So, I’m back in the States. I’ve decided to finish out my Asia posts because I like the travel diary aspect of things, but I’m also going to include recipes in these last posts to round things out. Thankfully, as I was flipping through my new book Authentic Cambodian Recipes, I came across a recipe for a terrine of ground pork and prahok (fermented fish paste). August’s Charcutepalooza challenge – the first of the two I’ve missed – involved terrines; so, I’m killing two birds with one stone.
I served terrine above as a mid-morning meal with congee, a rice porridge eaten in many Asian countries (including Cambodia) for breakfast. Rice and prahok are two of Cambodia’s staple foods. In this poor country, many subsistence farmers grow rice and use prahok – made from freshwater fish – to add protein to meals. During the 12-hour bus ride Shanti and I took from Saigon to Siem Reap, we saw a lot of Cambodia countryside. It was dotted with rice paddies and palm-thatched shacks on stilts. When the sun went down, it became obvious few of these households had electricity.
This made arrival at Siem Reap – the town next to the Angkor Temples – incredibly surreal; after 12 hours of tiny towns and rural landscape, streets of luxury resort hotels suddenly sprang up out of rice paddies. Because it was off-season, we got an incredible deal at one of these hotels (the Tara Angkor – highly recommended). It had an unbelievable breakfast buffet, which combined the best Eastern and Western day-starting delicacies.
On our first day there, we biked around the central area of the massive national park in which the temples are situated. We decided to skip getting a guide, and to nerd out with an archaeologist-authored book I picked up. I got really into architecture and iconography, and loved dusting off long-dormant archaeological instincts – I was so proud I managed to spot beam-holes at one temple that indicated it had had a second floor.
Many of the temples had been restored in the middle of the twentieth century; my favorite, however, was the picturesquely decayed Ta Prohm, which was purposely left covered in strangle fig roots to give tourists an idea of the condition of the temples pre-restoration.
Evidence of Cambodia’s poverty presented itself even in the borders of the national park; each temple entrance was mobbed with children of about 9 or 10 trying to sell small souvenirs. Children also sat begging or selling incense in shrines at the top of many of the wats.
I puzzled long and hard over whether or not it would be helpful to buy; thankfully I came across helpful guidance in one travel book which pointed out that if these kids learn they can make money at the temples, they’re less likely to finish school. There are holes in this argument, but I eventually decided it was good enough that I’d save my pennies and give to an established charity. Please consider giving: the Cambodian Children’s Fund is well-reviewed.
The child-merchants actually seemed more of a general pattern of open use of the temple park; many local people apparently graze cows among the ruins.
On our last day of ruin-touring, we even saw one gentleman fishing in a temple moat while his cow grazed nearby.
I must admit, before I give you my terrine recipe, that we spent the second half of that last day being totally decadent. Because Cambodia is so poor, dollars (the main currency there) go a lot further. Especially at spas. Shanti and I went to a gorgeous spa in Siem Reap town and got massages and, respectively, a wrap and a facial, for under $100. I felt like I was in one of the heavens depicted in bas-relief at Angkor Wat.
Many tourists pooh-pooh Khmer cuisine. I, however, was really into traditional black pepper-based curries. And prahok – which I tried at our first dinner in Siem Reap. Sadly, my hunt in Brooklyn Chinatown for this ingredient was fruitless. I did, however, turn up a Vietnamese equivalent.
I love the salty, pungent flavor this seasoning adds to dishes. I’m not gonna lie, though: it kind of smells like butt straight out of the jar. I’m currently cat-sitting for a friend until my new place (in Fort Greene!) opens up October 1; the kitties went nuts when I opened that container. Cooking around cats, by the way, is kind of an adventure.
Thankfully, the smelly fish paste got blended right in with equally smelly onion and garlic – and some less pungent ground pork. This paste is blended with several beaten eggs.
And then, just to up the fish ante, you toss in fish sauce. Along with salt, pepper, sugar, and the juice of three lemons.
