Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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‘I really think that Cambodian food deserves a place in the world’
Posted on: June 27, 2018 | Cambodia
Scouring the countryside for traditional recipes on the verge of fading from living memory, chef Rotanak Ros is striving to put Cambodian cuisine on the world map through cooking classes, quick and easy recipes, and luxury-dining nights at her riverside terrace

Even on the deck of Rotanak Ros’s terrace house on the banks of the Mekong River, Cambodia’s midday heat is stifling. Despite the blazing stovetop, the fans hang motionless in their cages so as not to disturb the filming of the day’s cooking class. The camera rolls its gaze from the pumpkin lying in even clumps on her chopping board to the rich red clay pot on the stove. Chef Nak takes a breath, wipes the sweat beaded on her brow and smiles. Take two.

It looks like hard work, and it is. But Rotanak – who goes by Chef Nak – is adamant in her quest to draw traditional Cambodian cuisine back from what she fears is the brink of extinction. Her website, rotanak.co, is replete with recipes drawn from her childhood: kanh, a refreshing salad traditionally served with fresh duck blood; crispy shrimp cakes that were once all she ate on her long walks to school; and, perhaps most tantalising, a caramel stew garnished with black mushroom and bamboo shoots.

Nak is no stranger to the work of cultural preservation. For eight years, the self-taught chef worked with Cambodia Living Arts, an organisation founded by survivors of the bloody Khmer Rouge regime that has spent the past 20 years working to rekindle the Kingdom’s fading cultural arts. It was here that Nak began to realise just how fragile the thread had become that binds together generations of Cambodian families.

Full article: http://sea-globe.com/the-cambodian-chef ... l-recipes/

And check out her video. How to cook Crispy Shrimp Cakes - Kompis Chean. Amazing.
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Re: Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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A Champion of Cambodian Cuisine
Rotanak Ros, home cook turned ardent cultural ambassador, is on a mission to revive her country's ancient food traditions—before they're lost to history
By Crystal Shi
Updated: October 24, 2019
Image
Rotanak Ros, or Chef Nak, at the market. (Nataly Lee)
NEW YORK—As Rotanak Ros stands over the stove, peering intently at the thin, dark amber sauce she’s rapidly stirring together in a skillet, an incredible aroma wafts into the air.

Garlic and shallots, sautéed until browned and fragrant, form the backbone. To that, Ros has added brown sugar, caramelized to deepen its molasses-y sweetness; fish sauce, pungent and savory; and tamarind, a touch sweet but mostly mouth-puckeringly sour.

Together, Ros says as she offers me a spoonful to taste, they perfectly demonstrate the balance of contrasting flavors—sweet, savory, sour—that defines much of Khmer, or Cambodian cuisine—what I’ve come to her to learn about, and what she’s traveled to New York City, all the way from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to teach.

Ros—or Chef Nak, as she prefers to be called—is a self-taught home cook turned chef, entrepreneur, and ardent cultural ambassador. With her eponymous food business, Rotanak, she’s on a mission to revive traditional Khmer cuisine and bring it to the rest of the world.

“Cambodia has a very long, rich history,” Ros says. Its cuisine is one shaped over millennia of cultural influences—Indian, Chinese, Thai, French, Vietnamese—meeting the region’s abundance of fresh seafood, rice, and tropical produce. But it’s often overlooked, overshadowed by its Thai and Vietnamese neighbors (indeed, a common introduction to Cambodian food is “kind of like Thai, but not as sweet or spicy”—chilies are optional). Ros wants to change that.
https://www.theepochtimes.com/a-champio ... 19847.html
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Re: Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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Internationally Recognized Khmer Cuisine Expert, Chef Nak, Brings Landmark Cookbook to American and Australian Audiences - 'Nhum: Recipes From a Cambodian Kitchen'
An essential historic document helping to preserve the rich cultural heritage of the Cambodian people through the important medium of food

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Chef Nak
Apr 05, 2021, 08:42 ET

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, April 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Celebrity chef and Cambodian native, Chef Nak (https://chefnak.com/) announced her groundbreaking cookbook, "Nhum," was now available to U.S. and Australian audiences for the first time. Originally published in 2019 as the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign and a two-year journey of discovery, "Nhum" is the product of Chef Nak's personal commitment to preserving an important part of Cambodian history – offering dozens of traditional Khmer recipes and presenting them to the world. Filled with stories told from the heart of Cambodia, "Nhum" is also lavishly illustrated by photographer Nataly Lee, who brings the landscape of her homeland alive while presenting Chef Nak's remarkable culinary creations.
"We believe that Khmer cuisine is an art form that sits proudly with Cambodia's rich cultural artistic heritage," said Chef Nak. "Through books, teaching, TV and film, social media and exclusive private dining experiences, we hope to show the world the art of traditional Khmer living."

