April 16, 2010

Celebrating Cambodian New Year at Taste of Southeast Asia

Cambodian New Year event
Last night, I was invited to celebrate the Cambodian New Year with a Taste of Southeast Asia.  The event was in support of Khmer Legacies and was held at the Bennett Media Studio (a beautiful space that's also been used to film television shows like Law & Order and White Collar)

It was a nice event, with a handful of tables serving food and drink.  But my favorite part of the night was going up to Ed Bennett's beautiful kitchen (as large as my apartment - sigh!) for an intimate cooking demonstration led by Chef Jay Weinstein.

The Ethical Gourmet
Chef Jay made two dishes incorporating products from event sponsor WorldFoods.  The first dish was a mild dish that could be served with rice as an entree.

Masaman Shrimp and Chicken with Black Mushrooms.
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 green bell peppers, chopped (about 2 cups)
12 Chinese black mushrooms, soaked in hot water until soft (about 30 mins), chopped
1/2 lb boneless chicken, chopped
12 medium shrimp, peeled
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup WorldFoods Masaman Thai cooking sauce
Cilantro to garnish

1. Heat oil in a large skillet or pot until it simmers but does not smoke.
2. Add onions, peppers, and mushrooms.  Cook over medium-high heat until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
3. Dust chicken and shrimp with cornstarch.  Add chicken, shrimp, and Masaman Thai sauce to vegetables.  Cover and cook over high heat until chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 5 minutes more.  Serve immediately and garnished with cilantro.
Vietnamese Rice Crepes or Banh Xeo
The second dish was a popular Vietnamese street food, Banh Xeo or Rice Crepes
Ingredients (serves 6):
1 cup Asian rice flour (the packages with red writing)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 1/4 cup cold water
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups sliced onions
1/4 lb center cut pork chops, cut into 1/8 inch slivers
12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and halved lengthwise
1 recipe Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce (below)
4 cups bean sprouts
Cilantro for garnish

1. Whisk together flour and turmeric. Whisk in cold water and scallions.  Set batter aside.
2. For each crepe:  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat until it shimmers but does not smoke.  Add a small amount of mushrooms, onions, pork chops, and shrimp.  Season with salt and pepper, and then cook without stirring until it is lightly browned (about 1 min).
3. Add 2 Tbsp rice batter and tilt pan to create an even layer.  Let it cook untouched until the batter has set (about 5 mins).  Season again, and then cover half of the crepe with a handful of bean sprounts.  Fold in half to cover, omelet-style.
4. Transfer filled crepe to a serving plate.  Dress with nuoc cham and garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately.
5. Repeat from steps 2 onwards for the other 5 crepes.

Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce:  Combine 1 minced Thai chili (or a pinch of chili flakes) with 1/4 cup bottled fish sauce, 2 Tbsp lime juice, 1/4 cup grated carrots, 1/2 tsp chopped garlic, 1/4 cup sugar, and 3/4 cup warm water.  Stir until sugar dissolves.
steamed and fried dumplings
After the cooking demonstration, I headed into the more crowded party space to check out the other food offerings.  There were tons of steamed dumplings and whole wheat pan fried dumplings.
Chef Chris and Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost
But I really enjoyed the Fresh Ginger, Ginger Ale by Bruce Cost, a natural, 100% pure cane sugar beverage that was good by itself and as part of Chef Chris Johnson's (Bao Noodles) Moscow Mule cocktail (vodka, lime juice, and the fresh ginger, ginger ale).
Short Ribs on Lemongrass
Chef Chris' short ribs wrapped on lemongrass was delicious as were Chef King Phojanakong's (Kuma Inn & Umi Nom) pork belly (not pictured).

Though it was a small event, I left with full stomach and a bag full of swag (a few new sauces and a cookbook).  I'm looking forward to trying out these easy recipes at home.


  1. I love the idea of wrapping meat around lemon grass. I have a great Thai recipe that I use and sometimes wrap that meat around sugar cane stickes (canned ones that I have sliced to smaller "sticks")Love unique ideas like this. Did you get the recipe for these? I would love this!
    Thanks for the great photos...

  2. @Valerie - oh, your Thai recipe sounds great - love sugar cane! Unfortunately, they did not provide me with the recipe for the skewer dish, but I imagine it would be similar to your recipe. It tasted like the meat was marinated in a sweet/salty sauce, similar to Korean kalbi, wrapped around the lemongrass, and grilled.

  3. ah, let me see about getting the recipe from the chef!


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