When talking about spicy food in Asia, Khmer cuisine does not come immediately to mind but spices are indeed used for cooking. Khmer cuisine is considered to be mild compared to Thailand. Here are below some spices Chef Mongkol uses as ingredients in his kitchen quite often.This post is a second part about the ingredient in Khmer cuisine, part I was about herbs only.
Chillies are commonly found fresh (green or red) in many markets in Cambodia often spread over on a wooden basket. It is believed that they were brought over to Southeast Asia by Portuguese and Spanish in the 17th century.There are different species and with different intensity (measured in SHU). Generally the smaller the chili, the more spicy it is. Chillies can be to give flavor to soups. To better control the degree of hotness, it is common to use hot sauce made from crushed chilies and other ingredients like garlic.
Red chilis (scientific name: Capsicum annuum)
Star anise is a star-shaped spice with seeds and pods coming from a small Asian evergreen tree containing the chemical anethole like Anise so taste is quite similar. One its chemical component is also used a precursor for the synthesis of Tamiflu, a well known drug against the flu. Star anise is used quite differently in different cuisine in Asia but probably mots known ingredient in biryani and masala chai . At Changkran khmer , Chef Mongkok uses star anise for its fine dining cuisine recipes of caramelized braised pork belly and also in Khmer curry.
Star Anise (Scientific name: Illicium verum)
Kampot pepper is grown in the the southern province of Kampot province. Due to its unique aroma and flavor, it is a pepper particularly praised by Michelin star Chefs in France. It is available in different varieties depending on the maturity of the peeper vine itself. The young green pepper is commonly used in the beef Lok Lak recipe or with fried squid. It is slightly crushed to release flavors or even used sometime as garnish. Chef Mongkol uses pepper in fried sea food, grilled beef steak, braised pork belly and spare ribs pork with honey.
Green Kampot pepper (Scientific name: Piper nigrum ‘Kampot’)
Ginger is the rhizome of a flowering plant and a key ingredient in many cooking recipes in Asia and especially Cambodia.It is also used as traditional medicine. As Changkran, Chef Mongkol used ginger in soups or marinated and chopped with fish or chicken. It can be stir fried as well or used in pork stew.
Ginger (local name: , scientific name: Kha Nhei name:Zingiber officinale)
Like ginger it is the rhizome of a flowering flower but it is taste is a quite different, Galangal has a sharp citrusy, almost piney flavor. So Galangal and ginger cannot be used interdependently in cooking. Chef Mongkol uses Galangal for salad dressing by blending it with chili sauce and lime juice.
It is an important ingredient for the amok paste as well as for the famous paste Kroeung. It can be used directly in soups or stir fried with hot basil.
Galangal (local name: romdeng, scientific name:Alpinia galanga)
Another rhizome used in Khmer cuisine, it has long tubes like fingers hence its name. It is not used in soup bur rather blend with Galangal in the preparation of amok paste.
Fingerroot (local name: Khchiey. Scientific name: Boesenbergia rotunda)
Turmeric also called the Indian Saffron because of its color is well known spices for its medicinal properties and also for its culinary use all thought Asia. You might have heard called it curcumin which is actually is the active ingredient in Turmeric. In Khmer cuisine, turmeric is a key ingredient in the preparation of the curry paste Kroeung which is used in many recipes.
Turmeric (local name: lamiet, scientific name:Curcuma longa)