Saturday, January 31, 2015

Beef on a Stick in Siem Reap

Let others ooh and ahh over the monuments at Angkor Wat; plenty of folks have brought home amazing photos and insights of these temples.  I want to sing the praises of a local restaurant not featured in Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet in a humble neighborhood just minutes away from the night market and Pub Alley but worlds away in terms of style, intent and customers. 

Near the Wat Damnak was a small stall with a charcoal grill out front, a child's artwork on the walls, small plastic chairs, low tables and the best lemongrass marinated grilled beef you can imagine, served with a side of tart salad papaya salad and cool green tea.

This is one of the recipes I plan on developing when I get home, so watch for more info and directions.  Meanwhile the memory of this meal is one of my favorite souvenirs.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Grinding New Obsession -- Fresh Green Peppercorns

Look closely.  See those little green nuggets mixed in with the crab and seasoning?  They are fresh green peppercorns.  They are used whole, usually attached in grape-like bunches to a bit of stem.
Not only do they add a bit of heat and a lot of flavor to what they are cooked with, but you can eat the fresh peppercorns (and even the stems) for additional heat and deliciousness.

I first had this amazing seasoning, so different from the brined or dried green peppercorns we see in the USA, in Phnom Penh, when an Israeli expat who grows them brought some for the local Chabad to use in a beef and green peppercorn entree for Friday night dinner.

I next had them at Otress Beach 2 (near Sihanoukville), Cambodia, which is near the peppercorn growing region of Kampot.  The green peppercorns are the fresh unripened and undried fruit of the plant.  They are very perishable and hard to ship, which limits their availability.  Besides having this crab dish and a sautéed seafood dish with them in Otress, we had them on Koh Rong Salaem island off the Cambodian coast.  We also spotted them in a few markets in Cambodia.  Here's a link to a crab and peppercorn recipe .  Once I return home and see if I can find fresh green peppercorns I'll post my own recipes.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Rice is Nice

Rice is a foundation ingredient throughout Southeast Asia. Here is a small store selling different kinds and grades of rice and rice steaming baskets used for making sticky rice. The baskets are made from bamboo which gives the rice a subtle flavor. In the background are some of the small baskets with lids used for serving sticky rice in Cambodia and Laos. This market was in Vientiene, Laos, on a street filled with rice, spice and housewares merchants. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

We Get a Kick from a Tabletop Grill

Ever hear of  sepak takraw or kick volleyball?  It's a sport my husband follows and he g0t introductions to the Cambodian national team before we headed out to Southeast Asia. After watching an informal practice the players took us out us to a bbq/grill restaurant where we cooked over a table top charcoal grill prawns, squid, beef and veggies. There were several sauces, of which the lime, pepper salt was our favorite. We also snacked on air-dried beef, crispy fried duck tongues and other local delicacies. We also had lots and lots of Cambodia brand beer (served with large ice cubes.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Khmer and Get It: Banana Pancakes in Cambodia

I had these banana Khmer pancakes with chocolate and coconut caramel in Phnom Penh. I had Khmer or Cambodian pancakes throughout the country and they varied from something like we'd make in the USA to a crepe to something made in a special shaped pan,.  No matter what they looked like they were always delicious.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Spying inside the Russian Market

One of several markets we visited in Phnom Penh. I never figured out exactly why it was called the Russian Market.  There were no nesting dolls, caviar or vodka in sight.  Supposedly this became the market used by foreigners in Cambodia back in the 1980s when most foreigners there were ... Russian   The proper name for the market is Phsar Tuol Tom Pong. Like many of the markets I've been to in SE Asia, lighting in the market is very dim.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

You Don't Know Jackfruit

I've become obsessed with jackfruit, shown here in a market in Cambodia.  There is a lot of waste since these nuggets of creamy tasting sweet tart goodness have quite extensive natural packaging (and each of them also contains a large seed).  I've had jackfruit before but never had access to so much with so little work on my part for so little money.  I may have overdone it a bit. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Going Bananas for Cambodian Dessert

Another recipe from my Phnom Penh cooking class.  Sago (tapioca) noodles, coconut milk, bananas and  palm sugar. It thickens as it stands but stays a bit on the liquid side. Delicious, easy and satisfying with lots of texture but not at all too sweet or gooey. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Breakfast of Tourists

Rice porridge soup, or rice noodle soup when we can't find it, is our breakfast of choice when we are in Asia.  This is the first bowl of many this trip.  This one was slurped in a little noodle soup stand across from our hostel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  The stand was set up on the sidewalk with a low table and little plastic chairs.  After the breakfast trade was done, the Noodle Lady packed up and the sidewalk became a motorcycle parking lot. (Sidewalks are not for walking in Phnom Penh.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Southeast Asia Photo of the Day

I can't promise every day, since I don't have wifi availability all the time, but I'll try to share some of the amazing (usually) food related pix of my current trip on a regular basis.  I'll mostly be keeping them in chronological order. I might also share some ideas or recipes.

