Exploring Cambodian Cuisine Further: Ground Pork with Coconut & Chilies

Lunch of leftover Cambodian chile and coconut pork with salad, marinated cucumbers and house-pickled carrots and jalapenos.

So far our exposure to Cambodian cuisine has been moderate at best, mainly limited to the Torsu food truck in NY's Flatiron district and the Manhattan mini-empire of Num Pang sandwich shops. Cafe Drake HRV has long been meaning to correct the deficiency in our Southeast Asian repertoire of go-to home meals and we're getting one step closer with a super easy and fast entree suitable for even the most tired or overwhelmed among you. 

Introducing, Cambodian Pork with Coconut and Chilies. Like most of the nation's food, this dish stresses simplicity via a truncated ingredients list still delivering a grab bag of juxtaposing flavors on one plate - salty, sour and spicy hot. The near prefect trifecta of tastes can only be improved with a sweet element; as seen above Cafe Drake HRV marinated sliced cucumbers in a mixture of vinegar, water and sugar for a few hours in the fridge and served, with lettuce and cherry tomatoes, alongside the pork.

We've prepared this recipe three times now and truly believe we've perfected via this method: Start with 2 lbs. ground pork. Place in a large skillet, without oil, over a medium-high flame and brown for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour out accumulated excess oil then return skillet to the stove and add 3 T. fish sauce, a small splash of soy sauce, 2 t. paprika, 1/2 t. cayenne pepper and 2-5 whole dried red chilies (depending upon your heat preference). Cook for a minute then add to the skillet 1 & 1/4 cups of coconut milk, the canned, thick variety. Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. That's it! You may want to add more salt or black pepper and you'll need at least one of the following garnishes - chopped cilantro, chopped chives, sliced scallions or slivered red onion. Good with rice, noodles or warm flat breads.

Note: One earlier attempt swapped ground chicken for the pork. The results were tasty and lighter than the pork but didn't quite match the original's depth of flavor. Someone please give it a go with ground turkey - or beef - and report back to us! Also, if you don't have fish sauce handy you can substitute 6 finely chopped anchovy fillets which will disintegrate while cooking.


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