Nhum: Recipes From a Cambodian Kitchen

The tragic political history of Cambodia is well known – Angkor Wat, and the Killing Fields – but few outside Cambodia have ever experienced its ancient and remarkable cuisine.

"Nhum" means "Eat" in Khmer, the language of Cambodia, and eating well is Chef Nak's intention: offering up over 80 traditional recipes, most of them passed down through oral tradition and never before available, even in restaurants in Cambodia. Cooking together as a family to feed everyone, while passing down secret recipes and clever kitchen tricks, is at the center of Cambodian lifestyle and history.

And "Nhum" is a living historic document, representing a new gold standard for Cambodian cookbooks, with most recipes lovingly collected from older cooks who wanted to preserve their unique culinary legacies before they passed on – including little-known important nutritional and medicinal properties of traditional ingredients used in Khmer cooking. Each recipe is accompanied by a memorable anecdote, and throughout the entire volume, stunningly illustrated with hundreds of photographs by the talented Nataly Lee – a Cambodian-Australian photographer whose keen eye and aesthetic appreciation of the flavors of her homeland became the perfect partner to Chef Nak's recipes.
https://www.prnewswire.com/news-release ... 61704.html
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Re: Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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I'd heard people say that Cambodian food isn't so great on here, I think it's really wonderful and neat. It's a great project to help build back from the terrible KR days. I hope they achieve great international notoriety.
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Re: Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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Meet 3 Wonderwomen Evolving Food & Drink in Cambodia
April 5, 2021

Who doesn't like to eat and drink? Not us! Here at Raintree, we take our eating game seriously. Nothing beats treating ourselves to a fantastic meal after a long day of hustle, but also eating can be so much more than just filling our stomachs. Mealtimes can be the one time in a day where we get to relax, spend some quality time with our family, and even create lifelong edible memories. This is why we have so much appreciation for the people who work behind the scenes to make the most magical eating experiences possible - especially in our local community.
Image
Left to right: Chef Nak - author of Nhum, Sok Kimsan - Exec Chef at Sombok, Gnean Eden - Restaurant & Beverage Manager at Rosewood Phnom Penh

We recently discovered some of the most pioneering women that are setting the standard in Cambodia’s food and beverage industry. Being a female leader in the service sector is tough work as it is (check out our friend Tory Stewart’s non-profit initiative Hospitality Speaks for reports), but with the industry being so compromised by Covid, we wanted to highlight some of their incredible stories and ambitions.

Kimsan: Passing on knowledge across generations in the kitchen

Kimsan is an executive chef spearheading two different restaurants with all-women teams in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, two cities in Cambodia that she believes are bursting with culture and energy. Before going to school to study culinary science, Kimsan had her head start in the kitchen when she tagged along with her mum, the village chef. She catered to all different types of events across Kampot, their hometown. This experience primarily anchored her to want to continue learning about Khmer cuisine - so much so that she spent countless hours researching forgotten recipes in the national archives and even later were trained by His Majesty King Norodom
Image
Photo courtesy of Sombok Restaurant

Acknowledging the sacred nature of this knowledge, Kimsan and her chef partner (whose namesake is also Kimsan!) are more determined than ever to pass on what they’ve learnt to their teams.

"Throughout my career, I've developed over 100 unique recipes and explored even more of historical ones. There's no point in keeping them to myself. So, I’m doing my best to pass on as much knowledge to the next generation of cooks in Cambodia as possible."

