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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cambodian Food, Oh How I Love Thee

Hi again!

I'm back after a long break! The semester's about to end and final are soon to come, but I had to share this with you all. So last night, I made ktiew chaa. DELISH!! Ktiew chaa is Cambodian stir fried rice noodles. So, before I continue, just for a brief moment in education, Cambodian is in Southeast Asia (in otherwords, South of India), sandwiched in the middle of Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. It has some elements in common with Thai cuisine, but much more in common with Vietnamese. In fact, Cambodian (Khmer - prnounced "k.mai" (the "i" sounds like "eye" in Cambodian)and Vietnamese food have tons of dishes in common.

So, back to the dish I made. Ktiew chaa ("iew" pronounced like the interjection "eew!" in English) is deeelish!! Cambodian food tends to be fairly low in fat and always maintains a flavor balance between sweet (sugar), sour (typically by use of lime or unripe fruits), salty (mainly through use of fish sauce), bitter (by use of herbs such as basil and cilantro and leaves such as lime leaf), and hot (lots of Thai chili peppers).

So in ktiew chaa, what you use is round pho noodles (those used in the delicious Vietnamese soup we all love), a base sauce made of fish sauce, salt, sugar and water with lots of chives, julienned carrot, green onion, yellow onion, bean sprouts, thinly sliced pork belly, and shrimp. If you like Thai food, you'll love this! It's a much "cleaner" flavored rice noodle dish, more along the lines of a Pad thai than a dark sauce dish like pad se-eew or drunken noodles. Below is the recipe I used. I am still learning Khmer (Cambodian) food, but I'm getting better and trying new things. This dish was pretty easy. Just spoon about a tablespoon of the sweet fish sauce you prepare at the end over your serving of ktiew chaa and enjoy!!

Where do you buy all of this stuff?? Well, we actually have plenty of Southeast Asian markets in the Richmond area, both in Chesterfield and in the West End. In Chesterfield, we have two within about 10 minutes of one another.

This place keeps fresh tasty Cambodian treats and Vietnamese pork-stuffed buns ( available for sale. The young staff members are fully bilingual and the older ones speak some English

New Battambang Market
6517 Iron Bridge Pl
Richmond, VA 23234
(804) 230-7267

This place is fully bilingual and the staff is very friendly
Sahath By Asian Grocer
4004 Meadowdale Blvd
Richmond, VA 23234
(804) 275-1444

In the West End, just turn turn right onto Horsepen from Broad(turn toward the side of the road Home Depot is on)and keep going until you can turn near Full Kee and there is a small complex of houses turned into Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries, and markets. Just drive around that block. The Vietnamese one is called Far East (they have a little more variety as far as other Asian foods, like Korean) and the Cambodian one is Phnom Penh (capital of Cambodia). The one I go to, Phnom Penh, is on the street before you get to the last street of the complex, which is where you find Kim's Bakery and Tay Do Restaurant, but on the opposite side of the street, facing in the opposite direction as well.

So, enjoy your trip to the Asian market, look around (their limes tend to be way better than the crappy dry ones Food Lion has been getting lately)and compare prices. Herbs, leaves, and lettuces as well as coconuts, coconut milk, and Asian sauces (ie: fish sauce) tend to be much cheaper at Asian markets than elsewhere, though many of these products can easily be found in any supermarket.

Enjoy! I think I might make some Banh Chao tonight! It's the same as Vietnamese Banh Xeo (crispy Vietnamese meat-filled crepes)! Ill post about how it turns out :P!! Cant wait!

Bonus suggestion:

Though this post does not specifically relate to Thai food, it reminded me of something you may want to know. For anyone who has tried to make Thai at home, if you can't get it right, one reason may be that you are using regular basil found in the supermarket, as opposed to Thai basil, which has a strong licorice flavor and is a dark purple color. You cannot substitute one for the other. You can Thai Basil in any Southeast Asian market for cheap. Probably less than a dollar for a sizable bunch. Sometimes you can even manage to find a plant during the summer at Tom Leonard's Farmer's Market (actually a farmer's market-like grocer) behind Best Buy and World Market on West Broad Street. (4150 Brook River Drive, 23060)

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