Cambodian food is not common among the mix of international flavours we have on offer in New Zealand. I am unsure why, as Cambodian food has a wonderful freshness for us all to enjoy.
It does not have the hotness of its neighbouring countries Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, with pepper rather than chilli being the tempering component of many of the dishes.
I was taken to a Cambodian restaurant in Wellington a while ago and enjoyed the characteristic flavours of Cambodian cuisine such as mint, basil and coriander along with the green fruits such as mango and pineapple served as vegetables with a slightly sweet aftertaste of palm sugar.
Another characteristic of Cambodian cuisine (more so in Cambodia itself) is the fantastic baguette. I guess we can thank the French for its existence with the baguette introduced during French colonial rule.
What is interesting is the quality of the bread in Cambodia (and surrounding countries) is often better than you will find in France, a result of the breads still being handmade, differing from its country of origin where most of it is now mechanically made.
The quality of the baguettes when filled with Cambodian-style meats and salads means they are very much in demand by the hordes of tourists and are well worthy of their popularity.
Over the years I have had two wonderful experiences dining in Cambodian restaurants - the first was in Antwerp just out of Brussels and the other at a restaurant named Siem Reap in Dixon St, Wellington.
While in Wellington recently I decided to make a return visit to Siem Reap and was again impressed.
The name of the restaurant comes from the area of Cambodia which would be recognised as the gateway to the Angkor Archaeological Park and is now very busy year round with hordes of tourists visiting the amazing sites of the old and more modern temples.
This week, let's make a classic Cambodian beef dish and serve it with a typical fresh green salad in a bun of crisp, tasty, slightly sweet bread.
CAMBODIAN BEEF BAGUETTE WITH GREEN SALAD (six portions)
For the beef
500g Quality Mark rump steak
1 medium red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 finger peeled ginger, roughly chopped
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 Tbsp palm sugar
cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce
cup tomato ketchup
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
1 small mango
2 tsp fish sauce
juice and zest from 1 lime
1 tsp sweet chilli sauce
1 fancy lettuce
6 par-baked mini baguettes or crisp white rolls
Method: Remove all the fat from the beef and cut into 3cm pieces.
Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the beef, leaving to marinate for 20 minutes.
Bake the bread rolls or baguettes following the instructions on the pack.
For the salad: Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and using a potato peeler slice the remaining lengthwise into thin long strips.
Peel the mango and cut it into strips away from the stone.
Rip the salad leaves once they have been cleaned and mix with the cucumber and mango.
For the dressing mix the fish sauce, lime zest, and lime juice. Add the teaspoon of sweet chilli sauce and pour over the salad.
To cook the meat Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok or heavy based frying pan over a high heat.
Once hot add half the beef at a time to the pan and stir-fry for 3 minutes or until nicely browned on the outside but still nice and rare in the centre.
Remove once cooked and cover with a clean cloth to hold until ready to be served.
To complete: Bake the bread according to the maker's instructions.
Cut the baguette in half and fill the cavity with the salad ingredients.
Top with the stir-fried beef and sprinkle with a little of the juices from the pan.
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