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lunch in the penh…green & vietnamese, part 1

At least once a week, you can find me grabbing the sweet, sour and fresh tastes of neighbouring Vietnam.  Though the complicated geopolitical relationships and war-time history between the two countries sometimes pop-up in debate, Vietnamese food remains plentiful and delicious throughout Phnom Penh (and I’ll be providing a few more stories on the nexus of religion/politics, ethics and food later on in my Lunch in the Penh series).

But getting back to the delectable.  Vietnamese food is a favourite of mine because of it’s ability to combine the sweet and the savoury, and all of those fresh green herbs that usually come with most dishes.  And one of the best locales for m’hope Vietnam (that’s Vietnamese food in Khmer for all y’all) is Magnolia (House 55, Street 51, at the corner of street 242).  Not only is the food delicious and remarkably affordable, but it’s a great place to catch up with friends in a luscious green setting, al fresco or air-conditioned and inside if the heat is too stifling or the rains are raging during the lunch hour.

It is very likely that my favourite Vietnamese dishes of all time is bún thịt nướng chả giò, or Fried Pork with Rice Vermicelli and Spring Rolls.  I first fell in love with it while living in Chinatown during university, when my buddy Nid and I would go for bowls of it at the Pho Hung across the street from our apartment.  I’ve also now had the authentic dishes in Hanoi and Saigon and I can testify that Magnolia’s version is pretty damn good.  It’s a great lunchtime meal, with cold rice vermicelli noodles, grilled pork that is sweet, smokey and hot off the barbecue, a pile of those delicious Vietnamese herbs whose names I cannot tell you, and those rich fried spring rolls stuffed with more pork and taro.  It’s all finished with a splash of the sweet and sour fish sauce mixture that comes with pickled carrots and daikon; and my personal addition is also a big dab of oyster sauce too.  Ridiculously delicious.  And all that for a steal at $3.50!

And another big reason my friends and I head to Magnolia is for the Banh Xeo.  This dish is popular in the regions bordering Cambodia and Vietnam and is a savory paper thin crepe made with rice flour and the yellow colour comes from tumeric.  It’s then stuffed with any number of ingredients of your liking; most often pork, shrimp or chicken, and fried to a lovely golden colour.

But the common question about this dish concerns how exactly one eats it?  It can indeed be a tad overwhelming when one is presented with a big massive stuffed pancake; served with an even bigger plate of fresh greens; and that lovely sweet and sour fish sauce mixture with picked carrots and daikon.  How do you deal?  Well, I was lucky enough to have gotten instructions from a co-worker from the border-region which banh xeo hails.  It’s pretty simple – you use your hands.  First, grab a big piece of lettuce from your pile of greens.  Then using that piece of lettuce, grab a chunk of the stuffed pancake and add some of the fresh green herbs in there too.  Finally dip into the fish sauce and voila….you have pure yummy. And all for $3-4 you say?

I can guarantee that you won’t leave a scrap on your plates with these 2 lunchtime faves.  Check it out if you find yourself in the BKK1/Wat Langka neighbourhood.  Enjoy!All photos in this post, unless otherwise noted, by infinitiff.  Please do not reproduce or use without permission).


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stately sarnies…(and more food on wood!)

My friend Alissa (check out her fantastic Cambodia blog here) posted this on Facebook the other day and I just had to share it too!

Who doesn’t love sandwiches? Sammies? Sarnies? Or whatever you choose to call them!  It’s the perfect lunch that I’ve been having since the tender age of 6, and sometimes I’ll actually feel a bit homesick if I haven’t had a good one in a while.

Graphic designer Kelly Pratt loves sandwiches too!  So much so that she created a website completely devoted to Stately Sandwiches!  How ingenious! I love how simply delicious the photos are.  And moreover…she places the the sarnies on wooden platters too! Bestill my heart. And here are some of my faves!

All photos and designs by Kelly Pratt for Stately Sandwiches.

And speaking of sandwiches – there are some great ones in Phnom Penh!  I’ll have to do a lunch time series post on that soon!

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too freakin’ beautiful to eat…

As a born and bred Torontonian, foodie and a bunch of other things…sushi is/was part of my weekly digestion.  But these guys are just too stunning to eat.  International ad agency I&S BBDO for the umino seaweed shop has created “design nori” in a collection of five designs as a way to give a boost to the nori market and consumption in post-tsunami/earthquake Japan.  It’s a great idea.  Simply beautiful.  But seriously – if this was presented to you – could you eat it?

All photos by I&S BBDO via designboom.


curated: food on wood

My perfect lunch.  Antipasto Plate by As Ink Remains.

