Low rise Phnom Penh

A visual reminder that the big city of Phnom Penh is more of a low rise sprawl than a dense urban centre.


Up next…Thai BBQ’d Chicken

Featuring three ingredients that I’ve never cooked with before, we got a little more complicated tonight with Thai BBQ Chicken.

1. Meet galangal
Say what? Sounds like a whole mouthful of ga. Galangal, ginger’s erstwhile, stronger and harder cousin. Holy Hannah, trying to grate this rhizome is like trying to grate a brick. It had me wishing for the ginger grater packed in my Vancouver storage container. It also packs a punch (eating it raw to find this out was less than a good idea); I used it sparingly not knowing how potent the cooked version would be.

2. Familiar face, unfamiliar roots
Bring on the coriander. Much of Thai cooking features coriander roots and stalks. The parts that we usually throw away/ don’t see. I’m not sure how the flavour profile changes but I chopped my roots and stalks into itty bitty bits as instructed.

3. La-di-da-di Lemon grass
I’ve eaten lots of lovely lemon grass dishes but never used it myself. Take several lemon grass sticks, give them a firm thumping to release the flavour, top and tail, peel outside woody layers and chop, chop, chop. Can’t emphasize the chopping enough. Roughly chopped lemon grass ala moi has the great smell but is woodenly unpleasant to chew. This is the part where I miss the blender/ Flavour Shaker that is also sitting in a Vancouver storage container.


Top left, galangal with my coriander. Lemon grass loveliness.

Take all the wonderful ingredients, chop or pound them, mix with coconut milk and marinade that chicken. I put it in the fridge overnight. Then, as I do not own a BBQ, I baked the chicken in the oven for 45 mins. My oven doesn’t have a temperature gauge, it’s either on or off, but I guess it was somewhere in the 400F range…


Chicken in the pan. Eaten too quickly for any pretty on the plate pics.

It was wonderful. A beautiful fragrant dish with coconut richness that got a HUGE thumbs up from the boys.  They can’t wait for me to make it again.

Aside from the initial chopping bits, which could be overcome with proper equipment, it was easy as pie

Thai BBQ’d Chicken
12 cm lemon grass stalk, finely sliced
5 cm piece of fresh galangal, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 coriander roots and stalks, finely chopped
1.5kg of chicken
150 ml thick coconut milk
1.5 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp black pepper
lime wedges to serve

Pound the lemon grass, galangal, garlic, shallots and coriander with a pestle or mortar or use a food processor to blend into a paste. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and pepper and mix. Pour over the chicken and marinade at least 3 hours or overnight turning occasionally.

Remove chicken from marinade, place it on hot BBQ and cooks for 10 – 15 minutes for chicken pieces turning and basting regularly.

Leave the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with Sweet Chilli Sauce, lime wedges and white rice.

Demonstration Advisory

Today’s message from the government of Canada:

MESSAGE FROM THE EMBASSY OF CANADA: Please be advised that political demonstrations continue in Cambodia and there have been incidents of violence resulting in deaths. Avoid large gatherings and follow local media.

Today’s view on the roads:

The story so far, political demonstrations continue. Rolling demonstrations of up to 100,000 have asked for Hun Sen to step down.

Last week the garment factory workers went on to strike to ask for a living wage. They currently make $95 per month which is just enough to survive if you live four to a room and eat the cheapest of the cheap food. Yesterday things turned ugly when 4 workers were killed by police and 23 injured.

More demonstrations today hence the advisory and white helmeted riot police that have become a fixture in PP.

Rolling, rolling down the river

Making our way down one of the many flooded streets yesterday. It takes some tuk tuk driver skill to navigate the waters without flooding the engine.

PS In case you were concerned, all this water is just localized flooding as a result of a heavy rainstorm. We have not been affected by the flooding that is occurring in much of the rest of the region. It is also a demonstration of why the curbs are a foot high.

Then this happened

This is the riot police spraying the protesters with fire hoses. Followed by a course of tear gas. Behind them a whole phalanx of riot police. It got a bit tense. For a long while.

Two hours into it and Sam Rainsy came. He parted the sea of people and led them peacefully to Freedom Park. And my staff got to touch him as he came past our shuttered restaurant. They were in ecstasy.

To all accounts the protests continue elsewhere in the city. For me, I’m just relieved that they’re no longer engaged in a standoff on our corner of the street. When the tear gas appeared, I won’t lie, I got a bit concerned. We may have scooped our young son up to the safety of the windowless bedrooms that are at the core of the apartment.

Made in Cambodia

You may have known that many big brands have their factories here, Gap for example, but did you also know that this is where cliches are made? This small store on St 178 specializes in rubber and copper stamps as well as cliche making. What instructions do you suppose you give the artisan to come up with the perfect cliche?

Out & campaigning hard

The noisemakers have been traipsing past the window on and off for about five hours. They got a nice early start to the day at 5:30 am (!!!). This on a Saturday morning where I went to bed at 2 am which never happens y’all. Usually I’m tucked in snug as a bug at 10:30. If this goes on for the whole month we will be investing in family ear plugs.