Thursday, April 30, 2009

Food Trip Friday 004: Shrimp ouzi

One thing that I love living in Phnom Penh is that there is no shortage of restaurants offering genuine international cuisine. So two years ago, when news of a Lebanese restaurant opening spread out to the expat community, my husband and I and fellow blogger Toe went there, eager to sample what it has to offer. The restaurant, the very first in Cambodia, is called Le Cedre. I know the name sounds French but the food is authentic Lebanese. And we weren't disappointed; we were instant fans. Two years on, Toe had already left Cambodia, and my husband and I still keep on coming back for more Lebanese specialties.

And here's one reason why:

Shrimp Ouzi
Shrimp Ouzi - rice and shrimps with pine nuts, herbs and other spices wrapped in what looked like a pastry.

Shrimp ouzi 2

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Simply Delicious Sunday Recipe 005: Kao soi (Chiang Mai curry noodles)

Once upon a time, I went to Bangkok. I was received very well and my Thai colleagues were very eager to show me around. Being a newbie in Thailand, it was an opportunity for them to introduce me to everything Thai, especially to their delectable food. They took me to the usual touristic places, and most importantly, to the best eats in Bangkok.

Of course, they know where the best places are -- and they're not in restaurants but in the food stalls by the roadside. There are a lot of these roadside food stalls around Bangkok and for about 50 Baht ($1=35.48Baht), you can enjoy a plate of fried rice, noodles, and a whole lot more. Some would frown at the thought of eating at roadside stalls but I think that it is not bad at all and they are missing if you haven't tried it yet.

Having meals in these food stalls, I was introduced to one of the popular dishes, kao soi, or the Chiang Mai curry noodles. Reminiscent of the Malaysian laksa that I also love so much, the spicy, savoury, rich and creamy flavor started my love affair with this Chiang Mai specialty. Here's the recipe:


600ml/ 1 pint/ 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
30ml/ 2 tbsp red curry paste
5ml/ 1 tsp ground turmeric
450gms/ 1lb chicken thighs, boned and cut into bite-size chunks (pork and beef may also be used)
600ml/ 1 pint/ 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
60ml/ 4 tbsp fish sauce
15ml/ 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
juice of 1/2 - 1 lime
450gms/1lb fresh egg noodles, blanched briefly in boiling water
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Garnish:
3 spring onions, chopped
4 red chillies, seeded and chopped
60ml/ 4 tbsp sliced pickled mustard leaves, rinsed
30ml/ 2 tbsp fried sliced garlic
coriander leaves
4 fried noodle nests (optional)

1. Put one third of the coconut milk into a large saucepan, bring to a boil and stir with a wooden spoon until it separates.

2. Add the curry paste and ground turmeric, stir to mix completely and cook until fragrant.

3. Add the chicken and stir fry for about 2minutes, ensuring that all the chunks are coated with the paste.

4. Add the remaining coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce and soy sauce. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Simmer gently for about 7-10minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

5. Re-heat the noodles in boiling water, drain and divide between individual bowls and ladle in the hot soup. Top each serving with a few of each of the garnishes.

Et voila --

my version of laksa
A hot bowl of comfort food

I used a dried flat noodle so I soaked it first for about 15minutes in warm water before being drained for use. I added some green beans when I made this dish just for added color. There was very little sauce left when I poured the sauce on the noodles, perhaps the noodles absorbed it. Nevertheless, it still has the same aromatic and spicy flavor of kao soi that I love. Hope you'll like it too.

For more delicious recipes, head over to Tamy's Simply Delicious Sunday Recipes site.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Food Trip Friday 003: Tamago kake gohan*

When I was in Japan in 2006, breakfast was served for free in the hotel where I was staying in. Out of curiosity (when in Japan, eat what the Japanese eat!), I ordered the the traditional breakfast. The whole meal is consisted of grilled fish, fermented soy beans (natto) soup (miso), pickles, dried seaweed (nori), steamed rice and other side dishes.

japanese breakfast

For the second time, I ordered another breakfast meal that is also traditional Japanese (photo above). The usual soup, fermented soy beans, seaweed, pickles, steamed rice with fresh egg. The egg is simply mixed in with the rice and soy sauce. It is known as tamago kake gohan, or, simply translated, egg-sauce over rice. As you can see in the picture, the bowl of rice is traditionally placed on left side with the soup on the right. Both traditional breakfast sets were good and light, just enough to give my stomach a little more space to accomodate more food in a little while.

