Cambodia, 1965

Sidman has uploaded some excellent footage to YouTube, shot through rose-colored glasses in the pre-Khmer Rouge era. If you’ve never been to Cambodia, it’ll look like a cheesy 60s Disney documentary but if you’ve been to these places, you’ll probably want to cry. Parts 1 through 6 in the rest of this entry.

Also cheers to everyone who donated to Menu for Hope III. 58K is a fine effort. Raffle draw will be in the post-festive hangover season.

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Menu For Hope III: Bed Supperclub

Bed Supper Club(Photo courtesy: mihobsen)

While the design looks like the bedroom of an evil genius hell-bent on converting the world to stark minimalism, the kitchen is now the boudoir of culinary mastermind, Paul Hutt, fresh from Meric in Siem Reap. Not to be outdone by his former coworkers, Bed Supperclub in Bangkok has kindly offered a dinner for two, any Sunday through Thursday in 2007 for Menu For Hope. Prize code is AP44; and includes RealThai’s personal day tour of the Bangkok food scene

See Also: Bed Supperclub‘s site

(Note: Menu for Hope is now closed. Raffle coming soon)

Menu For Hope III: 100 million riel

Just like P. Diddy, Phnomenon is all about the Benjamins. One week down and Menu for Hope has raised 24 grand for the UN World Food Programme. This means we’ve hit the crucial half-Landcruiser mark (or alternately, about 60 tonnes of rice*). If you’re unimpressed with my prize, here’s a few of my picks from the global pool.

If I had been a more personable guy, I might have offered to drive you around Phnom Penh’s markets and back alleys, sampling street food. Austin at RealThai is much friendlier than me and has offered to ferry you about his local haunts and markets in Bangkok. You can’t put a price on local knowledge.

Singapore’s Chubby Hubby has lined up the 10 course degustation at Tetsuya’s for you and a special friend. Possibly one of the best meals to be had in Australia and reason enough to make a visit to Sydney.

Inscribed copy of Charcuterie (5th ed.). One day I dream of holing up in a cool cellar, curing meats in the dark. Then years later I would emerge, Gollum-like, shielding my eyes from the sunlight with fistfuls of precious ham. This book is the first step.

coffee with kellerCoffee with Thomas Keller. I imagine that after Thomas Keller drank his latte in Yountville, to the amazement of the gathering crowd, he would eat the cup and saucer. Along with attaining a certain god-like status amongst food writers and other chefs for his work at French Laundry, Thomas Keller can eat glass.

ChewyDo you ever wonder how many people ask Peter Mayhew if he could do the Wookie noise? I believe that this 4.5lb Chewbacca bust, issued only to ILM employees, was minted so that Peter could bean everybody who asked him with it. That’s what it sounds like, biatch.

Foodiefarmgirl’s sheep: If I actually got to eat the sheep as well as name it, this would have been on top of my list. This prize also gets a mention for being purely existential.

Get your tickets at Menu for Hope. $10 buys one.

* – My rice calculation is at 1600 riel a kilo (cheapish Cambodian/Vietnamese rice). US medium grain prices are around $500 a short ton (milled, <4% broken, FOB), so you’d end up with about 43 tonnes of rice. I’m not sure how much the UN pays for their rice.

Anchor Smooth Pilsener

Anchor Smooth Pilsener

It says something very special about the Cambodian national psyche that the nation’s two most popular beers share the same name. APB, the now-owners of this pan-Asian trash beer, somehow convinced Cambodia to pronounce their pilsener “Anne Chore” instead of “Angkor”. In a more just and reasonable world, the correct pronunciation would be “aing churr” which approximates the words “barbecued sick” in grammatically nonsensical Khmer.

APB says: “Anchor was first brewed in Singapore over 70 years ago using German technology and brew masters. Anchor’s value-for-money positioning and its refreshing and signature crisp taste have clearly struck a chord with drinkers in over 10 countries in Asia.”

I say: With a little more fine-tuning of their German technology, APB could release the first beer that is both colour and flavour of a crisp mountain stream. Initial aroma of rotting straw counts as a redeeming quality because it confirms that I haven’t accidentally poured myself a glass of aluminium-flavoured soda water. Like a b-grade slasher film, there was no head or body, just the inescapable sweet aftertaste of corn syrup faux-blood.

