What is RSS?

Read stuff, simply. RSS is a really useful technology with a really stupid name. People occasionally refer to it as a “feed”, by the the feed icon symbol, or by the technical term “Really Simple Syndication”.

What does it do for me?
It is like having all of your favorite websites send you a postcard when they are updated for you to peruse at your leisure. If you enjoy receiving postcards, you’ll probably like it. Instead of visiting every website to check for updates, RSS will warn you of fresh content. Like Phnomenon, RSS is all about freshness.

So how do I “subscribe” to this “RSS”?
To read RSS, you need a RSS reader. An RSS reader gathers all of the feeds that you want to be fed in one place. I prefer Google Reader because it is simple (and Google pays me money) but other popular readers include My Yahoo or Bloglines. The new versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer also have their own readers.

Kokoro

Small, cheap Japanese – great place to go if you feel like an unpretentious Japanese meal and have no one to impress. Kind of isikaya/sushi restaurant with a marked preference for deep frying. Highlights include a selection of sakes, deep-fried mashed potato, eggplant with miso paste, and real Japanese tuna. The jovial owner, Toshi, says the fish is imported once a month from Japan, and if the honesty of his food is any judge, he tells no lies.

Location: #18 Sihanouk, near corner of Sisowath

Sisters All Day Breakfast

Cambodian restaurants have a bad habit of biting off more than they can chew when it comes to deciding what they’re going to put on the menu, generally settling with “All Kinds of Khmer, Thai and Chinese Foods” and possibly pizza thrown in for good measure. Thankfully, Sisters isn’t one of these places. They’ve pared their menu down to three options: waffles, pancakes, omelettes with sides of bacon and hash browns, served all day with fresh coffee and juice. A cake cabinet has the spoils of the recipes they stole from Jars of Clay around the corner.

Sisters looks like your average Khmer family-run restaurant – the same plastic chairs, laminated menu and only four tables, differentiated slightly by having purple cotton table cloths that match the chairs. As for the food: I had the pancakes with syrup with a side of bacon ($1.75) and a coffee ($0.50). The pancakes were so good that I didn’t care when that the bacon didn’t arrive. As much as I try to convince people that Maple Bacon is America’s culinary gift to humanity, even the Cambodians are conspiring against me having boiled tree sap with my pork.

Location: In the crypto-religious café district (equidistant between Café Yejj and Jars of Jesus), On St.450 between St. 155 and 163, opposite Russian Market.

Deep Fried Bananas (Cheik Chien) on St.432


If you’re looking to step into the world of Cambodian street food without stepping into something potentially fatal, deep fried bananas are about as safe and inoffensive as you’ll get. They’re widely available and the only difference in quality seems to be determined by how recently they were fried. The ripe bananas are flattened into a fritter and dipped in a sweet batter with black sesame seeds. At a price of 200riel (5 cents) each, you’d be hard pressed to find a cheaper snack when you do the weekly run for pirated DVDs at the Russian Market. This stand is open here every day and tends to stay open until they’ve sold all of their day’s bananas.

Location: Corner of St.135 and 432, near Psar Toul Tom Poung (Russian Market)

Bayon Beer

bayon

Brewer: Cambrew

Evil has many faces, and in this case, it has the stony visage of Jayavaraman VII doing his Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara impression. Jayavaraman VII was known for his patronage of epic Angkorian architecture rather than his ability to transmute barley into alcoholic goodness and despite his complete lack of brewing skills, the beer with his statue on it pays him nothing but disrespect.

Cambrew says: “This exotic beer is brewed in Sihanoukville, Cambodia employing the best traditional processes. Bayon Beer embodies the full quality of a Asian beer with an alcohol content of between 5.0% to 5.2%. Bayon beer is essentially catered to Asian drinkers with a smooth and hoppy aroma to give a pleasant after taste. Bayon Beer is refreshing and thirst quenching.”

I say: There’s rice malt in this beer and a whole lot of it, which is probably why Cambrew use the term “Asian” twice in their vignette. If you’re looking for a Khmerised version of a bad American beer, then this Bud is for you. Dry flavor, with an empty basement, mildew aroma. Thin enough for brushing your teeth in. No head, pale urine color.