What’s even more amazing, is their new restaurant menu features iconic Khmer dishes like ‘នំបញ្ចុក - num banhchok’ that are vegetarian and even vegan! Phnom Penh friends, find the Kimsan twins in their newest outlet Sombok Restaurant just a few minutes tuktuk from Raintree on riverside.
Full article: https://www.raintreecambodia.com/news/w ... -and-drink
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Re: Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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KTabi wrote: Tue Apr 06, 2021 2:35 am I'd heard people say that Cambodian food isn't so great on here, I think it's really wonderful and neat. It's a great project to help build back from the terrible KR days. I hope they achieve great international notoriety.
What has it got to do with those 3-4 years? I'd imagine the almost 30 years of wars and turmoil affected people's incomes and diets but people still eat the same food they've probably eaten for centuries. Some Cambodian food can be great but a lot of it is just a bit meh. 8)
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Re: Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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“My journey began when I traveled to the U.S. in 2010. I saw cuisine from our neighbours everywhere - Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore - but none from Cambodia. I wondered why this was, when our cuisine is just as good.”

Unfortunately it is not.
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Re: Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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John Bingham wrote: Tue Apr 06, 2021 9:35 pm
KTabi wrote: Tue Apr 06, 2021 2:35 am I'd heard people say that Cambodian food isn't so great on here, I think it's really wonderful and neat. It's a great project to help build back from the terrible KR days. I hope they achieve great international notoriety.
What has it got to do with those 3-4 years? I'd imagine the almost 30 years of wars and turmoil affected people's incomes and diets but people still eat the same food they've probably eaten for centuries. Some Cambodian food can be great but a lot of it is just a bit meh. 8)
By KR days I do mean the war, then genocide days, then turmoil of war and poverty after which I believe is at least partially influenced by it. When I read and hear about Cambodia I hear people, perhaps in an exaggerated way, talk about this turmoil of the past having an impact on food culture but I more meant build back Cambodia itself with lots of things like the cultural artifacts projects and these efforts to showcase the food. Lots of food in the post WW2 era modernized over time with all kinds of new dishes, I would love to see what comes from Cambodia.
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Re: Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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Well just check it out yourself sometime. Honestly though, I've eaten Cambodian food thousands of times but I looked at those articles and there's nothing I'd be too interested in eating. Especially this one which is the scrapings from a rice pot that I often see drying at the side of the road. With gunk. 8)

Image

It's actually quite tasty but I can't imagine ordering it.

Image
Prawns with a melange of salad and orange slices with a lovely bowl of Sriracha sauce. :?

Those crispy shrimp fritters in the Youtube video taste good but they are full of spiky bits of antennae etc.


Eating Cambodian style usually involves a whole lot of different dishes shared, it's never just one. That can make it much more enjoyable, and family feasts are often very carefully prepared with fresh herbs etc so can be very tasty. Sometimes you just have to pass on the chicken knuckles or giant river snails though.
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Re: Chef Nak's Quest to Save Traditional Cambodian Cuisine

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KTabi wrote:
John Bingham wrote: Tue Apr 06, 2021 9:35 pm
KTabi wrote: Tue Apr 06, 2021 2:35 am I'd heard people say that Cambodian food isn't so great on here, I think it's really wonderful and neat. It's a great project to help build back from the terrible KR days. I hope they achieve great international notoriety.
What has it got to do with those 3-4 years? I'd imagine the almost 30 years of wars and turmoil affected people's incomes and diets but people still eat the same food they've probably eaten for centuries. Some Cambodian food can be great but a lot of it is just a bit meh. 8)
By KR days I do mean the war, then genocide days, then turmoil of war and poverty after which I believe is at least partially influenced by it. When I read and hear about Cambodia I hear people, perhaps in an exaggerated way, talk about this turmoil of the past having an impact on food culture but I more meant build back Cambodia itself with lots of things like the cultural artifacts projects and these efforts to showcase the food. Lots of food in the post WW2 era modernized over time with all kinds of new dishes, I would love to see what comes from Cambodia.
That's an overused cliche. It's not like all culture was totally destroyed and people forgot how to cook traditional food, just like it's not true the food they eat now is the same as in the time of Angkor, when like half the crops now used are New World crops.

My main problem with a lot of these new age Khmer places is that you're basically paying 10x the price of something you could get down the road that's just as good. You're basically paying for plating more than anything else as the cost of the ingredients isn't higher like with some foreign restaurants that import various goods. Truffle is expensive, Khmer spices and herbs aren't...
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