Num Ansom Chek (Rolled Banana Rice Cake)

Num Ansom Chek (Rolled Banana Rice Cake)

Hello Everyone! February flew by in just the blink of an eye, and before we know it, in a couple of days it’ll be March already! This also means that this will be the last Cambodian recipe that I will be sharing on my blog, for now. There are still so many wonderful recipes that the country has to offer, and maybe one day I’ll revisit the cuisine and discover more dishes that’ll take a liking to my tastebuds.

For our last Cambodian cuisine, I’ll be sharing a popular street snack that is sold across the country, known as Num Ansom Chek, or in English, Rolled Banana Rice Cake. It is a traditional Cambodian snack that is low fat, healthy, and easy to make as it only requires a few ingredients to put together. In many Cambodian snacks, banana is used because of its abundance in the tropical region, and its ritual value. Of course, it is also delicious and sweet!

Num Ansom Chek (Rolled Banana Rice Cake)

Other than bananas, this snack also includes sticky rice and grated coconut. Sometimes, jackfruit is also added, but since I’m not a huge fan of jackfruit, I’ve replaced them with strips of mango instead. You may also add red mung beans or black beans and it can also be sweetened with palm sugar if desired. All of this is then carefully rolled and enclosed in a banana leaf. The resulting cylindrical-shaped snack is then steamed until tender and fragrant.

In Cambodia, this sweet delicacy is traditionally prepared for important celebrations such as Cambodian New Year and the religious festival Pchum Ben (Festival of Souls). With a culture that is heavily influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism, during a festival, it is common practice to offer food to the monks at the temple, and the ghosts of our ancestors, relatives, and friends. One of the foods that they offer is Num Ansom Chek because of their ability to be kept for days without being spoiled. This is due to them being wrapped and steamed in banana leaves.

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original where I drew my inspiration from over on Vanier Culinary by Thun-Carl Sieu.

Num Ansom Chek (Rolled Banana Rice Cake) Ingredients

PREP TIME 30 MINS* | COOKING TIME 1 HOUR | MAKES 6 ROLLS

*Allow for 6 hours to overnight to soak the glutinous rice.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe mango (optional)
  • 1 & 1/2 cups sweet glutinous rice, soaked for at least 6 hours or overnight
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated coconut
  • Salt, to taste
  • Banana leaves, 6 of about 15cm x 20cm pieces

METHOD

  1. Drain the water from the soaked rice and mix the grated coconut in with the rice.
  2. Peel and cut the bananas in half and sprinkle a touch of salt over them.
  3. Take a piece of banana leaf and place a small portion of the rice and coconut mixture in a horizontal line along the longer side of the banana leaf. Place a banana half in the centre of the rice and strips of ripe mango if you wish. Top the fruits with more rice, there should be enough to fully surround them.

Num Ansom Chek (Rolled Banana Rice Cake)

  1. Roll the banana leaf tightly around the rice to form a log and fold both edges in to seal. Make sure that the leaf is not loose so that the mixture can use it as a mold. Use string to secure the banana leaf wrapping if needed. Repeat until all of the bananas have been wrapped.
  2. Stack the rolls in a steamer and steam over boiling water for about 60 minutes.
  3. Once done, allow to cool slightly before unwrapping and serving. Enjoy!

Num Ansom Chek (Rolled Banana Rice Cake)

Num Ansom Chek (Rolled Banana Rice Cake)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

Hello Everyone! February is flying by so fast and I can’t believe that we’re already on our second last Cambodian recipe for the month! Tonight I will be sharing a Cambodian breakfast staple known as Num Banh Chok, or in English, Fish Noodle Soup. It’s a traditional breakfast dish that consists of rice noodles served with a fish gravy and freshly foraged wild grown Cambodian vegetables (some of which does not have an English name), and eaten with a few chilli peppers on the side.

In rural Cambodia, the rice vermicelli noodles used in this dish are all done and made by hand with a stone mill. They are then sold at the local markets where vendors would come early in the morning to purchase it, and then sold to the local residents. Rice is first boiled until soft and then grounded into a wet dough with a heavy stone mill. Once all the rice is ground, the wet dough is placed into a large cloth bag. Heavy mill parts are placed on top to squeeze out excess water. This is the beginning of the fermentation process. Once done, the result is a firm, dry but still sticky flour. To see just how labour intensive the noodle making process is, read this article here. Of course, ain’t nobody got time for that, so I just used store-bought rice vermicelli noodles from my local grocer.

