The united colours

By: Southeast Asia Globe editorial - POSTED ON: September 26, 2014 

Gastronomic artistes from across the globe showcase local ingredients in a whole new light
There is something a little bit special about Cambodian cuisine. A combination of local tastes, mixed with the best of Chinese, Indian and Thai influences makes for a culinary crusade like no other. The unique flavours are subtle and refined, with many dishes taking hours to prepare, although it all begins with the array of fresh, local produce available across the country. These ingredients have attracted skilled epicurean adventurers from across the globe, and the country has begun to garner a reputation as a foodie paradise, with exciting culinary talents taking Cambodian ingredients in thrilling new directions. Discover asked three of the country’s finest chefs, from three different continents, to choose their favourite local ingredients and create a dish that exudes the flavour of a nation that is forging ahead on an exhilarating culinary journey.
Luu Meng, Cambodia. Lemongrass. Photo: Sam Jam
Samlor Korko. Meng says: “Many countries in this region have lemongrass, so it is an ingredient that most chefs need. It has so many uses, such as in tea and even for incense, but in Cambodian kitchens we mainly use it for salads, stews, soups and desserts. Cambodia is a great place to get lemongrass, because the methods used to grow it are usually quite natural, so Cambodian lemongrass is very flavoursome compared to neighbouring countries. Samlor Korko is a traditional, stew-like dish in Cambodia that includes pork, lemongrass and lots of wild herbs. The word ‘korko’ relates to the long stirring and mixing process that the dish requires. We use the green part of the lemongrass, chopped very fine, pounded and mixed into a paste we call kroeung.” Photo: Sam Jam
Gisela Salazar, Venezuela. Favourite ingredient: Mango and Passion Fruit. Photo: Sam Jam
Mango cannelloni with marinated salmon and a passion fruit espuma. Gisela says: “Here in Cambodia, a lot of the ingredients are similar to those we use in Venezuela, so I’ve been eating mango and passion fruit since I was very small. They are my two favourite fruits. I like the idea of playing with salty and sweet, and acidic in the case of the passion fruit. In the dish, I took out the pasta that would normally be used for cannelloni and replaced it with mango, and the salmon inside is marinated in ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime and olive oil. I used passion fruit as part of an espuma, mixing it with mustard and honey, because the flavours combine so well. Even if you’re just walking down the street in Cambodia, a guy will pull up on his bike and offer you fresh mangoes. They’re in the markets, in the street, up on trees; they’re just everywhere.” Photo: Sam Jam
Johannès Rivière, France. Lotus. Photo: Sam Jam

 Quail salad with lotus root, stem and seed. Johannès says: “I chose lotus because it is a very important plant in Asian culture: the symbolism of lotus, of purity, is found everywhere. Also, you can do everything with it. You can use the leaf to wrap food, you can make fabric from the sap and you can use it to make food. The stem is quite crunchy and starchy, the seeds taste like very fresh green peas and the root is boiled to bring a very soft texture to the dish. This is my take on a traditional Cambodian salad. It’s very classic with vegetables, meat, herbs, peanuts and some dressing. The idea was to work on the different textures you can get from lotus. It is quite traditional in preparation but a bit more contemporary with the use of lotus, which is not usually used for salads.” Photo: Sam Jam


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