Travel always brings new experiences. Every culture has their food. In addition to rice, of course, Cambodia has its share of interesting food.
Much of the food in Cambodia is fish based. Fish is usually served fried, and whole (head, tail and all). If one can get over the eyes staring blankly back from the plate, which our kids could not, it is really quite good. Fish also comes in other forms. I had a delicious fish amok in Phnom Penh that can only be described as a kind of fish paste, with a full palate of spices accompanying it.
Vegetables are often served stir fried or in flavorful soups (watch out for those bones, when meat is cooked, nothing is wasted!). We learned that many Khmer do not eat enough vegetables. One of the challenges the CHAD team faces is convincing the Cambodians of the nutritional value of the wide variety of greens they grow.
In Phnom Penh, I also had a prawn, pineapple and mushroom pizza. Interesting, but quite delicious.
In contrast to much of Asia, the breads here are outstanding. Since Cambodia was once a French protectorate, baguettes are ubiquitous and good. So good one may imagine for a brief moment that they came straight from the patisserie in Paris! Roger loves the coffee.
Then there is the fruit. Pineapples, papaya, mango, bananas and dragon fruit accompany nearly every meal. Some of the more interesting new fruit we’ve tried included longan and rambutan. Longan is a small, marble sized fruit that can be peeled to reveal a fleshy inside and a large, black pit. Rambutan are called “forest hair” because they look like red, hairy orbs, about the size of a golf ball. Peeling into them reveals a similar fleshy fruit and pit. Both longan and rambutan taste a bit like peeled grapes to me. Yum.
The big new treat for me in this trip was octopus. Yesterday, we had a break at the beach after sessions. We went with Lun Sokhum, the pastor we support, and his family, Chankeoun (also a pastor), and their children, Phina (almost 6) and Kuwon (3 1/2). There was a steady stream of seafood vendors making their way past our chairs offering fresh crab, prawns (some the size of my fist!), and other tasty delights. I let the all pass, but Sokhum did not. He bought a plate full of octopus and insisted that I try it. Tentacles were optional (I took mine off). After pulling out the “spine” (the only bone supporting the squishy beast), one could dip it in hot sauce, which I did, giving it a good, healthy coat. I tried to bite it, but Sokhum said, no, eat it all. So I did. Not bad. Actually, pretty good. A little rubbery, but also pretty tasty. The rest of the family was swimming at the time, which was a good thing. To see their faces when they heard what I had done was worth the risk!