See other Food Trip Friday entries at Willa's Food Trip Friday site.

This is a re-post.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Simply Delicious Sunday Recipe 004: Stir-fried Napa Cabbage with Dried Shrimps

As promised, here is how to make stir-fried napa cabbage with dried shrimps. As I told friends before, I am no good cook. All I am good at is finding great food blogs over the net, trying the recipes out, and then blogging about it. And this is one of those instances. The recipe is not mine, I took it from Rasa Malaysia. I made this dish long time ago and my husband and I loved it that it's become a favorite. I emailed Bee, the brain behind the yummy recipes at Rasa Malaysia and she was very kind to give me the go-signal to post one of her family recipes in my blog.

So here are the ingredients needed:

3 cups chopped napa cabbage
6 straw mushrooms (optional)
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 tbsps dried shrimp, soaked in warm water for 10mins, drained
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp cooking oil

1. Make the garlic oil first by stir-frying the chopped garlic with the cooking oil. Dish out half of it when the garlic turns golden brown.

2. With the remaining garlic oil in the wok, add in the dried shrimp and do a quick stir-fry until you smell the aroma of the dried shrimps. Add in the straw mushrooms (I used shiitake mushrooms) and do a quick stir, then followed by the napa cabbage. Stir-fry for one minute and then add in the oyster sauce. Stir well and dish out the napa cabbage when it's still crunchy and not over-cooked. Top the stir-fried napa cabbage with the remaining half of garlic oil. Serve immediately.

And here's the result:

FT stir-fried napa cabbage

Thanks again, Bee. For more Chinese, Malaysian and other mouth-watering Asian recipes, head over to her site, Rasa Malaysia. I guarantee you'd visit her blog again and again, as I have been for several months now. I have never met her in person, yet, but I think she is a very good cook and photographer. In her blog you will find not only authentic and easy-to-follow recipes but also beautifully photographed dishes -- it makes me drool by just looking at them!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Food Trip Friday 002: Stir-fried Napa Cabbage and Dried Shrimps

FT stir-fried napa cabbage

... and dried mushrooms, too.

Please come back on Sunday for the Simply Delicious Sunday Recipe where I will tell you how this simple Chinese dish is prepared :)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Happy Khmer New Year!

I'd like to say... suosdei chhnam thmey to my Khmer friends. Happy New Year to the Buddhist world. Today is leung sakk, the last of the 3-day celebration of the Khmer New Year. I didn't go out today as I didn't fancy (dirty) canal water thrown at me, as is the tradition here.

"New Year in April?!?", you may ask. Don't worry, my non-Buddhist friends also asked me that in a rather incredulous tone, the same kind of incredulous response I get from them upon learning that after nine years, I am still here in Cambodia. But that's another story.

To answer the question... yes, dear friends. Not all cultures celebrate the new year on January 1st, and one of them is Cambodia.

The Khmer New Year started Tuesday, April 14. It began around 1:36pm, according to the Buddhist astrology, and runs until today, April 16th. Here, and in other Buddhist countries such as Thailand and Sri Lanka, among others, the new year is based on astrological calculations. When the old year ends and the new year begins, is also based on these calculations. So the year here now is 2553 BE (Buddhist Era) -- that is, 2,553 years since Buddha achieved enlightenment and entered the state of nirvana.

