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Review: The Food & Cooking of Cambodia

by Ghillie Basan

2008  Aness Publishing   ISBN-13: 978-1844763511

Almost all of my experience with Cambodian cuisine comes from trying the odd recipe from books broadly focusing on Asian, or somewhat more particularly, Southeast Asian cookery. There is no shortage of books on Vietnamese or Thai food, of course, but Cambodia has thus far received short shrift and it is not easy to get a sense of the cuisine of that nation from those generalized cookery books in which Cambodian dishes are not widely featured. As such, it was indeed a pleasant surprise when I came across this very nice little volume…

Content and Organization

 

As touted on the front cover, the book contains some 60 recipes organized into fairly straightforward and standard categories. There is a brief, four page,  introduction to the culture and cuisine of Cambodia that is quite nicely illustrated with colorful photographs, and another four pages covering the equipment and cooking techniques in the typical Cambodian kitchen. At the end of the book, there is also a list of sources for Cambodian ingredients but this is likely only of limited value, particularly given that only one of the listings includes an internet link.

Critique

The book is fairly lavishly illustrated beyond the photographs in the introductory section and there is a decent picture of each of the recipes on offer. There are also quite a number of shots showing steps in the cookery process for many dishes but I have to say that, while nicely composed and interesting, they are more decorative than useful and really could have been executed so as to be a bit more instructional.

Thankfully, though, the recipes are clearly written, easy to follow, and are supplemented by some helpful and informative cookery tips. One feature of this book (and, indeed, Cambodian cuisine as a whole) is that the dishes focus on fairly straightforward ingredients prepared with freshness and simplicity in mind. Thai cookery, like Malay or Indonesian cuisine, can be a bit daunting for some, given the complex spice blends and techniques they frequently employ, but there really is nothing too horrendously difficult in these pages.

As yet, I have mostly only browsed this book for inspiration and, thus far, the only recipe I have closely followed is the one for ‘Hot and Sour Fish Soup’. There are some very interesting dishes I want to sample, especially one for stuffed baby squid, but I am particularly looking forward to trying out an intriguing, but very simple, combination called ‘Minced Meat with Charred Aubergine’.

Overall

Generally, I am pleased with this book. Before buying a similar volume dedicated to Cambodian cuisine, I might insist on something with a little more comprehensive coverage of the food and a bit more than the 60 odd recipes provided here. That being said though, this is a pretty good introduction to the cuisine and the dishes presented are so relatively straightforward and simple as to make this a useful guide to those with only a little experience with the cookery of the region.

Available Here…

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hello, I didn’t see your review on amazon.com! I think you need to go there to try out the Cambodian cuisine instead of just reading. I took a trip to Cambodia few years ago. I only took two food pix! Because all the other meals we had were either western or Chinese, unlike our turkey trip when we took the Turkish cuisine everyday. I will pay more attention to local cuisine in my next trip. I glanced at the book you reviewed. It looks like I can try some, like the coconut steamed fish! Thanks for sharing.

    October 30, 2012
  2. As limited as my travels have been, I seem to focus on what people normally eat. I love trying new things and finding hidden treasures. I am also grateful for bloggers like you, who expand my horizons. The pumpkin pudding in banana leaves sounds lovely! Thank you for another inspiring post.

    October 30, 2012
  3. I like this review, and that you don’t feel compelled to be nice about all the aspects of the book.
    Keep up the good work

    October 30, 2012
  4. My neighbors are Cambodian. They are a multi-generational family and the grandparents lived in Cambodia until a few years ago. There are some wonderful smells that waft our way. They cook very late in the evening, sometimes close to my bedtime and I smell a lot of fish and spices. You’ll have to share which recipes you enjoy the best! 🙂

    October 31, 2012
  5. If you ever have the chance, grab the book The Cuisine of Cambodia by Nusara Thaitawat. I believe it’s still out of print. I’ve found the recipes in that book, which was approved by Norodom Sihanouk – also known as His Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk to be quite good. There’s a whole chapter on Kroeung. I thought that A Taste of Cambodian Cuisine had some easy recipes, though it’s been adjusted for Western palates. We really enjoyed the Khmer style food we had in Cambodia.

    October 31, 2012
  6. 50% of my family and extended family are Cambodian. many survived the Khmer Rouge. I’ll check this out to compare with the Cambodian cooking I’ve come to know and love.

    October 31, 2012
  7. Love it. One of my favorite cookbooks is The Elephant Walk Cookbook from the acclaimed restaurant in Boston. This one looks like a good read too.

    October 31, 2012

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