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

Like many other Cambodian food recipes, Num Banh Chok’s main ingredient, besides mudfish, is the yellow kroeung paste. I covered this in my blog two weeks ago when I made Amok Trei (Steamed Fish Curry). Instead of mudfish though, again I used tilapia fish because that is what I am familiar with. The other main ingredient that is definitely not optional and irreplaceable – rhizome or finger-roots in English, khchiey in Cambodia. Unlike ginger, turmeric, and galangal which are commonly used throughout the world, khchiey is relatively obscure and is mostly used for medical purposes in some Asian countries. When fresh, khchiey has an earthy, peppery, and much milder flavour than ginger and galangal. However, since I could not source any here in the Philippines, I used ginger instead for this my ‘not so authentic’ version of Num Banh Chok.

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original where I drew my inspiration from over on A Wandering Foodie.

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup) Ingredients

PREP TIME 25 MINS | COOKING TIME 45 MINS | SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

For the soup base

  • 4L water
  • Heads and bones from the reserved tilapia fish filets
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2-3 large dried bay leaves
  • 1 small red onion, quartered
  • 1 small thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white ends crushed
  • 1 tbsp shrimp paste
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt

For the kroeung paste mixture

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup kroeung paste
  • 2 tbsp peanuts, roasted
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, chopped
  • 2 small turmeric, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
  • 6 tilapia filets, or any other firm white fish
  • 1 pack rice vermicelli noodles
  • Assortment of greens (I used mustard leaves, water spinach, and mint leaves)
  • Banana blossoms

METHOD

  1. Soup Base: In a large stockpot, bring the 4 litres of water to a boil, over high heat, together with all the other ingredients for the soup base, except for the shrimp paste. Once the stock comes to a rapid boil, turn the heat down to bring it to a slow simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
  2. Kroeung Mixture: Meanwhile, prepare the kroeung mixture. In a mortar and pestle, pound the kroeung paste together with the roasted peanuts, birds eye chillies, ginger, turmeric, and garlic. If you have a small-sized mortar, you can pound the mixture in batches and then combine them into a bowl.
  3. Add the fish sauce, sugar, and coconut milk into the bowl with the kroeung paste mixture, and mix thoroughly. Let it stand for at least 10 minutes to let all the flavour infuse together.
  4. Rice Vermicelli Noodles: Bring water to a boil in a separate pot. Add in the pack of rice vermicelli noodles and let it cook for about 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. While the noodles are cooking, prepare a large bowl filled with ice-cold water.
  6. Once the noodles are cooked and the texture is to your liking, strain and place the cooked noodles into the cold bowl of water to stop its cooking process. Start taking out equal handfuls of noodle and portion them into individual serving bowls and set aside.
  7. Num Bahn Chok: Once the soup base is done, strain and return the broth to the stockpot. Add the shrimp paste to the broth and let it come back to a boil over medium-high heat. It is important to add the paste first before any other flavouring ingredients in order to lessen its strong scent. Adjust the broth to taste with salt and sugar to your liking, if needed.
  8. Once boiled, turn the heat down and add the fish filets into the broth and cook for about 10 minutes. Once cooked through, remove from the broth and set aside.
  9. Cook the vegetables (mustard greens, water spinach, and banana blossoms) in the broth for a few minutes, then remove and set aside.
  10. Turn the heat back up and add the kroeung mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes.
  11. Carefully ladle the hot soup into the prepared bowls with noodles. Top with the cooked fish filets, vegetables, mint leaves, and more sliced chillies if you wish.
  12. Serve immediately while hot and enjoy!

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

Num Banh Chok (Fish Noodle Soup)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

Hello Everyone! Forget about brownie sundaes, forget about éclairs and chocolate cake; the real desserts, the sinfully sweet and decadent treats, can be found in one region: Southeast Asia. Ingredients in Southeast Asian treats are less traditional than the sweet flavours you typically see in Western desserts. Ingredients like cassava, mung beans, and lotus seeds paired with sticky sweet syrups like coconut cream, palm syrup, and condensed milk are common and no strangers to Cambodian treats. Beyond these ingredients you can also always expect to have at least one fresh fruit added to the mix. Look for favourites like mangoes, rambutan, durian and of course, bananas.

