Area: Over 180,000 sq km; 90th largest in the world
Slightly smaller than Oklahoma
Population: Over 14.7 million; 66th largest in the world
Capital: Phnom Penh
Ethnic Groups: 90% Khmer
Exports: Hong Kong is their top partner
Khmer Rouge: This regime, led by Pol Pot, is said to be responsible for killing around 2 million people, one-third of the contemporary population (mid 1970's). According to Wikipedia:
They immediately evacuated the cities and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. They attempted to rebuild the country's agriculture on the model of the 11th century, discarded Western medicine, and destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered Western.Source: CIA Factbook, Wikipedia
I have been more excited for Cambodia than any other country in a long time. First of all THANK YOU GOD that I am finally in the C's. Seriously.
Secondly, for a recent wedding, Kevin and I were in Milwaukee. We visited the art museum with his parents. I think it is the most gorgeous and architecturally innovative museum I've ever seen. Also, they had an exhibit on the Forbidden City. I enjoyed it a lot, and of course it dumped us out into the gift shop. In the midst of laughing about things like the "Chinglish" books and admiring the beautiful scarves, Kevin found the cookbooks. They had some Chinese ones, but they also had one for Southeast Asia. It looked beautiful and interesting and I immediately fell in love.
|And Pad Thai on the cover? Instant happiness.|
After the first narrowing down, Kevin picked. We settled on four recipes: Fragrant Cambodian Chicken Wings, Stir-Fried Pumpkins and Snow Peas, Cambodian Garlic Pork (which required another recipe as a dip), and Sweet New Years Rice Cakes. Phew. And since I wasn't going to cook a four-course meal just for Kevin, we invited Rachel over to partake in the fruits of labor.
I knew that shopping was going to be an interesting adventure, so I looked for a new international store that would focus on this part of the world more. Enter El Grande International Supermarket. It had mixed reviews online, but it was on the way home from work which was one of my biggest criteria. Walking in for the first time was almost as overwhelming as going to Ikea (but not quite). You could buy whole sugar canes. There were more types of cucumber than I knew existed. I saw a number of ingredients that were in recipes I rejected because of the obscure ingredients.
Unfortunately, the store was organized by nationality rather than type of food, which made some things rather difficult to find. Also, when I asked what one unlabeled food was, the employee had to go get someone who knew English to write it down for him. It felt authentic, but wasn't very convenient. I ended up coming out of there with: lemongrass, squash, and glutinous rice. I was never able to find banana leaves or galangal. I guess my search for a store will never truly be over.
Since I knew there was going to be a lot of work involved, I did as much early prep as I could. The chicken wings had to sit in the spices for a while, so they were a natural starting place.
|Running back across the road, because you really couldn't tell if another car was coming.|
|They are super long.|
|Don't keep the end part!|
|Ginger. This was my substitution for galangal. The book has a lot of reference material and was clear to point out they aren't the same thing, but it was my only option.|
|Kevin's mom got me these gloves so I wouldn't burn myself anymore. After we took the picture, we found out they weren't spicy at all.|
|There was also garlic!|
|Garlic, fish sauce, and some basic spices.|
That was really about it for the entree, so I could move on to soaking the rice for the dessert. Yay!
|Glutinous rice = sweet rice = sticky rice. I had been unsure.|
|Tesla loves laundry day. It is apparently relaxing.|
|Curie would rather sun herself.|
|I had to keep cutting it in half, and then half again, then half again...etc.|
|Sanitizing. He was sure to make sure I had a picture of his thoughtfulness.|
|I was more than a little concerned for Rachel's hands here.|
At this point all that remains is baking the chicken, and stir-frying the meat and veggies. The pork dish was supposed to have a lot of adornments to eat with it. I missed the part where we needed lettuce to wrap it in. Oops. Kevin still made the plate pretty.
|Who knew he had it in him?|
|These look very different from the picture in the book. I blame it on the consistency, or something.|
|Snowpeas, squash, green onions, oil, and some basic spices.|
|This was the extra "recipe" that was involved in the pork dish. A dip of salt, pepper, and lime.|
|The chicken wings were an appetizer, which is why they were mostly gone.|
The stir-fry was good but not particularly special. With the highly spiced chicken, it was probably a good idea to have a side like this to balance it out. There were ingredients I wouldn't normally use, but the rest was like when I stir-fry regularly. Whether this means the dish isn't that exciting or I use authentic techniques regularly, I'm not sure. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.
The garlic pork was similar. I would not have been surprised to see an item like that on a very American menu. The part that stood out the most was the dip. It was so strong that you had to be careful how much you put on. Overall, it was certainly tasty. Having the lettuce to wrap the meat and veggies in would have made a difference. Then it would become more of a finger food and had a completely different eating experience. Figuring out how they pulled the pork could have helped too.
Obviously, I don't have a final conclusion on the dessert. :-( If I made it some other time (I now have that giant thing of rice...), do you want to know what happens? Hopefully I can find banana leaves too, and not have to use aluminum foil like the book suggested.
The summer is (already), coming to a close, so hopefully I will get more consistent with posting soon. We'll see how that goes.
Next time: Cameroon