Siem Reap family eatery
The two most distinctive Cambodian ingredients used in local Khmer kitchens are prahok (fermented fish) and kroeung, which simply means curry paste, however, it's a curry paste (or rather, several curry pastes) that are unique to Cambodian cuisine. (And by 'curry' I just mean a paste used for stew-like dishes, not the combination of spices typically associated with Indian curries). Yellow kroeung, comprised of lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, kaffir lime zest, garlic, and shallots is pounded fresh with a mortar and pestle (my husband always makes his own at home) and used mostly in curries, soups and stir-fries, including one of my favorite Cambodian stir fries, char kroeung, above. When made the traditional way, it's a simple dish of chicken, pork or beef tossed in a wok with the kroeung paste, garnished with finely sliced kaffir lime, and served with rice. You'll often see it served with various vegetables in tourist restaurants although locals will tell you that's not the real deal. Try it at one of the many rustic no-name family eateries in the backstreets of Siem Reap. I like the one at 'Corner Restaurant' - the name is in Khmer, but look for the green building on the corner of Wat Bo Road and Street 25 that fills with Cambodians drinking beer in the evenings.
By Lara Dunston
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