The first day of the celebration is called the grand Maha Songkran, or the first day of the Khmer New Year. According to the Buddhist beliefs, angels known as apsaras or devatas come down to replace the old ones here to watch the earth. Cambodians clad in their best clothes go to wats and pay homage to Buddha and offer food to the monks.

kny and iggy2
Our landlady preparing her offerings

fruit offerings
And this is our offering at home

The second day is called vanabot. It is the time when families donate or give to their less fortunate neighbours and relatives. They also go to wats for a special ceremony dedicated to their ancestors. The third day is called leung sakk, and the one I like the most. Cambodians wash all their Buddha statues in scented water. Children pay respects to their elders by washing their feet in water, and in turn, they are blessed by them. Read more about Khmer New Year traditions here.

kny and iggy4
A facade of Buddhist wat decorated for the Khmer New Year celebrations

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Simply Delicious Sunday Recipe 003: Chicken laap

Dear friends, I was away for a long time, so my apologies for being absent in our weekly meme. My husband and I went to Laos for a much-needed holiday. It was a great trip, albeit a tiring one. We decided to go up north of Cambodia, in Stung Treng, and then cross the border to Laos via Dang Kralor border in Champasak province, traveling to Pakse city. There we then boarded a bus that took us to Vientiane, the capital. All in all, it took us two days and two nights to complete that stage. It was then we realised that we are now too old for backpacking! But with the aching bodies aside, we did enjoy the trip. And the food.

We like a particular Laos dish so much that I made it right after returning to Phnom Penh. This is what I am blabbing about:

FT chicken laap

... and that is called chicken laap, the national dish of Laos, which my husband and I had grown fond of. So for this week's Simply Delicious Sunday recipe, I am coming back with a recipe so easy to make and yet so tasty. I adapted this laap recipe from Kit Chan's Classic Thai cookbook.

Chiang Mai is a city in the north-east of Thailand. The city is culturally very close to Laos and famous for its chicken salad, which was originally called laap or larp. Duck, beef or pork can be used instead of chicken.

450gms/1lb of minced chicken
1 lemon grass stalk, finely chopped
3 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
4 red chillies, seeded and chopped
60ml/4tbsp lime juice
30ml/2tbsp fish sauce
15ml/1tbsp roasted ground rice
2 spring onions, chopped
30ml/2tbsp coriander leaves
mixed salad leaves, to serve
cucumber and tomato slices, and a few sprigs of mint, to garnish

1. Heat a large non-stick frying pan. Add the minced chicken and a little water to moisten while cooking.

2. Stir constantly until cooked; this will take about 7-10minutes.

3. Transfer the chooked chicken to a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

4. Serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves and garnish with cucumber, tomato slices and a few sprigs of mint.

And voila --

FT chicken laap2

Since I adapted this from a Thai cookbook, I noticed the absence of banana bud, red onions, and black pepper in the recipe while mint was used merely for garnishing, ingredients which were very much present in the chicken laap we ate in Vientiane. So when I made mine, I just had to add about 50gms of grated/chopped banana bud and red onions and generous amounts of mint leaves and ground black pepper, for authentic Laotian taste. You may omit the ground roasted rice and chillies, to suit your taste, but my husband and I love it with chillies.

Chicken laap is very easy to prepare, great with fresh vegetables, and great as an appetizer or as a main dish, or for your husband's beer-food.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Food Trips Friday 001: Chicken laap

My blogger-friend, Willa of Fickle-Minded invited me to join her latest photo-meme called the Food Trip Friday. What a coincidence, I said to myself, as my food blog is also known as Food Trips... We Ate This! So of course I had to say yes. It is so easy to join, the rules are here.

Here is my first entry for this week's Food Trip Friday:

FT chicken laap

It's called chicken laap, a national dish of Laos. It's a simple dish best eaten with fresh vegetables and goes well with Laos beer, the other pride of Laos. We love laap so much that when we came back from our Laos holiday, I immediately tried the recipe I got from the cookbook I bought and voila -- my husband absolutely loved it. I am thrilled at the result and so will be seeing laap - in pork as well - served on our table in the future.

For the recipe, please come back on Sunday when I feature this dish for the Simply Delicious Sunday Recipe :)