Well due to all the madness in Thailand I’ve been delayed in PP for a few more days. Not that I necessarily mind as I’m getting a chance to spend more time with friends here. I had a previously scheduled cooking date with my Khmer teacher (she is awesome! and available for lessons!) where she and her friend were going to show me and a few of her other students how to make Khmer noodles, Nom Banhchok (នំបញ្ចុក). I’m a vegetarian so we made a normal version with fish and a vegetarian version with mushrooms. It was by far the best Khmer food I’ve had here and I regret not having arranged this lesson sooner. I definitely missed the subtleties of the recipe but here’s an overview.
The soup itself is made up of this mashed herb/spice mixture that typically has fish but my version had mashed mushrooms. It’s made up of garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and some other ingredients whose English names I do not know.
Here’s a before (pre-mashed photo) – you can buy these all together at the market quite easily.
*apologies in advance for some blurry photos.
And below is the after shot- when the spices have all been pounded together.
We dumped a generous amount of this in with some boiling water and a splash of the secret ingredient- coca cola (I am not kidding).
My version then got some mushrooms and the pot happily sat on the stove boiling away.
Meanwhile the non-veg version had fish boiling in the pot. After the fish was soft they took it out and mashed it up into crumbly bits and then put it back in the pot to simmer.
Meanwhile my teacher was busy chopping up fresh vegetables. She kept saying over and over that Khmer is busy food- you are kept busy with lots of steps. The fresh vegetables we used were:
Long beans (I think សណ្ដែកកួរ) and cucumbers (ត្រសក់)
Banana Flower ( ត្រយូងចេក) which was shredded into bits below. It has a slight bitter taste.
This was then combined with some mung beans (សណ្ដែកបាយ), hot peppers (ម្ទេស), basil and other herbs ( ជីរ), and some limes ( ក្រូចឆ្មារ) to make this nice little spread of fresh tasties that you can add to your soup to your liking. Generally you pinch a few of these into a bowl first, then place your noodles on top, and then spoon on the broth.
Here’s the white noodles that come wrapped in a banana leaf.
Salt, palm sugar, and MSG can be added to the broth to taste. The palm sugar comes fresh from the tree and my teacher bought some fresh from the market in a plastic bag (below).
My Khmer teacher’s friend, who has experience cooking vegetarian food, was adamant that tofu would not really add to this dish and wasn’t necessarily an appropriate substitute for meat in Khmer cooking. Instead she really focused on mushrooms ( ផ្សិត). In addition to soup she made this amazing fried mushroom dish. She pounded the mushroom before so it got tough like meat, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and then fried it to make some tasty little snacks.
Above: Mushrooms frying in the pan
After an hour or so everything was finished and we stuffed ourselves silly.
Now I have some delicious leftovers to keep me company while I figure out my schedule home.
Last but not least the chefs relax after the meal! Neakkru Sophavy is on the left and her friend on the right.
I am THRILLED that this karaoke song about two dueling Nom Bahnchok sellers exists on youtube. I insist that you watch it whether you understand Khmer or not.
Another website details Nom Bahnchok in Kampot.
Cambodian cuisine on Wikipedia
Cambodian cookbook review from a local PP restaurant that does cooking classes.
Perhaps the most famous Cambodian restaurant in the US- The Elephant Walk