Friday, 4 July 2008

Cambodian Eats - Cambodia part 4

I must admit I didn't fall in love with Cambodian food. It has all the flavour I love - garlic, lime juice, chillies, fish sauce - but I found something lacking... not sure if I can put my finger on it. But perhaps I wasn't looking beyond the tourist mould?I'll have give it another go at some point.

Nhom kra-oa ch'rook - lotus root salad from the FCC Angkor hotel restaurant - the Angkor Kitchen. An interesting dish on the menu but sadly uninspiring on the plate. According to the menu, there was supposed to be caramelised pork, smoked shrimp, fried shallots in a hot and sour dressing. The chunks of lotus root did come with beansprouts, dried (rather than smoked?) shrimp and nuggets of .. dried-out pork. Tang came from the squeeze of lime which came with the dish but other than that, the flavours were flat - if any at all.

Apparently the 'national dish' of Cambodia (up there with Amok), the Angkor Kitchen's version of Lok Lak Saich Go was delicious!Well marinated, tender slices of beef in a sweet, salty 'Cambodian bbq' with a fried egg on top served with a steamed rice and a little serving of 'mixed sauce'. Where lok lak tasted bland and almost .. lifeless at the other places I tried it, the flavours were bursting forth here with the other important factor of some very good meat. And here is where my problem probably lies... the need of flavour. A tongue brought up on too much of the good life? :) Pricewise, this dish (jazzed up for foreign taste buds?) did set me back a whole lot more than if we had headed to a local restaurant down the road. What the heck... I loved this it!

The others picked an assortment of non-Khmer dishes. Here is a very bad photo (sorry!) of the grilled sirloin with dauphinoise potato, green beans and optional sauce of mushroom and something else which I cannot remember.

The Chinese poached chicken with lime and coriander rice dumplings, spring onion and ginger sambal. I don't think my mother was terrible impressed with the dumplings as she ended ordering a separate bowl of rice - which in Angkor Kitchen terms was the Steamed Battambang rice with roasted coconut (not pictured).

I've been racking my brains for the name of this restaurant but I still can't remember it. But it's located 5 doors down from Khmer Kitchen on the same street. First up, Banana Flower Salad. I know the Malays at home eat the banana flower but I don't believe I've ever had any. This was rather yummy with lots of herbs and other crunchy vegetables. Rather like a Thai style salad.

For those who are totally indecisive on which Amok (normally fish steamed in a thick coconut based curry but with the hordes of tourists, one can have this dish with different meats or go vegetarian) to go for, have the Amok Degustation. The five little banana leaf wrapped parcels contain fish, chicken, pork, beef and vegetables. Interesting concept but after a while it gets a little boring sampling bits of meat, then fish, then a bit of veg - all cooked in the same sauce. For 6 people, we did have a whole lot more dishes but I soon learnt that every restaurant we went to in Cambodia and Vietnam had pretty dim lighting, which meant plenty of very fuzzy photos! Yup, these were the best of the lot! :(

Dessert! We must be truly indecisive people :) One of the desserts up was the Sorbet Degustation. This was definitely more interesting than the Amok Degustation! Sorbet flavours from the top: lime (which was lip smacking-ly sour ... lovely!!), passion fruit (not a favourite of mine as I'm not keen on the fruit), coconut (rich), mango (yummy!) and pear (pretty good).

Grilled Bananas with a palm sugar and coconut caramel sauce was very tasty. The palm sugar gave the caramel a very tasty twist and the coconut cream made it nicely thick and luscious. The bananas were the little ones and full of flavour but I did get a unripe piece - yuck! I hate the texture and taste of bananas that haven't fully ripen (I actually prefer my bananas with nice big brown spots with any lingering green bits long gone).

Breakfast on our last day in Cambodia. As part of our B&B deal with the hotel, we got to choose from a selected breakfast menu. I chose the breakfast panini with scrambled eggs, bacon and drizzled with lemon oil. A little oily but very tasty. Although I like lots of flavour in my food, I really dislike the strong smell/taste of pork. I say this with some embarrassment as I was brought up on a strong diet of pork (the Chinese love their pork!) and I do love it but just not all pork dishes. I tend to stay away from pork chops, pork scratchings and now...the bacon pictured above. Thickly sliced, it was bacon in all it's pork-y glory but just a little too much for me :)

A bowl of mixed fruit with cubes of watermelon, pineapple, apple and dragonfruit (which I find .. I'm tempted to say pointless ... but let's instead go with bland and tasteless). Unless it's cut up into tiny bits and mixed in with other fruit, I'm not inclined to eating it. Jo, on the other, rather enjoyed dragonfruit and I gave her mine.

Chocolate Brownie from The Blue Pumpkin cafe in Siem Reap town right by the market square. It was a nice brownie with a touch of coffee coming through (too much as addicted chocoholic Jo proclaimed- who unsurprisingly dislikes coffee). On our first day in Cambodia, we wandered down to the cafe and Edwin (another of our party) bought a croissant which was oh sooo good! But the day we went back to stock up on goodies for our trip to Vietnam, the displayed baked goods were swarmed with flies and I wasn't going to take a chance and opted for a pre-packaged brownie.

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