First up this photo from Phonm Penh, Cambodia, is the Green Mango Salad I made at La Table Khmere Cooking School and Restaurant. A little sweet, a little tart, a little salty with a nice crunch and lightness, I'll be making this again when I get home.

Monday, January 05, 2015

From Knish to Cheesesteak and Back Again. A Story of Diners, Delis and the Opposite of Dives

Well, this report has been a few months coming, but I'm finally taking a few minutes (when I'm off on another adventure, of course) to report on what Gary and I did on our Thanksgiving vacation.  (Note:  due to the limitations of Blogger aps and ipad interfaces I can't easily add the links to this report. I'll update with those as soon as I can. In the meantime, Google, bing or any other search engine should be able to find what you need. Nothing esoteric here. You can blame Blogger for the mishmash of fonts and odd photo handling as well.  Blogger doesn't seem to do mobile well.)

We spent two weeks on the East Coast, obsteniosuly to visit friends and celebrate Thanksgiving with family, but It was also about eating delicious things, seeing sights and riding public transit.  Below are some highlights. Watch for more analytical and recipe filled posts on some of the dishes and experiences I had.

Gary and I first flew into JFK and took the AirTrain and two subway trains to our hotel by Lincoln Center.   It was a fine hotel, especially since we picked it blind off Hotwire.  Great neighborhood with lots of nearby restaurants on 9th and 10th avenues (Hell's Kitchen) to choose from for reasonably priced ethnic food.  Our first night we had Turkish tapas (that's what the resto called what I'd call a mezze platter).

Next day we headed to my people's version of the Old Country -- the Lower East Side.  We had a late breakfast of Yonah Schimmel's knishes, a full afternoon of tours at the LES Tenament Musuem, and a late lunch of a Katz's pastrami sandwich which was big enough to share.  Yes, Katz's still has that sign posted about sending a salami to someone in the Army.  They also have a sign over the both where Harry Met Sally filmed the "I'll have what she's having" scene.

We also checked out the Essex Market and Russ and Daughters, but we were full, so we only looked and didn't taste.

Next up was the taping of the 13th to last Colbert Report ever with special guest Jon Stewart.  Between Steven Colbert and Stewart we couldn't stop screaming and laughing, although part of that might have been sheer terror the staff would do something to us if we didn't respond BIG.  (At least four staffers had us practice our screams, yells, claps and laughs before the show started.). They need not have worried, we the audience were so psyched on our own and so entertained we would have shouted ourselves hoarse without the pre-show encouragement. 

Dinner that night was back in Hell's Kitchen for more ethnic food, this time empanadas at Empanada Mama, open 24 hours for all your meat and veggie stuffed pastry needs.

The next day we headed to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.  It was moving, affecting and extremely effective at making the stories of victims and their families come alive.  A somber but necessary high spot of our visit.

Dinner that night was with friends at the vegetarian Candle 79.  The company was great, the food tasty as well as beautifully presented and it's quiet white tablecloth ambiance  perfect for catching up with old friends.  Afterwards we took in as light but fun Broaway musical -- Honeymoon in Vegas.

Next up was a subway ride to Penn Station, a short jaunt on NJ Transit and AirTrain to Newark Airport to rent a car for a visit to friends in Philly.  Highlights included Independence Hall, the Barnes Collection, a great tapas meal with some college friends and lots opportunity to visit with other dear friends who also hosted us.

Of course and we had a cheesesteak, which we split.  I've eaten the classic Pat and Geno cheesesteaks before, so I was willing to try something new, Sonny's. It was good, but surprisingly NOT that much better than my local cheesesteak shop.

Then it was off to Long Island where my sisters made a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner and I got a chance to eat in a number of diners where I had my old standby soup and tuna melts. (Until they bring back automats, diners are my fave retro food destinations.)

A few days later we wrapped up our trip by returning our car at John F Kennedy airport and taking public transit to NYC.  We stayed at the Hyatt Herald Square, this time a Priceline find.  We ate breakfast and a few other meals at one of the city's amazing salad bars which was part steam table, part short order cook, part grill and part sandwich shop. 

We walked and walked.  Spent time at the Cloisters, New York's restored middle ages monastery, explored the Met museum, and saw the Tony-winning Gentlemen's Guide to Love and Murder.  

We also had dinner in the West Village with high school friends of our oldest son.  

Soon enough it was time to roll,our suitcases out and return to JFK for the trip home.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy 2015

I'm traveling in Southeast Asia, but promise I'll find some time to catch up on some content, recipes, stories, etc.  here's wishing you a year of adventure, health, happiness and good things to eat and share.  The photo is of a dish of chicken amok steamed in banana leaf I made in a Phnom Penh cooking class.