How to cook homemade Khmer food
Cooking is passion, and it doesn’t matter if you do this at home or as a professional chef. We focus on food in Cambodia and the traditional way of cooking. The recipes at our host families were handed down from generation to generation, from the grandparents to the parents to the children. Dishes at our hosts are also prepared the traditional way, often on open fire, using ingredients from the garden or the own farm. When you visit our host, you will learn how Khmer homemade food is prepared and cooked in a very authentic way. And of course we and the hosts are happy if you want to help cooking. So we take you today on a food tour in Cambodia and show you how to make delicious local food.
One of the main differences to western cooking are the kirchen and the tools. Many of our hosts cook outside the house, what is still common all around Asia. Even modern houses have the kitchen outside, nowadays behind under a tin roof. The reason: ventilation systems aren’t known here and you don’t want to have the smell of cooking in your house. Some of our hosts do have a kitchen room, but will always open all doors and windows then get fresh air and the feeling of openness.
While in houses and apartments the use of gas is more common, on the countryside most families still use wood or charcoal. Both is cheaper for them, and charcoal can be bought from passing by vendors with long trailers. Wood is mostly collected from the ground or from dead trees. When you eat with locals, it is also common to help each other and cook together.
How to make Tuk Meric
Our host Srey Moch makes a delicious Beef Lok Lak, one of the most famous meals in Cambodia, even if its not a traditional Khmer homemade food (it came from Vietnam, and you can read more here). What makes the difference is the sauce on the side: it is a mix of lemon, salt and pepper, called Tuk Meric. Some families like Srey Moch’s use a dash of fish sauce and sugar and some minced garlic and chili in it as well. The beef itself comes already with a sauce (made from oyster sauce, soy sauce and onions), but will be dipped in the side sauce as well. You can also try to just eat the rice with the lemon-pepper-salt-mix!
Homemade Khmer food 101: Pork balls
There are many ways to make a vegetable soup with pork balls, but our host Vannarith has a special recipe. Usually you would just like season minced pork and form it to small balls. But when we talk about homemade Khmer food, the pork balls aren’t just rolled. The pork will be minced and them smashed on a table of wood board, picked up and smashed again. The reason for this process is to break the proteins, what enhanced taste and texture. If you come a bit more early, Vannarith will show you how it’s done properly, and you can even try it out yourself. You will see that the shape is also different, they aren’t formed like perfect round balls, but a bit more flat.
Soup with papaya (Sngor Sup Lahong )
In Cambodian cuisine you see the use of fruits as vegetables quite often. The mango salad is made from green or sour mangos, so is the papaya salad. Our host Panha Yem in Battambang cooks Sngor Sup Lahong, and one important ingredient is green papaya (Khmer: lahong). You may only know papaya as a sweet orange fruit, but in most dishes Khmer homemade food is made with the, not ripe state. It will be cut into cubes and then cooked together with pork rips. The soup itself is clear and the meat and papaya giving it the distinctive taste. It is common that you eat the soup together with rice and other dishes. Most food comes either as it is cooked or together, but there is no concept of courses (only fruits will be served last.)
Want to try it? Just check out all of our hosts.