Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cooking Middle Eastern in Cambodia, Part 2

Finally, a follow up to my post Cooking Middle Eastern in Cambodia.

I spent a week earlier this month cooking from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden. My overall rating is that it's a really wonderful cookbook and surprisingly, it's not too hard to get the necessary ingredients to cook Middle Eastern food in Cambodia. The time of great suffering is over, perhaps it's time to move to Laos.

Yogurtlu Basti: This Turkish dish, chicken with spiced yogurt, was fantastic. Very simple, delicately spiced with cardamom and ginger and easy to make. I'd make this again. This would probably impress people if I was willing to have people over for dinner (but I'm not).

Chicken with almonds and honey: This Moroccan dish, djaj bel loz, was my least favorite of all of the dishes I tried to make. I was really unclear what the texture was supposed to be like, or how finely ground the almonds should be. The recipe says "coarsely ground" and I think I, not being a stickler for details, left them coarsely chopped. The chicken was stewed and then baked and by the end was quite tough. I wouldn't bother with this one again, although I did like the exotic combination of cinnamon, honey, saffron, almonds and rose water (I made my own with dried rose petals). I didn't get a snap of this one.

Spicy shrimp: Another Moroccan dish, I let my cooking buddy be in charge of this dish. Because he's a chef, he refused to follow the recipe as I insisted, and instead, threw in what "felt right." I at least won the battle that he could only include ingredients from the original recipe, but he put in a tablespoon of chili instead of a pinch and the whole thing ended up nearly blowing my face off. It was still pretty good.

Moutabal: This typical eggplant dip was a way for me try and re-assess my feelings about tahini, after getting a chiding email from EatingAsia. Basically it's roasted eggplant mixed with tahini to make a dip. I used half the tahini recommended and did not find it offensive. I'll even admit to liking it. Hopefully that will satisfy Robyn. This recipe was easy to make and would be nice again if I had guests, which I won't.

Couscous salad: I never like tabbouleh so I don't know why I made it. I always get annoyed at the crap to couscous ratio. Knowing this, I should have altered the ratio, but like a good little recipe Nazi I didn't. So although this tabbouleh was probably better than any I had eaten before, I was still annoyed by the crap to couscous ratio. The chef thought it was great though.

Tamatem bel Bassal: This very simple tomato salad with onions was a real winner, although it requires decent tomatoes which are not easy to find in Cambodia (expats, try Veggy's on Street 240). I really liked it with the addition of the optional cumin. Nice and vinegary. Yum.

Ghorayebah: Made these butter cookies with hazelnuts because I'm a beast and always want dessert. Luckily, I ran out of butter and so made a quarter of a recipe. They were good but a bit dry, possibly because I shorted the butter. I ignored the suggestion of the chef in attendance who said I should chop the hazelnuts and mix them into the batter. In retrospect, I should have respected his chefness because they would have been better that way. Nice with a cup of tea, anyway.

Pita bread: my pita bread did not turn out perfect, but this may because of my limited experience with breads. My first batch was OK, but the second batch left me with a pile of rock hard frisbees.

And so my week of Middle Eastern cooking draws to a close. Next up, Vietnamese.


  1. Yes! More!

    We weren't nuts about the pita recipe either. Admittedly, we altered it. I mean, it's essentially pizza dough, so we threw some sourdough culture in and reduced the amount of conventional yeast. The bread lasted longer — no frisbees — but it just wasn't that exciting. You know what made it more exciting? Dragging it through copious amounts of za'atar-spiked olive oil.

    I should just go look at the recipe, but what's the difference between moutabal and babaghanouj? I like tahini myself (the lesbian cult worked its magic), and also would advise you to cook the hell out of the eggplants. (We roasted ours in foil in the fireplace, caveman-style.)

    Finally, try the other almond-honey chicken recipe, the one with saffron and tomatoes. It was wicked good.

    I'm joining you for Vietnamese week (well, in spirit, at least).