Written by the chef-owner of Boston's renowned The Elephant Walk, which has been praised for its unique cuisine by such publications as Esquire, the New York Times, USA Today, and Travel & Leisure, The Elephant Walk Cookbook is a fascinating introduction to the lively and sophisticated flavors of Cambodia. In addition to showcasing Cambodia's foods, this cookbook tells the inspiring story of Longteine De Monteiro. The wife of a diplomat who was forced into exile after Pol Pot invaded Cambodia, De Monteiro escaped to France, where she established what may have been the first Cambodian restaurant in the Western world. She then moved to the United States and opened The Elephant Walk. Less salty than Vietnamese food, less sweet than Thai, and subtler than both, Cambodian dishes feature a rich interweaving of cultural influences and fresh, light flavors. Some of the recipes in the book, like Catfish with Coconut Milk and Red Chilies, were created in the kitchens of Cambodian aristocrats, while others, like Stuffed Cabbage with Lemongrass, have simpler origins.
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The Elephant Walk Cookbook, the first volume of traditional Cambodian cooking published in the U.S., is a cultural as well as a culinary adventure. It's also the story of author Longteine De Monteiro and how she and her husband were forced into exile in 1975 by the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia and eventually came to own three restaurants and a market in and around Boston. An important reason she wrote this book--with Katherine Neustadt--was to preserve traditional dishes that now may no longer be served in Cambodia because everyone who knew how to make them was exterminated by the Khmer Rouge, or fled elsewhere.
Cambodian cooking blends influences from Asia and the West, including China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Spain, and France. It is a balancing act of colors, textures, and most of all, salty, sour, sweet, hot, and bitter flavors. Rice and fish are important, particularly freshwater-lake fish and a fermented fish paste, prahok. So are coconut milk, lemongrass, and a list of other ingredients that are becoming more readily available outside of Southwest Asia. Still, ordering by mail from sources provided in the book--or a special shopping trip--will be necessary to make most of the dishes in The Elephant Walk Cookbook.
The most accessible dishes are the salads (many of which contain chicken or pork), including Tomato Salad and Pineapple Salad, and the pickles, such as Mixed Vegetable Pickles. Loc Lac--beef marinated in mushroom soy sauce, sautéed, and served on crisp lettuce with lime juice--is another easy choice. Loving, lively descriptions and alluring photos will keep you reading about all of the 150 dishes, which are aromatic with basil and cilantro, galangal, kaffir lime and curry leaves, tamarind, fiery chiles, garlic, pungent fish sauce, and the like. --Dana JacobiExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Stir-Fried Buttercup Squash with Pork Though it uses just a few ingredients, this gem of a stir-fry is complex in taste, with the sweetness of squash balancing the slightly salty pork. I was excited to find buttercup squash in this country-it's exactly the kind we have in Cambodia.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 3 garlic cloves, smashed 1/2 pound pork tenderloin or fresh ham, cut into pieces 1 1/2 inches long, 1 1/2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick 2 tablespoons fish sauce 1 teaspoon sugar 1 1/4 pounds buttercup squash, peeled, seeds scooped out, julienned 2 scallions, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat and sauté the garlic until golden brown, 5 to 10 seconds. Add the pork, stirring well, then add the fish sauce and sugar. Fold in the squash gently and stir-fry until it is cooked through but still slightly crunchy, 4 to 5 minutes (or longer if you prefer a soft texture). Add the scallions and pepper and stir well. Serve hot with rice.
Excerpted from The Elephant Walk Cookbook : Cambodian Cuisine from the Nationally Acclaimed Restaurant by Longteine De Monteiro, Katherine Neustadt, Longteine De Monteiro. Copyright © 1998. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
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