Foreign Flavors: Cambodian Beef Loc Lac in Battambang, 2010

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I had no idea what to expect when I first arrived in Cambodia for a short holiday from my teaching job in Korea. Immediately, the architecture of bright colors, ornate cupolas and intricate design took my breath away, especially coming from the concrete jungle of Seoul. The cuisine was to offer even more pleasant surprises. Again, in contrast to the spicy Korean food that left my mouth burning after each meal, Cambodian food offered mellow coconut curries and tropical fruits.

I was lucky enough to take a cooking course during my short time in Battambang. Our  chef, who ran a restaurant called The Smokin’ Pot (hehe), taught us to make delicious chicken amok and peppery beef loc lac. The amok was my favorite dish, but some ingredients are hard to come by in the States, like fresh keffir lime leaves. It is on my cooking bucket list, but I still haven’t attempted it. But what I So, instead, I found an altered, Western-ingredient-friendly version of beef loc lac to share.

Surprisingly enough, this is from Rachel Ray at the Food Network, but it is a tasty substitute for hard-to-find Cambodian cuisine. You can see my comments in italics.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/loc-lac-recipe.html

2013-10-07 18.12.06

Ingredients:

Marinade:
2 pinches kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons soybean oil
2 pounds beef tenderloin or sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubesLime Dipping Sauce:
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

Saute:
3 tablespoons soybean oil or any vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup mushroom soy sauce (I use regular low-sodium soy sauce here)
15 to 20 young lettuce leaves, for garnish
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens, for garnish
Jasmine rice, for serving

Marinade:
Combine ingredients for marinade in a baking dish or shallow bowl. Marinate the beef and let sit for 15 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator.  (I always forget to marinate meat, but 15 minutes is still adequate to give the beef a nice peppery flavor. Obviously, the longer you marinate it, the stronger the flavor!)Meanwhile, make Lime Dipping Sauce:
Stir sugar and salt into the lime juice until well dissolved. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Set aside at room temperature until ready to serve.  (I find this to be a bit much and always have some left-over. I generally cut the dipping sauce recipe in half because there’s really no other dish I make that this sauce would go with.)

Saute:
Heat up a large saute pan or small wok until hot; very high heat is required so that the meat will cook quickly without bleeding out too much juice. Add soybean oil, sugar, garlic, and black peeper and stir to caramelize for 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the garlic and black pepper. Add marinated beef and stir very quickly over very high heat for 2 minutes. Add mushroom soy sauce and stir to cook for another 2 minutes or so. Cook the beef to desired doneness; it’s best served medium-rare to medium.  (The meat cooks really quickly, which makes this a great, quick  but exotic weekday meal.)

Garnish a large plate with the young lettuce leaves. (I don’t bother with the leaves, unless I have some already on hand.) Place the loc lac beef in the middle. Sprinkle with scallion greens. Serve with jasmine rice (I’ll use whatever grain I have on hand — orzo works nicely as does coarse bulgur.) and Lime Dipping Sauce on the side.

Hope you enjoy the recipe! Please leave me a comment below to let me know how it turned out. I am also looking for future contributions to this series, so comment or message me if you’re interested in sharing a local/ethnic recipe!
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5 responses to “Foreign Flavors: Cambodian Beef Loc Lac in Battambang, 2010

  1. We absolutely love Korean food, probably ‘coz it’s similar to Indian food in terms of spices and flavors. Love it that you travel so much. I’ve lived in Singapore for two years and have been around south-east Asia- loved it!

    • Korean food (especially the barbecue!) can be really tasty, but after one year of eating kimchi every day, it got to be a bit much. I used to eat lunch with my co-teachers, including the principal and vice principal so I had to eat it, just to be polite. I was hoping to visit Singapore during our year in Asia, but we didn’t quite make it there. Now with a house and a baby on the way, it will probably be a few years before we venture that far again! I will have to be content reliving past travels for a little while 😉

  2. Sounds delicious. A cooking class in Battambang (especially at a place called the Smoking Pot – heh) sounds like a dream holiday.

    Are you in a good citrus growing area? I had a kaffir lime tree at our last house and it grew well in a pot. Needs a lot of sun, though otherwise it just sits dormant.

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