Although I loved the pace of the Don Dhet, I did not love the food. A girl can only enjoy so many fruit shakes & guest house fried noodles. So imagine how thrilled I was to have Phnom Penh as my next destination. It is a foodie’s paradise by comparison.
These shrimp cakes sort of freaked me out at first. I’m not usually into shrimp, as a whole little creature. I was expecting something more in line with a Thai fish cake. But, there there were, little crisp fritters with little shrimp eyes & heads, antennae and shells. Had to try ’em. I should have had no fears. They were delectable. Crispy, briny, salty, shrimpy. and the sauce. oh, that sauce. Made from fresh black pepper & garlic & lime. The hot, bite of the pepper & acid of the lime was the perfect foil for the richness of the shrimp cake/fritter.
This dish’s appearance does not do it justice. The eggplant was grilled over charcoal, so it was really smoky, & then topped with this stir fried minced pork that was slightly sweet, like it had kecap manis or oyster sauce in it, and some sort of fermented bean (adzuki, maybe?) and fresh spring onions. Humbuddy, it was so good. smoky, sweet, slightly sour, salty all combined with the bite & crunch of fresh spring onions. Really, truly good eats.
I made these spring rolls in cooking class, and they were definitely different than any I have ever had. The wrappers were a combo of rice & wheat flour & they were soft & slightly spongy. The stuffing was shredded taro, carrot, peanuts, salt & sugar. They were a bit weird. Sort of heavy & with a potato like filling. Not my favorite spring roll in the world, i have to admit.
This dish rocked. I will definitely be making this when I get back to Stumptown. It all starts with a red curry paste, which does take a fair amount of arm strength & some time. The base for the paste is lemon grass, fresh turmeric, kaffir lime peel, garlic, shallot, hot chilies & reconstituted dried red chilies. The dried chilies add a depth of flavor that you can’t get with fresh chilies. To the paste you add an egg yoke, coconut milk, shredded kaffir lime leaf, palm sugar and……a HEAPING Tablespoon of… shrimp paste! per serving! Yes, i was horrified. So, mix it all up, add fish chunks, place in the handy dandy banana cup & steam for 30 minutes. Sounds fishy doesn’t it? It wasn’t, It was rich & pungent with a lovely fragrant back note of kaffir lime & lemongrass. Can’t wait to make it again.
Phnom Penh has some great Vietnamese restaurants. And ever since Vientiane I have had a craving for one of these crepes. This one was an especially crispy & delicate rice flour crepe. Filled with the standard: bean sprouts, shrimp & pork, but it also had a surprise of sauteed & meaty oyster mushrooms. The accompanying nuoc mam was exceptional & the greens were crisp & fresh. Damn, I could eat another, RIGHT NOW.
This is no looker, but oh so good. The rice on the bottom of the pot had formed this crispy crust that was just divine. Not unlike the soccarat in paella. The rice was well seasoned & had slivers of mushrooms, shredded pork, & are you ready?…. ribbons of fried chicken skin! genius. It was crispy, salty, and glorious in all of it’s all crispy chicken skin goodness. served with soy with hot chilies. comfort food at it’s best.
So there you have it, a little taste taste of Phnom Penh.