the river, stalls took over the streets, selling local specialities. Unfortunately we could not taste them all (nor completely identify them). Sit-down dinner was gladly replaced by an all night snacking frenzy. This just might turn into a habit...

Grilled omelet in a folded banana leaf mixed with a choice of mushrooms, crab or shrimp.

Take away sticky rice in different ways: sweet, savory, with coconut or chillies and folded in pretty banana leaf packaging. Hard to resist.

Pumpkin fritters smothered in batter.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Northern Eats, Chiang Mai

In Chiang Mai you are never too far from a hearty and incredibly delicious bowl of Khao Soi. This egg noodle curry soup, made from red curry, coconut milk and pieces of chicken, is topped with pickled mustard greens, sliced shallots, fried noodles and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. The place to get it is on Faham Road where many local restaurants serve the dish.

The Cooking Class

Chiang Mai offers many cooking classes. We randomly picked one and had a go. The Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School is one of the more popular establishments for vacationing Brits and Aussies searching for a way to impress their mothers back home. The course was well run (considering the large number of participants, we were 30!) and consisted of demonstrations and individual practice. We cooked and enjoyed 6 dishes in 6 hours and went home satisfied.

Fellow chefs at lunchtime.

Tom Yam Goong.
This famous fresh Thai soup is so easy and quick to prepare. All you need to do is chop garlic, shallots, lemon grass and galangal root and add them to a chicken/fish/veg broth. Wait till it boils then add cubed straw mushrooms and tomatoes. After a couple of minutes add chopped chillies, fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves and cook on low heat for 2 minutes. Finally, throw in some fresh prawns (clean an headless) or chunks of white fish (but don't over cook). Remove from heat, squeeze in lime juice and top with coriander.

Ingredients clockwise: tomato, straw mushroom, lemon grass, lime, purple shallot, galagal root (the pinkish chunk) and kaffir lime leaf.

Tom Yam soup, ready.

Tord Man Plaa, a deep fried fish patty is made out of ground white fish, red curry paste, fish sauce, tapioca flour, baking powder, palm sugar, shredded kaffir lime leaves and thinly sliced green beans. Just mix the ingredients and deep fry in a wok until brown.

Laap Gai is a spicy chicken salad served with cold cucumber. To make this one you need to toss minced chicken breast, sliced shallots, finely chopped galagal, fish sauce, lime juice and chili powder together in a wok. When the chicken is cooked, remove from heat and mix in chopped fresh spring onion, coriander and mint.