The Rich Flavors of Cambodian Cuisine
The waitress brought exactly what I ordered, but it still came as a surprise. Instead of a plate, my Fish Amok was served in a coconut shell. The classic Cambodian dish was presented made with freshly caught fish from the Gulf of Thailand.
Cambodia's culinary traditions are made with the bounty of the land and water, with influences brought by successive invaders and visitors that have given variety to the Khmer approach to preparing food. The annual monsoon floods enrich the soil around the Mekong and Tonei Sap. The river system is one of the most diverse habitats on earth, and fishing has always been central to the Khmer economy.
A paste made of fermented fish, Prahok, is a key flavoring agent, both as a sauce and mixed into meat, rice and other dishes.
Cambodia's climate and topography make ideal conditions for growing spices. Kampot Pepper, the King of Peppers, is prized for its aromatic floral qualities. The Cardamom Mountains are the indigenous home of the eponymous spice. The Khmer also use cardamom and Kampot Pepper for their medicinal properties to soothe a variety of complaints. Other homegrown spices include tamarind, ginger, lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves.
International flavors also characterize Cambodian cuisine. The influences of India are as evident in the temples and monuments of Angkor Wat as they are on the Cambodian table; Indian style curry (Kan) is on most menus.
The years of French colonial rule also left a taste for baguettes (Nom Pang), and as a result, Cambodia is the only Asian country where bread outweighs rice. The French also left recipes for paté, chocolate desserts, and beer, as well as French roast coffee.
Cambodia is also influenced by its neighbors as Thai, Laotian and Vietnamese food are widely available. These nations all use sauces that rely on coconut cream, sugar, and chili.
Chinese immigrants have also brought their traditions, and rice noodles have been embraced by the Khmer people. Early explorers from Spain, Holland, and Portugal brought potatoes, corn, peanuts, and chili peppers from the Americas.
The most popular, and most distinctly Khmer dishes, are Amok and Lok Lak. Amok is a curry in banana leaves. The sauce is made of coconut cream. It's usually made with fish, but can be prepared with chicken, beef, or pork. It can also be made for vegetarians, with eggs, bamboo shoots, or tofu served appealingly over banana leaves. Lok Lak is a stir fried beef dish with onions, tomatoes and a black pepper sauce.
On the coast, Kampot Pepper Crab (Kdam Cha Mrich Kcchei) brings together the King of Pepper with fresh local seafood. Spices, fish paste, and pepper on the vine are served with crab in the shell. Only freshly picked green peppers are used.
Other popular Khmer meals include Babor, a rice porridge and pork bullion, a Khmer variation of a Chinese dish. Another adaption is Bai Cha, which is fried rice with sausage. Kuy Teav is a breakfast of rice noodles, a piece of pork, and egg and pickled vegetables. Num Bamh Chok is bean sprouts, mint, and vegetables infused with curry and poured over noodles. An interesting dessert called Kralan, is a sweet rice pastry with coconut, beans and sesame, cooked inside a bamboo pole.
People come to Cambodia from all over the world to sightsee and learn about the country's vast history, but you can actually taste it as well.
Born in The Hague, Andrew Kolasinski arrived in Canada as a small child riding in the luggage rack of a DC-7. Since then he has felt at home anywhere. As the publisher and editor of Island Angler, Andrew spends half the year fishing for salmon and trout, and in the off-season he travels the world looking for a story. This article was written on behalf of Tucan Travel, providers of tour packages to Cambodia and all over Asia.
The "Starry Night" Bike Path Is Like Nothing You've Ever Seen
What's your favorite painting? Hold that image in your mind for a sec, then imagine the brushstrokes, shapes, and colors brought to life—so you could actually walk right in. Whoa. Right? Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde has brought my favorite painting to life in a unique way that melds contemporary technology with a masterpiece of 19th-century art: Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night." The Starry Night Bike Path, a winding half-mile in the city of Eindhoven that is illuminated by thousands of LED lights and special paint, interprets the swirling shapes and colors of Van Gogh's painting. I don't know about you, but for me the work of Van Gogh is highly personal—as if the artist, with his dramatic strokes and thick layers of paint, is reaching out to me across the years, teaching me a new way to see and feel. I'm psyched that a contemporary artist is attempting to transport an audience in a similar way. Roosegaarde has spoken enthusiastically about how the path, which opened to the public on November 13, makes a statement about technology and cultural history—and is also a popular spot for first dates. What's not to love? Van Gogh's original "Starry Night,"which he painted in 1889 while in an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France, is on display in New York City, not far from the Budget Travel offices, at the Museum of Modern Art. It is the museum's most popular work and, for me, it's up there with the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building for must-see NYC attractions. The city of Eindhoven, where the Starry Night Bike Path is located, was Van Gogh's home for a few years and appears as a backdrop in some of his paintings. These days the city of more than 200,000 is a major technology hub (the Philips electronics company was founded there) and boasts major museums, theaters, and miles of bike paths. Eindhoven is about 90 minutes from both Amsterdam and the Hague. If you don't happen to be in the Netherlands at the moment, pretend you're cycling or strolling on the Starry Night Bike Path with this video!