Not too sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m kinda a big fan of wood.  Cabins, hardwood floors, woodworking, walls, backgrounds, frames.  All that.  And food on a wooden board or surface? Even better!  I just think that a good slab of wood is the best surface to showcase not just ingredients, but dishes on.  For me, perfection would be a rooftop in London, lots of breads, cheeses and antipasti on wooden boards, and my best buddies. (because let’s face it….it’s a little too hot for cheese in Cambodia)

So while I’m a tad overwhelmed by the work-related, I thought I’d share some of these beautiful foodie shots that were waiting for eyes on the web.  Bon appetit! xoxoxo, t (and lots more original posts soon, I promise!)

Cheese please! Or what happens when you serve food on wooden boards.  Photos by Louisa Brimble and Stefanie Ingram for Kinfolk Magazine.

And it’s not just for cheese!  Photo by What Katie Ate (at The Grounds in Sydney)

Meat’s good too!  Roasted Flank Steak with Mushrooms and Thyme from Cooking Melangery.

Dessert’s not bad either!  Riesling Poached Pear Tart with Chai Spiced Custard & Almond Crust by Coco at Roost.

But antipasti is the best I think. Photo by Martha Stewart.

And picnics too!  Danish food love by Hilda Grahnat, Brittany Watson Jepsen and Elaina Keppler for Kinfolk Magazine.

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Cambodia Cookbook-4….easy peasy agua fresca!

Damn, it’s hot right now!  It hit 43°C on Friday, but I swear it felt like 55°C.  And so,  it’s time for something cold and refreshing!  Seriously, it is sizzling in Cambodia! And I hear the mercury’s rising in London and Toronto too!

For the past couple of years, I’ve been making agua fresca to cool off on a hot season’s day.  It’s such an awesome low key beverage to while away a hot afternoon with.  I also just bought a blender last week, just in time for this heat (yay smoothies too!).  It’s such an incredibly simple recipe and so cheap to make too.  Watermelon (3000-4000R at the market, 75cents-$1), lime juice (5cents), sugar, water, combine and blend!  See! Easy peasy!

Agua Fresca
(recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman at NYTimes)

4 cups diced/de-seeded watermelon
3 cups of water (divided in half)
2-3 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar

1) Blend together the watermelon or cantaloupe with 1 1/2 cups of the water, the lime juice and the sugar at high speed until smooth.
2) Strain through a medium strainer into a large pitcher or bowl.
3) Stir in the remaining water. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
4) Fill a glass with ice, pour in the agua fresca, garnish with a mint sprig…et voila! Agua fresca!

All photos in this post, unless otherwise noted, by infinitiff.  Please do not reproduce or use without permission).

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getting graphic, making schnitzel

I love schnitzel.  Of all types – tofu, pork, chicken, veal.  Everything breaded and fried is awesome.  We even ate some sort of Asian version of it when I was a kid and my mom called it schnitzel.  So I stumbled upon this fantastic comic on how one makes wiener schnitzel by contributor to The Simpsons, writer and cartoonist, Mimi Pond and just had to share.

Check out the full comic over here at Saveur, and their other food comix over here.  And in the meantime, here are the most important parts…I hope my German approves.

Images by Mimi Pond via Saveur.

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lunch in the penh 2…tom yummy!

Within a month of returning to Phnom Penh this year, I was promptly introduced to this tiny little spec of a gem by my awesome and astounding friend, Jess.  And within one spoonful of this perfectly simple soup – I was in love.

Because of ridiculous proximity to their office, a couple of my girlfriends love this little family-owned resto at the corners of Street 111 and 242 for a cheap lunch.  And I definitely agree.  The Tom Yum Drei (Tom Yum Fish Soup) is so incredibly yummy and cheap here (7000R! or $1.75 including unlimited rice!) that I will definitely make the 10 minute hot and sweaty bike ride across town for some perfectly sour and limey fish soup.

Tom Yum Drei is essentially a Khmerized version of the Thai tom yum soup.  (“Tom” means soup and “Yum” means hot and sour)  This particular soup is filled with local herbs, straw mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, shallots, lemongrass and fish!  (You can also order it with chicken or shrimp)  So it’s packed with a big flavour punch.  Just spoon over rice and you’ve got yourself and awesome, hearty and tasty meal!

Just spoon over rice!

So if you’re after a tasty lunch that will fill you up (rice tends to do that) at a remarkably low price, then this little unnamed resto at the corner of streets 111 and 242 is what you’re looking for.Or if you’re unfortunately not in PP and want to recreate this dish at home – check out this recipe of a creamy Thai version of tom yum over at She Simmers!  (and yes, that’s a picture of their kitchen, below – this resto is so tiny but always packed during lunch!)All photos in this post, unless otherwise noted, by infinitiff.  Please do not reproduce or use without permission).