Availability:All Cambodia, can only.

If this beer was a Cambodian landmark appropriate to the beer’s stature, it would be: a looted grave in Oddar Meanchey

Angkor Lager



Brewer: Cambrew

I thought that I’d start reviewing beer with Angkor: because as the bottle says, it’s the National Beer. Along with Bayon Beer, Cambrew have been brewing it in Sihanoukville since the 1960s with a long break for the Khmer Rouge regime, resuming operations in 1992.

Confusingly, the bottle also displays multiple Australian Beer Awards. As I have a vague and addled memory of attending one of these award festivals, I thought I should find out how they won. The International section of the awards is open to “all commercial brewers authorised, licensed or registered in their country of origin, with a minimum brewlength of 30 hL” – Cambrew produces about 5000 hL. Each year Angkor has been entered in “Class 1 – Lager, Subclass A European Style Lager” with fairly mixed results. The dirty secret of the Australian Beer Awards is that everyone gets a medal.

To “win” its Silver Medal in 2002, it was beaten for a Gold medal in the class by lager luminaries such as Toohey’s Hahn Premium Lager and Nambibia’s finest beer, Windhoek Lager. The award that counts, “Best in Class”, was deservedly won by James Squire Original Pilsener. By 2003, Angkor had slipped to Bronze medal, with the likes of Hollandia, a faux-import brew owned by Liquorland, aimed at the bottom end of the the supermarket chain’s market; and Vanuatu’s only entry, Vanuatu Beer. To add the classic Indochinese geopolitical insult to injury, Angkor was beaten in its class by Vietnam’s BGI.

Cambrew Says: “A rich golden lager, it embodies the full quality of a European beer with an alcohol content of 5.2% to 5.5% by volume. The beer is full bodied with soft bitterness and light hoppy aroma to satisfy any discerning drinker”

I say : Light hoppy aroma smells suspiciously like bread dough, rather than hops. Straw-colored with a soapy head. Sweet aftertaste, slightly metallic.

Availability: Everywhere, in draught, bottle, can.

If this beer was an 80s hair metal band that never really went away it would be: Bon Jovi

Menu Weirdness in Battambang


Teo Hotel in Battambang not only features an inappropriately encyclopedic menu ranging from pizza to hamburgers to Thai classics, but also plays host to some of the strangest menu translations available in the whole of Cambodia.

Next time I’m up north, I’ll be devoting my meal time to all kinds of on fire.







Fish Amok (Amok Trei)

This fish amok recipe is one that I partly ripped off from Frizz Restaurant’s cooking class with a bit of modifying. Usually a small piece of grachai rhizome is added to the spice paste (kroeung), but I’ve left it out to keep things simple. I think you would struggle to find a canonical version of amok: practically every Khmer restaurant cooks a version of it with whatever they have on hand. To cook a fully vegetarian version, use tofu instead of fish, and leave out shrimp paste and fish sauce.

Normally fish amok is steamed in a coconut shell or banana leaf package, but when I’m cooking at home I can’t be bothered fooling around with it, and end up steaming it in a bowl in the steamer.

Ingredients

* 400 g meaty fish or firm tofu
* 1/2 cup coconut cream
* 2 cups coconut milk
* 1 tbsp fish sauce to taste

Kroeung:

* 2 red chilies
* 2 cloves garlic
* 2 tbsp galangal, cut small
* 3 tbsp lemon grass stalk
* zest of ¼ kaffir lime
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tbsp kapi (or any shrimp paste)

Garnish
* 3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly
* 3 cayenne peppers or red capsicum

Make the kroeung by pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, working from driest ingredient to wettest. Slice the fish thinly (or tofu into blocks) and set aside. Slice the kaffir lime leaves and cayenne peppers thinly.

Stir the kroeung into 1 cup of coconut milk, and when it has dissolved, add the fish sauce to taste and sliced fish. Then add the remaining coconut milk and mix well.

Place fish mixture in a small bowl. Steam for about 20 minutes or until the coconut milk is solid, but still moist. Before serving top each bowl with a little coconut cream and garnish with kaffir leaf and cayenne peppers.

Serve with steamed rice.

Addendum (22 March 2006): Try the more recent fish amok recipe for more authentic results.