Posts Tagged ‘Khmer Cuisine’

Oh, yes!  This is one Cambodian (Khmer) sauce you won’t be able to live without.  I kid you not!!!  I love a great, flaky white fish, broiled and placed on top of a bed of aromatic Jasmine rice.  Here is the best part, I don’t dip… I pour a line of Ginger sauce down the middle of it all, sit back in the silence broken only by the melody of the aromas and delicately roll my meal in my mouth–bite per bite.  Ummmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Photo courtesy of:  http://www.khatiya-korner.com/images/food/fishsauce_dipping.jpg


Ginger Fish Dipping Sauce


1-3 hot chili peppers, finely minced.  Remember, heat is optional!  Use none or a little or all three.  It is up to you. 

2  1/2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced

1/3 cup fresh ginger, finely grated

1/4 cup raw cane sugar, powdered

1/4 cup fish sauce (make your own or commercial is fine)

1/4 cup hot water

2 fresh limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup fresh lime juice)


Place all ingredients in a small, glass sauce pan.  I ALWAYS let this recipe sit in the fridge for 24 hours before using.  I remove it from the fridge and heat it gently and serve.  You may be asking why I use a glass sauce pan.  Well, it is simply this:  lime juice and ginger can be quite acidic and I never place acidic elements (tomato, lime, lemon, etc.) in a metal pan.  Believe it or not the metal can be corroded quickly and spoil the fresh taste of whatever you are cooking!

Hope all of you have enjoyed a brief visit to Khmer cooking.  I just want to tease you all a bit with what will be coming soon…..MOTHER SAUCES.   With a limited number of base sauces you can create endless and wondrous sauces for any and every dish.  It’s time to get creative with Mother Sauces.  And, a big thank you to the wonderful reader who recommended lessons on Mother Sauces two months ago.  Finally, I can meet your desires.  Stay tuned……..




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I know, I deserve a spanking.  Speaking of which, where is Dougray Scott when you need the little bugger.  Of course, I could be punished even more…………….. 

Photo Courtesy of:  http://stars.hitflip.de/Dougray_Scott_HF_L_2_58493_24101.gif

A special treat for those of you who didn’t know who Dougray Scott was.  I know, I should wish for a lot more than a spanking.  It’s those darn lips I tell you.  What was God thinking when he made them!  Didn’t he know women would swoon and dream of being locked in their deep embrace for days on end?  I’m sure he did.  Just one more part of our torture of living a mortal life.   I have to admit, I’m not one for a lot of temptation (I’m just not tempted by much but great spices, herbs and food), but I will say, to all the world, I’d give it up to have a go at Dougray Scott.  Sigh.  Must pull myself away from the photo and get on with my apology.

Where was I.  Oh Yes.  I am sorry for not posting for some time but life is still very busy.  As a means of apology I am offering a great Khmer recipe for Coconut Sauce.  I use it as often as I can and I love it.  Khmer cooking doesn’t shy away from Coconut sauces at all, in fact this is a commonly used sauce in deserts as well as main dishes.  All I can say is that it is simple, delicious, and well, I could do a lot with it if Dougray Scott were in the room with me now.  ; )

Khmer Coconut Sauce


2 cups coconut milk (fresh is best, but canned is fine as well)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt


Mix all ingredients together in a small sauce pan.  Heat and allow to simmer, stirring regularly, until sauce thickens.  It’s ready to go!  Hot or Cold.  Day or Night.  I love this on vanilla ice cream, sponge cake, and it is wonderful on rice, fish, light chicken dishes, etc.  Just let your imagination roll along with this one!!!

Well, my apology should allow you to have many wonderful and flavorful meals.  Oh, and the picture of Dougray Scott should allow you many a delightful fantasy.  Eat well my friends!

Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.ruggedelegantliving.com/a/images/Dougray.Scott.Pro.BWImage.jpg

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I know.  I know.  I know.  It has been a long time since my last post.  I am trying to juggle way too many things right now, but at least I’m back for now.  The long promised Khmer Curry Paste recipe is soon to follow.  Unlike other curry mixes this one won’t be a throat burner.  Oh no, this is a subtle, delicious, can’t stay away from it curry paste.    Frankly, as you who follow know, I am addicted to everything flavorful, especially Dougray Scott.  If you don’t know who Dougray Scott is take a look on Google and be prepared to have your heart stop at the site of those luscious lips and intelligent brow.  Sigh.  Dougray Scott, Khmer Curry Paste, a private hotel room with a sauna, Lisa Gerrard on the surround sound……..  Sorry, got carried away there for a moment.  Get out your mortar and pedestal and let’s get started.  Just remember that this recipe will make around a cup of paste or about enough for one large recipe using the blend or two smaller recipes.  I always say it is easier to use less spices than to have to figure out how to blunt the flavor from overuse.  Take this for what it is…a word from the spice wise.

Photo Courtesy of:   http://www.cambodia-cooking-class.com/images/top-mortar-2.jpg

Khmer Curry Paste

Remember, if you don’t know what ingredients I am mentioning, look back at my previous posts on Cambodian spices and herbs.  Also you can get all of these ingredients in large cities or if you live in a rural area, the internet offers you many sites from which to purchase these items.


