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 Jacobi
From Publishers Weekly
Boston restaurateur De Monteiro, who fled her native Cambodia in the mid-1970s, aims to both introduce and preserve traditional Cambodian cuisine in this appealingly unusual cookbook. Less sweet than Thai and not as salty as Vietnamese fare, Cambodian dishes make frequent use of lemongrass, fish sauce, shrimp paste, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and other local specialties. Classic Noodle Soup achieves part of its unique taste with preserved cabbage and dried shrimp. Dishes are as simple as Grilled Marinated Pork Ribs, made savory with mushroom soy sauce and garlic, and as complexly flavored as Caramelized White Fish with Fried Garlic. De Monteiro also tells how to make Crispy Rice, the deep-fried appetizer popular at her restaurant. Although many ingredients can be found in ethnic groceriesAgalangal, dried lily buds and the preserved fish paste, prahokAothers, such as banana blossoms for Banana Blossom Salad, will be difficult for Americans to locate. Less exotic, a dessert such as Sweet Sliced Corn puts a twist on a familiar U.S. food by slicing steamed corn off the cob, drizzling it with honey and garnishing with coconut, while New Year's Rice Treats with glutinous rice, coconut and bananas steamed inside banana leaves is an annually popular Cambodian sweet. Cooks wishing to explore new territory will be drawn to this attractive introduction.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.