Availability: Absolute ubiquity in Cambodia. In cans and draught.

See also: Angkor Lager

Menu for Hope III

While I occasionally rue the quality of olives at a Phnom Penh tapas joint or regularly spend the average Cambodian monthly income on a single meal, about a third of Cambodians are malnourished. There isn’t any irony in writing about food in a country where I regularly meet starving people. Occasionally, they are eating from the rubbish bin at the front of my house. While I’d personally like to feed the 5 million Cambodians who don’t have enough to eat (or at least, foster an economic environment where they can feed themselves), it is well beyond my daily production of bin-worthy leftovers. However, it isn’t beyond UN World Food Programme, who expect to reach about 1.4 million of my immediate neighbours in 2006.

This year the annual food writing community’s fundraiser, Menu For Hope, is being held in aid of World Food Programme. It’s the world’s largest online food raffle – last year it raised almost enough to buy a new white Landcruiser. I would love to offer the traditional Australian pub raffle prize, the meat tray, but I’m predicting that most prize winners would not appreciate being mailed a selection of Cambodia’s finest meats and charcuterie.

Kampot Pepper for Menu For Hope III

In lieu of being able to post you pounds of flesh; I’m ponying up half a kilo of Kampot pepper. It’s the best pepper that the world has to offer, bar none. If you’re not in Cambodia I will send the winner a vacuum packed, Quarantine-friendly bag; if you’re in Phnom Penh, I’ll buy it fresh, drop it at a mutually agreed location and throw in a meat tray to the value of 80,000 riel (or your choice of Cambodian beer, muscle wine or Spy to the same value).

Want to be in the running for this and other fabulous prizes from the online food writing fraternity? Or just need to donate cash to assuage the middle-class guilt that comes from living a First World lifestyle in the Third World?

Buy your tickets at FirstGiving. Each $10 that you pitch in will give you a ticket for a prize of your choice. You can specify a desired prize in the comment area of the donation form. To go for the pepper, add the code “AP17″ to your comment (e.g. “$10 for AP17″). Pim has a list of the other, more fabulous prizes.

More coverage to come.

Happy Birthday to Me

Huzzah! Phnomenon turns one today. What started as little more than a fatuous vanity project wherein I could make snide comments about watery beer has blossomed to become slightly less fatuous and even more snide. There were loose plans to buy a badly-worded Cambodian birthday cake for the blog but the only thing sadder than buying yourself a birthday cake is buying one for an inanimate object of your own creation. Instead here are my five favourite posts for the year:

  • Why travelers dislike Khmer food: With a bit of judicious editing, I’ve discovered that rants can be disguised as genuine content. Gridskipper gave this the snappier title “Cambodian food is good, you’re just crap at eating it”.
  • Five (Cambodian) foods you should eat before you die: This post on a selection of five random Cambodian foods generated much more traffic than it deserved. Everybody loves a list.
  • Bayon Beer: It was hard to pick a single Cambodian beer review. It’s like picking a favourite child because they’re the one that you most enjoy berating.
  • Phnom Penh hamburger fiesta: As shocking as it may sound, Cambodians don’t eat Cambodian food all the time. Occasionally, they grind up animals to consume between two buns, like crazy Western folk. Uncover my bold and now hugely erroneous prediction that a McDonald’s and a Burger King would be open by year’s end.
  • Meric: The first time that I have reviewed Cambodian fine dining and the last time that I will quote a French postmodern theorist.

I love crap squid

Squid on the Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The squid on the beach in Sihanoukville is crap but I love it. The beachside barbecued squid (mohk aing) may be rubbery, overcooked, and subject to the ignominy of suspect storage and the discomfiture of dodgy handling but the context matters more than the food itself. Sitting in a deckchair, bare feet in the sand, while people bring an endless supply of cold beer and barbecued meat is my idea of a good time. I can overlook that Sihanoukville lacks immaculate beaches and isn’t the next Goa or Phuket when I’m full of cheap seafood.

Squid on the Beach, Sihanoukville

These thumb-sized squid were brushed with fish sauce and spring onions (which seems de rigeur), then barbecued and reheated as necessary throughout the day. Served in a polystyrene clamshell with one half devoted to meat, the other to a weak, sweet chili sauce.

See also: Kraken guy at Psar Thmei