Saturday, October 18, 2008

Top Ten Khmer Foods: #5 Kampot Pepper Beef

5) Kampot Pepper Beef
According to my oh-so-trusty Lonely Planet Guide, top French chefs still pay homage to the key ingredient in this dish. Kampot pepper is prized not only by Cambodians, but also by its former-colonizers for its unique, fruity, oh-so-peppery taste. When Jaime and I ordered "green pepper beef" at the best restaurant in Sihanoukville (M'loop Mien!), we expected a green pepper like this:

But what we got was a lot better. This dish uses the fresh green, uncured peppercorns straight from the tree.

Slices of beef are fried with a lot of oil and other juicy delights (soy, fish sauce, and what other wonders?), shallots, and stems of shiny lime-green pepper pods. You pull the tiny green balls off the stem with your teeth and they pop open in your mouth in a delicious, spicy medley that complements the meaty beef. I found myself tilting the dish to spoon up the last dregs of the pepper-infused sauce to eat over plain rice.

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