Dispelling Cambodian Cuisine Myths — It’s Not ‘Mild Thai’! (Long Read)

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Dispelling Cambodian Cuisine Myths — It’s Not ‘Mild Thai’! (Long Read)

Post by Kung-fu Hillbilly » Thu Nov 07, 2019 1:42 pm

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by Lara Dunston

Most visitors to Cambodia’s Siem Reap that we meet know little or nothing about Cambodian food and what they think they know is often incorrect.

Journos on junkets learn what they know from hotel cooking school instructors — and they don’t always get it right either. At a recent cooking class that Terence observed at a newish five-star Siem Reap resort, the young instructor was guilty of all sorts of Khmer cooking crimes, including adding oyster sauce to a red curry.

Yet we learn in The Customs of Cambodia, an account of “Angkor at the height of its splendour”, by Chinese emissary Zhou Daguan, written during his year here from 1296–7, that pepper was grown and used in cooking. “It grows twisted round the stems of the rattan, fastening on like a hop vine. Pepper that is fresh and blue-green has the most savour,” he wrote.

Time for a history lesson: the Funan Kingdom, the first Khmer state, is Southeast Asia’s oldest empire. Culturally influenced by India, it rose to prominence in the first century AD. Funan’s cosmopolitan capital Oc-eo, south of Cambodia’s current capital Phnom Penh, was already an established international trading port between India and China when sailors and merchants arrived from the West, from Greece, the Roman Orient and Persia. Archaeologists have unearthed everything from Greco-Roman jewellery to Persian coins there.

But can we blame people for thinking that Cambodian cuisine is a mild for of Thai if they’ve only eaten Cambodian food at tourist restaurants around Pub Street, where chefs have diluted the more challenging flavours – the bitter, sour, salty, pungent notes that Cambodians love so much – so they don’t get fired for all those uneaten dishes returned to the kitchen. It’s not the diner’s fault if the chef has adjusted his Cambodian food so that it tastes more Thai, because he thinks that’s what they want.

We know from Chinese records that there was an abundance of everything and that it was traded, cooked and eaten: fruit, vegetables, spices, herbs, roots, leaves, and flowers; fish, seafood, sea turtles, and crocodiles from the lake and ocean; cattle, chickens, ducks, geese, swine, and sheep. There were indigenous noodles as well as rice, and an array of fermented wines and spirits. The scenes depicted in the temple bas reliefs support this.

That means it’s perfectly acceptable to have a sour soup, a pungent relish, and bitter greens. In fact, sour, pungent and bitter tend to be preferred by most Cambodians. Although increasingly everything is becoming a little sweeter, due to the changing tastes of the younger generation, something being felt right across Southeast Asia.

full https://grantourismotravels.com/dispell ... ine-myths/
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Re: Dispelling Cambodian Cuisine Myths — It’s Not ‘Mild Thai’! (Long Read)

Post by Yobbo » Thu Nov 07, 2019 2:06 pm

Ordered an Amok from Temple food & bev in pub St & got a curry with scrambled egg :facepalm:
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Re: Dispelling Cambodian Cuisine Myths — It’s Not ‘Mild Thai’! (Long Read)

Post by j57 » Sun Dec 01, 2019 3:54 am

I knew 2 Thai ladies in the early 80s in the USA. They cooked for me. I bought a Professional Thai cookbook translated to English in 95.... Finally, I spent months in Thailand with locals eating North to South...and in between.
So, I have a little bit of knowledge of Thai Cuisine.
Fast forward to Cambodia....I ate Riverside like most barang 1st timers....then, had a tuk tuk driver take me to Khmer joints where we ate together...I met some bar ladies who took me to excellent places..
Finally, I married a gal from Kampong Cham who is a very skilled cook... She tried to cook for US...to share.
Eventually, she learned to cook for me and for her separately.
I am a bit shocked that I don't like what she loves.
I am happy to see the delight in her eyes as she feasts on Khmer dishes she makes using ingredients I have never seen or have no desire to ingest .
I never have visited or lived in a country where I didn't love the food.
Khmer food is unique.
There was an earlier topic about fish sauce...I love and have used fish sauce for 40 years. I found a brand in Thailand that was like extra virgin olive oil.
The first tapping ...so so delicious....MEGACHEF...
even Thai people went wild when I turned them on to it... available in Cambodia...
I love real Amok...but, Sophea takes her homemade prahok to another level.
Her bor bor is fit for a King..
But, the sour and bitter and bones just turn me off.
I sure enjoyed the history lesson of the first Khmer empire...
It makes sense there was a huge trade network in what was once Khmer territory at the mouth of the Mekong...
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