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A quick trip to Cambodia’s Siem Reap last month resulted in some serious gastronomic delights and not only did I gain a few inches around my waist but also a whole bunch of inspiration for food I’d like to try out. So experimenting on family (the usual guinea pigs), I decided to try and make my version of the Cambodian beef loc lac a wildly popular dish there which will taste different in every restaurant. In some cases it has been customised to suit western tastes with the addition of tomato ketchup and ajinomoto or monosodium glutamate (which I’m not using here).
Of course, since there be no beef eating in most parts of India these days, I used pork instead and since I had no tenderloin and only some pork butt, that I had got for a roast, but have been too lazy to make, some of it got used up for this. The part being tougher than tenderloin, needed marination for a bit longer so I kept it on overnight for at least 18 hours before cooking it. It made the meat quite tender. Still, it’s best to use tenderloin for this. The longer you marinate pork, the softer it will become. It’s highly recommended.
Beef Loc Lac is one of the most popular dishes in Cambodia. From what I’ve read it was introduced by the French from neighbouring Vietnam where it literally means shaking beef but got incorporated as original Khmer (Cambodian) cuisine. There are many different versions of this dish out there and some recipes use oyster sauce.
Since I don’t have the original recipe and don’t even have the main ingredient of the dish, I can’t claim to have made it the way it’s made there, but as I liked it so much I thought I’d try and replicate it in my own way with whatever ingredients I could get a hold of, keeping it simple, fuss-free and hopefully tasty. I’m trying to replicate the flavours of the Loc Lac at my favourite restaurant there, the Chanrey Tree. Don’t think I really nailed it exactly, but mine came out not too bad if I may say so myself. Now you tell me…
Ingredients (serves 2)
200 gms pork tenderloin very thinly sliced
1½ tbsp soy sauce
1½ tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp tomato ketchup
1½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp cornflour
1 heaped tbsp finely diced garlic
1 tbsp lemon juice + 1 tbsp lemon juice for squeezing over the ready dish
2 cups water
2 tbsp oil
1 tomato finely sliced into disks
Few basil leaves
Get Started (pictorial steps below)
- In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, fish sauce, tomato ketchup, sugar, and pepper well till all the sugar dissolves. Add that to the pork slices and mix well. Add the cornflour at this stage to the pork, mix well and marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Overnight is best.
- Heat the oil on in a non-stick frying pan or wok till very hot, add the pork and stir fry for at least 2 minutes till the pork is fully cooked. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds. Then add water and stir till almost all of it has evaporated. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and toss for about 10 seconds and remove the pan from the fire.
- Place the tomato slices all along the bottom of a serving plate and place the pork over the tomato slices. Sprinkle the other tablespoon of lemon juice over the top of the pork, add the basil as garnish on top and enjoy the dish with some steamed rice.
Important notes: Make sure your pan or wok is very hot when frying the pork.
Cut the pork strips wafer thin.
Marinate the pork for as long as you can. Makes all the difference.