Siem Reap's Unlikely Culinary Treasure

28-Jun-2018

Although sausages are not a staple diet of Cambodians, the product of foreign lands has today become one of the many foods that symbolise the growing internationalisation of cuisines that have become common in the city, which was once the centre of the the Khmer Empire.

As dusk approaches in Siem Reap, street food stalls open to serve breakfast to early birds. Others, which serve the night owls are still operating in the wee hours of the morning. Hanging at the front of the eateries are long, red strings of pork and beef sausages, which are ordered with steamed white rice, porridge or baguettes.

On Street 51, Lunh Thib sells fried pork sausages. They consist of picante, a hot and spicy or sweet and savoury ground meat stuffed in pork intestines. For 2,000 riel ($0.50) a piece, it goes rather well with steamed rice and pickles.

The Temple Town native says it would be unusual for anyone who visits Siem Reap not to love the city’s signature sausages.

“It usually takes only two or three hours to sell out 1 kilogram of fried sausages. In the evening, locals and foreigners come to my stall to buy my fried rice with sliced sausage and eggs, and they tell me they love it,” she says.”

In nearby Phsar Chas Market, about a hundred stalls display thousands of strings of Siem Reap sausages, most of which are from local producers.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

A sausage dish presented at the Grill Wine Café

Prices range from $6.25 to $7.50 per kilogram. Visitors from Phnom Penh and other provinces in Cambodia usually go there to buy the sausages to take back home.

Hab Saly, a vendor at stall number 11, says she makes the sausages she sells using her family’s secret recipes that have been handed down over generations although one of her regular customers believes that her products are imported.

“There are several sausage suppliers in Siem Reap, most of which are family businesses. And each of them has its own recipes. “All our sausages are delicious, which make Siem Reap sausages more than what they are known for,” says Saly.

Lay Linh, the head chef at Grill Wine Café in Memoire D ‘Angkor Boutique Hotel, also tells the same story to The Post.

Although he could not tell when sausages were first introduced to Cambodia, he guesses that the meat products might have been introduced in the country by Chinese immigrants.

“The Germans and French also have sausages, but in Siem Reap sausage, I found some ingredient only used in Chinese food, such star anise and rice wine,” Linh says.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

Lay Linh, the head chef at Grill Wine Café, outside his restaurant. 

In Linh’s Western-themed restaurant, Siem Reap sausages could also be found on the menu. The price is $7, and the dish is served Western style, with pickle, mustard, and mayonnaise. But the head chef, with 15 years experience, orders his suppliers to put less fat and use lamb intestines, to fit the taste of his multinational patrons.

One of the biggest and most well-known sausage suppliers in Siem Reap is Ly Theang Seng. The company markets its sausage products and has even opened outlets in Phnom Penh and a few provinces in the country.

Sam Ya, 28, is the third-generation owner of the business founded in 1968 by her late grandfather. He had come from China, and she says there are so many ingredients in her family’s recipes that she could not tell them all.

“Some spices have to be imported from China, and besides, we use only fresh meat and top-quality ingredients. Furthermore, our products are unique as we do not include any flavour enhancers or preservative in them,” Ya says.

Ya always sends her sausages to be displayed at Siem Reap’s booth at the One Village, One Product fair in the country, and she is always proud of her business.

“No matter where it first came from, Siem Reap sausages are now an important part of local culture and diet,” she says. “Like prahok [crushed, salted and fermented fish paste], it is the iconic meat product of this province.”

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