Tuesday, July 08, 2008

One of the Best Food Experiences I'm Really Sorry You'll Never Have

A view from the back porch...

There are a lot of holidays in Cambodia. I mean a lot a lot. During the King's birthday (the real king and not King Sihanouk. I know, confusing) last May, I went on vacation to Koh Kong, a lush and gorgeous part of Western Cambodia that borders Thailand. I went with my boisterous coworkers/little brothers Sopheap and Vichet to Baklan Village where Sopheap's extended family* lives. Baklan is a quaint little fishing village of stilt houses built on the water, stacked tightly against each other. Each night we would have to brave some ominously shaky planks and balance beam our way over to Sopheap's family's house. Even though the prospect of falling into the garbage water made swimming in crocodile infested waterfalls seem like child's play, the promise of what lay ahead was enough to steady my clumsy steps.

Flames of goodness.

Hotpot of the Khmer variety is particularly enticing in that is also has elements of barbecue in it, and this experience rivaled that of any previous I've had. It was lovingly tended to by Grams and Sopheap's aunt. There was n'er a moment when fresh Asian greens and even fresher squid, shrimp, and fatty pork was not boiling, mixing, simmering, or crispifying. To make this combination of delectableness even more heavenly was the homemade saucy dipping sauce that accompanied it. It was a creamy Cambodian concoction that involved subtle inflections of fermented tofu (my favorite). So good was this sauce that our friend Andrew threatened to drink it all if we were not fast enough.

Grams holding down the fort. Matriarchs are the coolest, no?

Just as we were almost finished stuffing ourselves far past the point of no return, Sopheap's fisherman uncle came home from a long hard day of work. He did not come home empty-handed and shared with us his spoils, which we decided to turn into a fine post-dinner treat.

We are staring at the fleshy crabs who are staring at the succulent prawns who are staring at over-stuffed us. The circle of life! This represents approximately one-tenth of the post-dinner treat.

Pheap and fam. :)

To (inadequately) express our gratitude, the next morning we kids made breakfast.

From the leftover crabmeat I made crab fried rice and Jesse played cultural ambassador by making French Toast. Jen, Andrew and Vichet were the hard-working sous chefs.

Both dishes were a hit with the neighbors, but Grams said she liked mine more. Tee hee.

I <3 Koh Kong 4eva!!!

*Sopheap's family is not actually related to him by blood. During the time of the Khmer Rouge, many people were separated from their families. Forced out of their homes and into the countryside while struggling for survival, strangers often banded together to support one another like family. From my understanding, Sopheap's mother lived with his "grandmother" during that time.