Updated: Jun 23
I'm opening my first food recommendation article by declaring that I am not a big foodie. In most cases, I will settle for the most basic dish around. I don't need an overly complex or vibrant feast, just a quick bite of something to satisfy my hunger. But, I will also add that I've tasted my share of delicious/strange/interesting/exciting foods along my travels. So let's call it a good wall-traveled food recommendation. And after that introduction... I will take you this time to Cambodia.
In the touristic town of Siem Reap, just outside the center of attraction and the fascinating continuing life complex of Angkor Wat, on the way to the small village of Preah Dak, there are a few stalls of local morning pastry. You will definitely see them as they stopping the traffic. And what are they selling? Palm tree fruit cupcakes!
This pastry is relatively common in those parts of Cambodia and one you must taste (and taste again and again). It is made from a sticky white mash of rice and coconut milk combined with a thick orange 'palm-tree-fruit' paste. Everything is poured into small, beautifully crafted handmade bowls from banana leaves. This compelling little pastry is then steamed in a simple steamer and slowly raised to perfection. Finally, the cupcake is served with a sliver of grated coconut. Wow. I mean, wow..!
The rushing-to-serve vendors will give you a single number of cupcakes if you ask for it, but after the first bite, you will understand why everyone is ordering them in by the dozen. So it is indeed better to order a lot in advance. They'll put them in a cute handmade wicker box and serve you this simple little treat alongside the bag of coconut flakes.
Their taste and texture are unlike anything I've encountered before, so it's challenging to describe faithfully. It is soft and light with a smooth texture, with just the right amount of subtle sweetness and a wonderful aroma of this palm fruit (which I also did not know before but now have deep feelings for).
Throughout our time in Siem Reap, we repeatedly returned to Preah Dak. It is genuinely a remarkable delicacy in terms of texture and taste. But maybe even more important, this small cupcake will take you on an essential cultural journey. With every bite, you can imagine the local people preparing it more or less the same way, more or less in the same place, for hundreds of years. From its leafy seat, it is a testimony to the love, patience, and perseverance that simplicity requires. The kind of cultural simplicity that has the power to penetrate the hard shells of political struggles, a painful past, and international power games that insist on remaining. For a few moments, you can see the orangey color of cultural simplicity.
My wife Gal (the amazing aspiring chef) took the quick picture as usual. I am also attaching a link to a Google map for the small village of Preah Dak for your use when you arrive in the area.
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