The resulting mixture has the texture of cake batter. I was sans terrine pan, so I tossed it in an aluminum loaf pan for the final step: steaming.
The end result was rather delicious though, as you can see, it broke a little. I tried to give some to the cats, but though the fish sauce was probably intriguing, they were apparently not fans of the onion flavor. Those felines are pickier than Jeffrey Steingarten on Iron Chef. I, however, will be enjoying another congee-and-terrine brunch tomorrow.
Pork and Prahok Terrine (Serves 6) (from Authentic Cambodian Recipes)
14 oz. ground pork
1 tbsp. prahok
4 scallions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
5 shallots (or 1 medium onion), peeled and chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. sugar in the raw
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 3 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. chopped chives
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1. Blend the pork, fish paste, scallions, garlic, and onion in a food processor until smooth.
2. Beat the eggs in a large, chilled mixing bowl. Add the pork mixture, combine thoroughly, and add sugar, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper, and fish sauce. Mix well, and add in the chives and cilantro last.
3. Pour the mixture into a loaf tin lined with plastic wrap. Steam for 30 minutes on stovetop, or place in a baking pan surrounded by 1-2 inches of water, cover the whole thing with foil, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Allow the terrine to cool for 15 minutes before unmolding and serving with rice and veggies.
Interesting…does it taste anything at all like Chinese salted fish? Also, bet your face is glowing now 🙂
I grew up eating Korean food for breakfast, like rice mixed with sesame oil and soy sauce, wrapped in toasted seaweed; or seaweed soup with rice. Now I tend to make this faux jook (Korean word for congee), which is basically oatmeal (quick cook or steelcut) with soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds on top. Sometimes I toss in greens at the very end.
mmm… this sounds like a Taiwanese dish my mom makes but I guess hers would just be a pork terrine (never really knew there was a word for that, good to know! =p) since i don’t think she uses fish paste. she does make a pork/fish paste ball/cake that is cooked in a thick stew. now i’m hungry!
oh congee is another thing we could have in Flushing… lol! i’m excited about our meet-up, will shoot you an email to figure out dates. =)
Welcome back! And I loved the photo of the little girl in front of the Buddha.
@Sarah – Yes! I was actually just thinking “congee takes too long – I think I’m doing this with oatmeal today”… 🙂
Seems like most of your charcutepalooza challenges involve something stinky, no? 🙂 I’m not a big fan of congee, but the terrine sounds delicious, even despite the smelly fish paste (and really, is there any name more appealing than “pickled preserved mud fish”? Mmmmm.)
BTW – cooking with cats is indeed an adventure. I sometimes think they deliberately twine themselves around my legs in the hopes that I’ll trip and drop my food. Devious creatures, cats are.
Oh, wow…just gorgeous photos of Cambodia…I have loved your travelogue. My hubby would probably react like your cats, but I bet your terrine was wonderful. Welcome home~
Thanks Celia, I have always wanted to visit Cambodia – thank you for that little taste – great photojournal as usual. Good improvisation on the terrine dish – I can imagine the seasoning stinks but sounds like it blended perfectly with the pork. Welcome home, but can’t wait for your next travels.
I loved this series from your trip. I am allergic to fish, so I can’t indulge, but I love seeing foods from other countries….and this looks mighty tasty!
Congrats on top 9. So well deserved. I will travel vicariously through your blog. With great pleasure.
Your terrine was not smooth because of the cooking method: your dish was not covered, which is important. I borrowed the following advice from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-terrine.htm “When a cook makes terrine, the meat mixture is placed into the dish, which is covered and placed into a hot water bath called a bain-marie. This uses very hot — but not boiling — water so that the heat is evenly distributed throughout the dish and the different meats cook without browning. A flavorful jelly forms in the dish after the terrine cools.
