Cambodian food left the least impression on me out of all of the countries I visited in Asia. The Angkor Wat ruins in Cambodia left a huge impression on me, but that is a different matter entirely. All I remember about food in Cambodia was that their curries were pretty good (less spicy and different from a Thai curry, with lots of coconut milk) and in Phnom Penh most of the restaurants serve what they call "happy pizza" (which is pizza with marijuana on it). Other than that, I don't remember many specifics. Cambodian food wasn't as fresh and bright as Vietnamese food, or as spicy as Thai food, but there were many similarities to those cuisines. The Cambodian food I ate during the week that I traveled around Phnom Penh and Siem Reap was... simple (for lack of a better word), with mild flavors and little complexity. That isn't to imply that the food wasn't very good. It was good. It just lacked the flash and liveliness of other Southeast Asian cuisines to really distinguish it.
This Cambodian dish is mild and simple, but flavorful - it just screams home cooking to me. It's the type of dish I can easily imagine my mother or grandmother throwing together in the kitchen at home (of course this is all presupposing that my mother actually served pork at home, which she never really did and also that she has some familiarity with Cambodian cuisine, which she doesn't). But that is beside the point. The point is that this dish is simple, comforting and easy to make. It's not the best dish we have ever made, but after a long day at work, it was a really nice homey thing to throw together for casual dinner.
Recipe after the jump!
By Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
2 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
4-6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced (about 1 1/2 tbsp)
1/2 lb boneless lean pork, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp fish sauce, or to taste
2 cups green beans or yard-long beans cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp cilantro leaves (optional)
In a large wok or wide heavy pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until golden, about 20 seconds. Add pork, sugar and salt, and stir-fry, using your spatula to separate the slices of pork, and expose all the surfaces to the hot wok, until all the meat has changed color. Splash in the fish sauce, add the beans, and cook for 2 minutes, then add water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes (time will vary depending on the tenderness of the beans); the beans should be cooked but still have some crunch and life and be very green. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary. Sprinkle on cilantro, if desired.
Serve with rice.