1/4 cup peanut oil (for those worried about fat in their diet, canola oil or extra virgin olive oil can be used)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black peppercorns

1/4 cup sliced turmeric

8 medium cloves skinless garlic sliced

6 fresh or dried Tai chilies

1 fresh or dried Spur Chile (I have read recipes calling for New Mexico Chili pods, but I have never tried them in this recipe) 

1/4 cup sliced and trimmed galangal root (relative of ginger–see previous post)

2-3 tsp mushroom powder

1/2 tsp shrimp paste

1 lemongrass stalk, cleaned and finely sliced

1/4 cup peeled and sliced shallots

10 kaffir lime leaves (note:  these must be finely shredded)

If you are using dried Chili pods remember to soak them in warm water for one half hour and then drain before using.  Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend for at least 15 minutes or until you notice the ingredients are forming a smooth paste.  Keep the edges pulled in with a spatula so all ingredients are well incorporated.  Use fresh with your recipe or store in refrigerator for no more than one week. 

How was that for simple!  And, soon to come will be an incredible recipe for you to use your spice mix with.  I can’t wait to hear about your smiles as you use your new spice blend paste!

Photo Courtesy of:  http://images.travelpod.com/users/timrie/4.1262609656.making-curry-paste.jpg

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Photo Courtesy of:  http://www.ediblelandscaping.com/Plants/PlantImages/kaffir%20lime%20DSC_0624.jpg


Yes, I know I have been tardy in my posting.  But, my return from vacation was met with a huge water leak in a wall line and a wonderful visit from my cousin from Italy and his lovely significant other.  What a great way to spend my time–with the relatives, not the leak and subsequent clean-up.  So, on with our travels and spice/herb education.  I promised Cambodian or Khmer spices and herbs and here they are!

1.  Kaffir Lime.  The lime is small, very green, and has a bumpy skin.  When Kaffir Lime is used in Khmer cooking it is only the rind of the fruit that is used.  The leaves of the Kaffir Lime tree are used as well and are called Makrud.  The leaves give your dish a definite citrus flavor!  You will find kaffir Lime leaves used in many South East Asian dishes.

2. Rice-paddy Herb.  This herb has a very lemony flavor with plenty of plucky tang.  It is most often used in fish and seafood dishes.  I have seen it used in salads as well.

3.  Galangal.  Many people mistake Galangal as ginger and it is from the same family.  But, its flavor leaves a peppery, lemony taste on the tongue.  After a few moments, I could swear I get a hint of pine pitch.  Sigh.  Just remember that Galangal is not ginger!

4.  Taro Root.  Taro is a tuber (root) that is very starchy and tastes like a potato with some lingering nutty after-notes.  Taro is often used as a staple and a major benefit is that its starch has a definite purple color.  When you see purple”ish” ice-creams and desserts in Cambodia, they are often colored with Taro starch.

5.  Asian Coriander.   Believe it or not, Asian Coriander is not related to the Coriander we normally know.  It is from an entirely different family, but its flavor is like a stronger Coriander.

6.  Water Spinach.  Water Spinach grows in wet-lands and often the stems are picked just like asparagus.  Also the tender roots are eaten as well.  The taste of this relative to morning-glory is just like Spinach and it is frequently eaten in Khmer cooking.

7.  Turmeric.  Turmeric, or as it is known in Khmer, Kunyit, if most often used freshly grated from the root.  Turmeric is used for color and to add flavor and aroma to curry dishes.  Americans are most often used to powdered Turmeric, which, depending on its age, truly lacks the beautiful color and aroma of freshly grated Turmeric.

8.  Star Anise.  Star Anise, as we have learned, tastes and smells of licorice.  Anise is used to flavor baked goods as well as savory dishes.  When I lived in Viet Nam it was common for locals to chew the Anise seed as a breath freshener.

9.  Jicama Root.  Jicama Root has become increasingly popular in America and can be found in most large grocery stores.  It tastes like a cross between a potato, an apple, and a turnip.  I love eating raw root as it is quite sweet and crunchy.  In Asian cultures Jicama is often substituted for water chestnut in stir fries.

10.  Cilantro.  As we discussed in an earlier post, Coriander and Cilantro are one and the same!  The leaf portion of the plant is Cilantro and the seed portion is Coriander.  

11.  Tamarind.  The Tamarind pod has a fruit whose pulp is, generally speaking,  sweet.  Thai Tamarind is quite sour, as are its leaves, both of which are often used in soups and stew-like dishes.

12.  Finger Root.  This root is considered a relative of ginger root, but is much milder in flavor.  Interestingly enough, I have heard it argued that Finger Root is not related to ginger at all.  Who knows!  Finger Root is softer than ginger root and the skin is removed and the internal meat is julienned.  You can rest assured that Finger Root will be found in most Cambodian curries.

13.  Sweet Basil.   As discussed in a previous post, Basil is a member of the mint family and is widely used throughout World cooking.  However, I am told that the Thai variety has a subtle taste of licorice.  I have never tried Thai Sweet Basil myself.

14.  Lemon grass.  Cambodian cuisine, and East Asian cuisine, widely uses Lemon grass herb.  I personally do not like the flavor of Lemon grass as I find it reminds me of citronella candles and even a tiny bit too much leaves a chemical taste on my tongue.  But, I must be in the minority on this as Lemon grass is a popular herb and the main flavoring in “Kroeung”, a popular Cambodian curry paste.

15.  Angkeadei in Khmer or Sesbania Grandiflora in its scientific terminology is a bitter herb not used much outside Cambodian cuisine.  We can say that Cambodian cuisine accepts bitterness in its cuisine as a sought after flavor.  Both flowers and leaves are used in cooking.

16.  Mreah or Bitter Melon.  This plant’s leaf is often used to attain a bitter note in certain Cambodian dishes.

Well, this has been a bit longer than I anticipated.  I’ll let you all catch your breath, get on your computers and browse on-line East Asian groceries for Khmer spices and herbs.  Later, you can fall asleep to the dreams of tropical jungles, foods of incredible color, friendly local peoples, and aromas drifting past on moist, warm breezes.

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