Cambodia Part 2
Kirirom National Park was our next destination, and since we were gonna be staying at a resort, we figured food would be expensive and more geared to western tastebuds. Thus breakfast required us to make a quick run to Bayon Bakery with a moto driver, and there we bought nice buns and rolls with local egg custard and cream. The most fantastical however were these unassuming baguettes, slightly longer and thinner than the regular ones, we though maybe they were onion baguettes, judging from the bits of fried green onion on the top. A close inspection upon breaking the crusty baguette was delicious sweet savoury pork floss.
The national park was where we learnt to say.. no salt, no msg. By day 4 we were really terrified of the msg laden local cuisine, which would have been really good if not for the liberal quantities of Cambodians' favourite seasoning. I don't mind msg in small quantities, after all it has been used in Chinese cuisine for centuries. But the way Cambodians, Thais and as we discovered later, the Vietnamese, lash it on is just atrocious.
The park was beautiful, and we took a long hike to big big waterfall, and hung around in relative luxury for a few days. We got bored really soon however, and headed next to Sihanoukville, a popular southern coastal town in Kampong Som. After a lacklustre dinner, (we tried to find a local place to eat, but all the local places had menus with no prices and we had a limited budget) we spent the whole of Day Two walking through the sprawling town.
Took us the better part of the day to walk from Victory Beach, back to Oecheutuel Beach where we were staying, but along the way we uncovered a gem. There were some cambodian standards, fish sour soup with morning glory, some salted vegetables eve, all from a roadside stall very much like our own economic rice stalls. The stallholder lady was sweet and knew a little english even. Local customers streamed by to take away plastic bags of food for their own lunches. Our cheapest meal to date (5500 Riel, about USD$1.30 for both of us), with some culinary surprises hiding in our bowl. Behold the humble stewed pork belly. It looked familiar, like a soy sauce braised pork, even sporting the dark stained hard boiled eggs.
A mouthful however revealed a complicated grilled flavour, laced with a mild sweet sauce. The pork had first been marinated then grilled and then cooked in a soy sauce mixture but with dark palm sugar. It was amazing, the chunks of meat melting on my tongue. It was quite hard to believe, and I actually stood up and went to the pot to dish myself more. (I'm not a glutton though, I need to explain that by this point we had gotten a little sick of meat and the generous portions of meat here, coupled with my travelling partner's limited meat intake, meaning that I was getting overly generous portions of meat. So when we saw the fatty meat we just wanted the eggs in the stew, and were not really interested in the meat and had but one small piece in our bowl, hence me getting up to get more.)
After such a yummy lunch we figured we needed something sweet for a treat, and a sign boasting italian gelato called out to us from another street. It was a hospitality school, and they had some lovely home-made gelato for 50 cents a scoop. suffice to say the lime sorbet was the perfect way to cool off in the crazy heat.
Exhausted we spent all afternoon on the beach, eating barbequed squid, drinking beer and getting mobbed by beach kids trying to sell us useless things. I had a bag of apple wafers and instead of buying something from them I would hand the kids a few. They seemed pretty appeased. Circumstances meant that we had to leave Sihanoukville in the morning and so we decided to splash out a little on dinner, and have bbq at one of the pub/shacks by the Sea. It was nothing special really, just a grilled whole fish and some shrimp and more grilled squid. But the fries were some of the best I've ever had, not frozen, made from fresh local potatoes, they were crinkle cut and coated with a thin batter that made a super crisp shell, with lots of potato flavour inside. Oh lovely, a local woman's take on french fries, very well done. Sometimes another culture's insight does yield some fantastic results.
**Some Photos courtesy of Huiwen and Her Camera