Just as Southeast Asian desserts, Cambodian treats are most frequently enjoyed mid-morning. Instead of being served to cap off a delicious meal, the treats are bought and enjoyed in markets as you are doing your shopping around town. Many of the most popular Khmer treats are sold from mobile street stands. Look out for the crowds of students outside universities and schools, flocked around a stand.

Traditional Cambodian treats, also known as Khmer sweets, also come in the form of custards and puddings; egg-based dishes that are spiced up with a variety of flavours (vanilla and cinnamon are typical favourites). Since rice remains a main staple in current day cuisine, being eaten as often as three times a day, rice-based cakes are also very popular.

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

Tonight, I will be sharing a Cambodian favoured treat that is simple and super easy to make at home. The best part? You’ll most likely have everything readily available to whip this up in your pantry. Num Treap, or in English, Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds, is a treat that is basically as the name states, steamed sticky rice mixed in a warm coconut sauce. The mixture is then spread into a baking dish or pan, topped with sesame seeds, and then set aside to cool before cutting into squares and then served. You may serve it as it is, or with fruits on the side. Num in Cambodian means pastry, so it is essentially a sticky rice (bai damnaeb) pastry treat.

This dessert is very much similar to a sweet rice cake that we have here in the Philippines known as Biko. It is also made of coconut milk, brown sugar, and glutinous rice, that is topped with latik (coconut curds) instead of sesame seeds.

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds) Ingredients

PREP TIME 60 MINS* | COOKING TIME 45-60 MINS | MAKES 9 SLICES

*Allow for an additional 6 hours (or more) to soak the glutinous rice before cooking.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sweet glutinous rice, soaked for at least 6 hours or overnight
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD

  1. Rice: Drain the water (no need to shake off the excess water), and evenly arrange the soaked sticky rice in a steamer lined with a greased banana leaf.
  2. Cover and steam for 30-45 minutes. You can check the rice and increase the steaming time if need be. Once done, keep the rice in the steamer or covered to prevent it from drying out until you need to use it.
  3. Coconut Sauce: While the rice is cooking, add the coconut milk, coconut sugar, salt, and vanilla extract in a large saucepan and cook over medium-high heat. Stir frequently until it thickens, about 5 minutes.
  4. Num Treap: Fluff the cooked rice with a fork to separate the grains. With the heat off, add the rice to the saucepan with the coconut sauce and mix well.
  5. Spread the rice mixture into a shallow dish or baking pan, pressing them down with a spatula. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to set and cool for about an hour.
  6. Cut into squares, then serve and enjoy!

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

Num Treap (Sticky Rice with Sesame Seeds)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Amok Trei អាម៉ុកត្ (Steamed Fish Curry)

Amok Trei អាម៉ុកត្ (Steamed Fish Curry)

Hello Everyone! I can’t believe that January went by so quickly, and it’s already the 3rd day of the 2nd month of 2021! Last week we shared our last recipe for local Bruneian eats; our first stop on our road to discover the Flavours of Southeast Asia for Amcarmen’s Kitchen. Our next stop for the month is Cambodia! Cambodian cuisine must be Southeast Asia’s most under-appreciated and most misunderstood cuisines amongst the others, and there’s a whole article about it that you can read if you have the time – Dispelling Cambodian Cuisine Myths.

Now, before I proceed, due to the limitations of sourcing certain ingredients, you may find the dishes shared here over the course of the month a little on the unauthentic side and I do apologise to any of my Cambodian readers or passersby. I tried my best to get as close to the original and traditional recipes.

Moving forward, Amok Trei អាម៉ុកត្, or in English, Steamed Fish Curry is Cambodia’s national dish; a classic Khmer dish traditionally served during the Water Festival in Cambodia as a way to thank the Mekong River for providing Cambodia with abundant fish and fertile land. It is a fragrant and spicy coconut fish curry that is tenderly steamed in banana leaves. The flavour of the dish is quite reminiscent of a mild Thai red curry. The fish is soaked in a rich Khmer kroeung paste and placed in little steamer cups made from banana leaves, imparting their specific flavour into the dish. When cooked, it should have a texture that has been described as a mousse, mousseline, soufflé, and custard.

Amok Trei អាម៉ុកត្ (Steamed Fish Curry)

Locals prefer cooking with goby fish, snakehead fish, or catfish – all freshwater fish from the Tonle Sap or Great Lake, when preparing Amok Trei. Most cookbooks written in the West suggest a firm white fish such as cod or snapper. In cooking classes in Siem Reap, cooking instructors tell participants they can use anything from barramundi to salmon. I used tilapia for my take on Amok Trei and it’s really up to you to decide what fish you want to cook with and most importantly what is readily available in your local market.

