Unlike most people, I have a high tolerance for eating things that I cannot identify taxonomically. Whenever I pass somebody on a roadside shucking something that looks edible, I’ll give it a go. Often it’s not edible. Often it’s not even supposed to be food.
This roadside vendor was undergoing the arduous process of cracking open these woody nuts scavenged from the forest and offered me a free sample. After peeling the leftover shell, the toasted kernels had a subtle peanut-like flavour. The texture and shape was a little closer to an almond. They would make a decent substitute for peanuts in any Khmer dish that called for them, if you’d like to set a new and impossible standard for regional accuracy.
I’m not a botanist but I do play one on television. With a little research, I’m willing to take a punt that these nuts are from the Irvingia Malayana, which has the marvellously fanciful English title of the Barking Deer’s Mango. According to The University of Melbourne it also has the much more prosaic Khmer name of Cham Mo. There’s a similar tree (Irvingia gabonensis) distributed about Western tropical Africa, whose nuts are used fairly extensively as a soup thickener and bread ingredient.
1000 riel (US$0.25) for a small cupful
Location: On the dirt track to Neak Pean inside the Angkor complex. In probably the silliest Romanisation of a Khmer word, Neak Pean is pronounced “Ne-ak Po-ouan”. There is possibly another “ou” sound or two in there.