Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Kitchen, My World - Cambodia

This week's My Kitchen, My World flight headed to Cambodia. The destination was selected by Lauren of I'll Eat You who is the new My Kitchen My World moderator.

In order to better understand our trip, I have obtained the following information from Cambodia's wiki page (and see original wiki page, linked above, for all citation sources):

The first civilization appeared in Cambodia in the 1st Millenium AD. In its more recent history, Cambodia was a protectorate of France from 1863 to 1953, administered as part of the colony of French Indochina. After war-time occupation by the Japanese empire from 1941 to 1945, Cambodia gained independence from France on November 9, 1953. It became a constitutional monarchy under King Norodom Sihanouk.

Unfortunately, Cambodia's happy independence was quickly interrupted by the Vietnam war, which spilled over into Cambodia. The communist Khmer Rouge fought for control and finally reached Phnom Penh and took power in 1975, changing the official name of the country to Democratic Kampuchea, led by Pol Pot. The Regime, heavily influenced and backed by China, immediately evacuated the cities and sent the entire population on forced marches to rural work projects. They attempted to rebuild the country's agriculture on the model of the 11th century. They discarded Western medicine, destroyed temples, libraries, and anything considered western. Any person with trained skills, doctors, lawyers, teachers, were especially targeted. With that result, hundreds of thousands died from starvation and disease there were almost no drugs in the country.

Estimates vary as to how many people were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime, ranging from approximately one to three million. This era has given rise to the term Killing Fields, and the prison Tuol Sleng became as notorious as Auschwitz in the history of mass killing. Hundreds of thousands more fled across the border into neighbouring Thailand.

In November 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia to stop Khmer Rouge incursions across the border and the genocide in Cambodia. Violent occupation and warfare between the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge holdouts continued throughout the 1980s. Peace efforts began in Paris in 1989, culminating two years later in October 1991 in a comprehensive peace settlement. The United Nations was given a mandate to enforce a ceasefire, and deal with refugees and disarmament.

On March 17, 2003, the United Nations reached a draft agreement with the Cambodian government for an special criminal tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders. The agreement came after five years of negotiations and 24 years after the Khmer Rouge were driven from power. Under the agreement, the panel of judges will include a majority of Cambodians. Human rights groups argue that the government's ability to impose its will on these judges poses an unacceptable obstacle to justice. On the other hand, with many likely defendents over the age of 70, time is running out for justice to be served. (Source: Global Policy Forum.)

The first trial is expected to begin in early 2009.

Despite its recent tragedies, Cambodia is a historically rich country, which is reflected in its cuisine. Many recipes have influence from Vietnam, Thailand and also its French colonization. Ultimately, I selected curry, mostly because I had most ingredients on hand.

First, I cut peeled and cut white pearl onions into quarters. Then, I sauted them in oil and butter with two teaspoons of minced garlic. Even though I was following the recipe's instructions on this, if I could do it over again, I would begin by sauteing the onions well before adding the garlic because the garlic began to brown and burn well before the onions were soft. Also, I grated a teaspoon or so of fresh ginger before I realized that ginger wasn't on the ingredient list (brain was running on slow-mode that day). So, I went ahead and added it. Good for flavor, but a big mistake to add it when I did because ginger browns and burns even more easily than garlic.

Anyway, before the onions were really soft, but before the garlic and ginger were too far gone, I went ahead and added the coconut milk, meat (I used pork) and potatoes. I then simmered it very gently for a long time (lower and slower than called for in the recipe since I was using pork). I think that if I had used chicken instead of pork, the meat would have been done long before the potatoes. Another addition I made to the receipe was to add petite green beans a while before the meat was done simmering.

My friends, Anjali and Jeff came over for dinner. We all really enjoyed the curry, served over brown rice. I will say, though, that after cooking the recipe, I realized that it couldn't possibly be that authentic. Why? Because each serving has a whopping 1,200 calories. Holy cow! Needless to say, although the curry was supremely tasty (with all that fat, what wouldn't?), I won't be making it again.


Elra said...

Nice write up about the Cambodian history, I am impress that you've done your homework pretty well.
I think ginger on any curry will make curry taste more delicious.

Roxanne said...

I'm very glad I made the ginger mistake because I thought it added a lot of flavor. Many Cambodian curry recipes, including the one you made for this week's adventure, included fish sauce, lemongrass, etc. I was trying to make one that didn't have a lot of extra ingredients I knew I was unlikely to use up. As a result, I ended up with one that tasted good, but very one dimensional. And that dimension was coconut milkfat. :)