Khmer kroeung paste is the basic kroeung or freshly pounded herb and spice paste in Cambodian cooking. It gets its yellow colour from the turmeric and lemongrass stems. The yellow kroeung is used for many classic Khmer and Cambodian dishes, including Amok Trei. Now, a traditional kroeung paste would use kaffir lime zest, but since I could not source any from my local vegetable stall, I went ahead and used lemon zest instead. I also used bottled galangal for the same reason of being unable to source fresh ones.

Amok Trei អាម៉ុកត្ (Steamed Fish Curry)

Older generations of cooks believe that if it’s not properly steamed, it’s not Amok Trei. Amok means to steam in banana leaves in Khmer and it is thought that this refined dish is a Royal Khmer specialty dating back to the Khmer Empire. If it’s not steamed, it’s not amok, it’s curry. Despite its regal origins, Amok Trei is a dish that you’ll see sold in banana baskets on trays in markets and on the street.

Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, please take the time to check out the original where I drew my inspiration from over on Grantourismo by Lara and Terence.

Amok Trei អាម៉ុកត្ (Steamed Fish Curry) Ingredients

PREP TIME 1 HOUR | COOKING TIME 20 MINS | MAKES 6-8

INGREDIENTS

For the kroeung paste

  • 5-6 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small-sized turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp crushed galangal
  • 1 tsp lemon zest

For the amok trei

  • 750g tilapia fish filets, cut into medium-sized chunks
  • 3 dried red chillies
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk*
  • 3 tbsp kroeung paste
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp palm or coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • Pinch of salt

*I made my own coconut milk from grated mature coconut, but you can use store bought coconut milk if you wish.

To garnish

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 red bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced

For the banana leaf boats

  • Banana leaves
  • Toothpicks

METHOD

  1. Kroeung Paste: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the lemongrass until completely mashed and you can no longer see its rings. Add the galangal, turmeric, and lemon zest, and pound further until they’re incorporated into the mashed lemongrass. Lastly, add the garlic and onion, and continue to pound. Work in batches if needed. The finished paste will have some fibres from the lemongrass but should otherwise be quite smooth in texture.
  2. Amok Trei: In the same mortar, add the dried chillies and pound well into the kroeung paste.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the kroeung, fish chunks, and the other ingredients. Lightly combine to avoid breaking up the fish chunks. Adjust the seasoning by cooking a bit of the mixture to be able to taste. The Amok should be well balanced; a little fishy, a little salty, slightly sweet, a tad spicy, and rich and creamy. Adjust as necessary by adding a pinch of salt or sugar, fish sauce, or even a little chilli. Set aside to marinate for about half an hour before steaming.
  4. Banana Leaf Boats: Meanwhile, prepare the banana leaf boats. Wipe a fresh banana leaf with a damp towel to remove any dirt and debris. Cut out the centre stem from the leaf and cut further into smaller rectangular pieces, about 15cm x 20cm in size.
  5. Blanch the leaf pieces in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then dry and let it cool.
  6. Place the banana leaf piece with the shiny side down so it ends up on the outside. Fold the one of the short sides about an inch and a half over, do the same with the one of the longer sides. Pinch and fold the corner over onto the short side. Do the same with the other side and and fasten the folds with a toothpick. Repeat on the other side to form a banana leaf boat. For a picture guide, you can head on over to Table for 2 or More by WendyinKK.
  7. Steaming: Divide the fish amok mixture equally into 6 or 8 banana leaf boats, filling each boat almost to the top. Carefully place into the steamer basket and steam for 20 minutes. The fish amok should be cooked through and firm to touch but still retain moistness. It should not be dry.
  8. About 15 minutes into steaming, top each boat of fish amok with coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, and chillies. Continue to steam for another 5 minutes.
  9. Once done, serve immediately with freshly steamed white rice and a side of vegetables of your choice. Enjoy!

Amok Trei អាម៉ុកត្ (Steamed Fish Curry)

Notes:

  • If you do not have a mortar and pestle, you may use a food processor to make your kroeung paste.
  • Other proteins such as chicken, tofu, and snails can also be used as a substitute for the fish in this dish (but note horrifies older generations).

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com