Easy Southwestern Cocktail Recipes You Can Make at Home
Would you like some heat with that ice-cold drink? Chile peppers are as ingrained in New Mexico's food culture as fresh pasta is in Rome's. Fact: "Red or green?" is the official state question, in reference to when a waiter asks what sauce you'd like on your enchiladas—or chilaquiles, or breakfast burritos... You get the idea. (Answer "Christmas" if you want both.) New Mexico's chiles are mostly grown and harvested in southern New Mexico, in and around the village of Hatch, a.k.a. The Chile Capital of the World. The early fall months are the only time you can get the chiles fresh, so locals buy them by the pound, roast them, and freeze them to cook with throughout the year. Fun trivia: Green chile peppers are simply unripened versions of red chile peppers. New Mexico is so serious about its chiles that there's even a Chile Pepper Institute in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which promotes chile pepper research and education. You can visit the teaching garden, where more than 150 varieties of chiles are grown, June through October for free. Santa Fe hotel and restaurant La Fonda on the Plaza is paying homage to the beloved pepper with its new chile drink menu—and you can make them at home! Local boutique The Chili Shop sells red chile powder by the bag in mild, medium, medium hot, and extra hot both in store and online (from $5.75). Click "add to cart" and get ready to feel the burn.
It's Island Time, and Fiji Is Calling Your Name
What's on your mind? If you're like most Budget Travelers, as the temps go down your thoughts turn to… islands! We recently named Fiji one of the 10 Most Romantic Islands in the World, and we're putting our money where our mouth is by making the South Pacific paradise even more affordable than ever: We're giving away a trip for two. The winner will receive a flight from Los Angeles to Fiji and five nights' accommodations, including breakfast, at Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island (where you can indulge in spa treatments, water sports, or just relax on a private beach). ENTER HERE Of course, we're not the only ones who love Fiji—it's the most popular destination in the South Pacific, welcoming more than 600,000 visitors each year. The string of islands offers fine Indian and French cuisine, jungle cruises, incredible wildlife (including some of the world's most colorful birds), gorgeous waterfalls, and of course miles of perfect beaches. And it all comes with a reasonable price tag thanks to affordable resorts and the appealing prices and exceptional service of Fiji Airways. Have you been to Fiji? We'd love to hear about your trip—drop us a line in the comments below or on Budget Travel's Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram pages!
Bring Home a Taste of the Islands—With the Original Piña Colada Recipe
Say "piña colada." It rolls off the tongue nicely, doesn't it? And you might as well have said "party!" Did you know that the iconic tropical drink was originally created at Caribe Hilton, in Puerto Rico, in 1954 by bartender Ramón "Monchito" Marrero? The creative mixologist whipped up the classic and continued to serve up the tasty blend of rum, coconut, and pineapple until his retirement in 1989. The drink is now the official drink of Puerto Rico (which is one of our favorite affordable indulgences in the Caribbean). To say "happy birthday" to the signature beverage, Hilton is rolling out a deal from November 17 through 23 that allows guests at select Hilton properties to enter to win a six-day/five-night stay at Caribe Hilton along with travel/airfare for two. Just as exciting—or maybe even more so!—is that rooms at the gorgeous Caribe Hilton start at $99 per night, putting a luxurious Caribbean vacation well within reach this winter! Caribe Hilton's Oasis Bar, where Marrero first concocted his sweet, icy libation, will be serving the original recipe plus some contemporary riffs throughout the year. The hotel will also offer mixology classes, sweepstakes, and more. Thirsty? Get out your blender! Here's the ORIGINAL piña colada recipe, as perfected by Ramón Marrero in 1954. Enjoy it (responsibly) with friends the next time you're browsing BT's tropical eye candy (for starters, check out Senior Editor Jamie Beckman's "10 Most Romantic Islands in the World!"). THE ORIGINAL 1954 PINA COLADA RECIPE Serves 1 Ingredients: 2 oz White Rum1 oz coconut cream1 oz heavy cream6 oz fresh pineapple juice ½ cup crushed ice Directions: Pour the rum, coconut cream, heavy cream, and pineapple juice in a blender. Add the ice and blend for about 15 seconds or until smooth. Serve in a 12-ounce glass. Garnish with a fresh pineapple wedge and a maraschino cherry.