When the meatloaf is cooled, it must be pressed. Pressing involves placing a heavy object on top of the dish while the dish stays in the refrigerator for as long as a few days. This pressing method releases trapped air pockets that keep the terrine from being smooth. ” I made terrines/pattes before and it does work! I enjoy reading your blog, good like with your new job.
Sounds like you had an amazing trip! I am not surprised the mud fish stuff smells awful but tastes great…rather like fish sauce, I would think!
Congrats on Foodbuzz top 9!
I loved these Cambodia photos. Your dish is truly unique and I loved the way you made it! Yummy!!
Haha cats went crazy for this preserved mud fish. 🙂 It’s too bad that your Asia trip series have to end. Thanks for sharing all these pictures!
I’ve lived on and off in Cambodia for about two of the past four years, and my wife is also Khmer. What is more, I am crazy about terrines, pates, and aspics. I’ve been reading “Pates and Terrines” by Sheila Hutchins which is the classic on these but her book (no photos, and recipes are hard to figure out) isn’t what I’ve been using to cook with. Instead, I prefer “Terrines, Pates & Galantines” from The Good Cook Techniques & Recipes Series. I have a few more, but these are two are great.
Here is what I did with this recipe.
First, I used about 18 ounces of pork. I took about 12 ounces of regular ground pork and added about 6 ounces of pork fat from strips of pork belly from my butcher. I did use real prahok, and also tuk tre, or Cambodian fish sauce.
After blending the pork, pork fat and other ingredients above, I separated 1/3 of the mixture and added just enough fresh turmeric to give it a nice yellow tint by blending about a teaspoon or so of fresh turmeric root with it in the food processor. I mixed in the other ingredients separately, adding another egg white to my original mixture to since I had added a bit of additional pork. I did not add the cilantro and chives to the layer with turmeric.
Next, I layered first the regular mixture in the bottom of a parchment-paper lined baking pan. Then I layered in all the yellow turmeric mixture. I topped it off with the rest of the original mixture.
Then as “Melissa’s Mom” suggested above I cooked it in the oven with a water bath for 35 minutes rather than 30 mostly to ensure my pork was cooked all the way through. It should have pulled away from the sides somewhat. Then, I removed it from the water bath and returned it to the oven for another five minutes on 450 degrees to slightly brown the top.
Because of the additional pork fat, there may be some standing fat or oil at the sides. More on that below.
Upon removing it, I let it cool five minutes and then weighted it using a piece of cardboard trimmed to fit my terrine pan that I had wrapped in plastic wrap. I set two cans of soup on top of it and let it rest for another 30 minutes.
I was using this recipe for two purposes–one, to eat immediately, and then to serve two days later. Most terrines, including this Cambodian one, are usually better on the third day. Many are often sealed in lard (which is just rendered pig fat). But I also wanted to make the presentation very elegant. After tasting it warm, we also decided this would be nice served as a cold dish. So this is what we did.
First, while still warm we removed the fat that had gathered around the edged and top. We let the terrine completely cool in the refrigerator, overnight in fact. Then I made as aspic using chicken stock. You can look up how to make a clarified stock and aspic if you do not know. I moved my terrine to a chilled serving plate and removed the parchment paper. Then I carefully poured a layer of aspic over it, returning it to the refrigerator to allow the aspic to set. After putting on three layers, I then let the third layer partially set. I removed it and carefully layers washed and towel-dried cilantro leaves to the outside of the aspic, and then carefully applied another layer, chilled, and repeated two more times.
The result was beautiful–the three layers were very distinct with this beautiful yellow layer between the two pinkish layers of pork. And the glistening outside with perfectly suspended cilantro leaves just made it gorgeous! It was very solid given the additional egg white and the weighting, and the additional pork fat really gave it a smoother texture but also helped bind it well (if we had thought, we might have tried a little bit of pig liver in the mixture); the smoother texture was wonderful when we served it cool, and while it was a little too solid to spread it still had a nice nearly pate-like consistency.