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Did you know that noodles originated in Cambodia? Well, according to the Khmer legend of Dhmen Jay, noodles were introduced to China around the start of the Common Era. If you’ve read my previous post on noodles, you’d know that num banh chok is a fermented rice noodles. Making num banh chok is very laborious, as you can probably tell from that post.
I’m not certain of the age and provenance of num banh chok, but my aunt’s third-grade teacher’s family claimed to have been making Khmer noodles for more than a thousand years. And there are many villages all over Cambodia that have claimed the same. There are a few areas in Kampong Thom and Kratié provinces that have been making num banh chok for more than two millennia.
Today, I am introducing you to one of the dishes. Num banh chok kampot is a noodle dish served with crushed dried shrimp tossed with a pineapple fish-sauce dressing and topped with roasted peanuts and coconut cream. Kampot is a coastal province, which explains the use of dried shrimp. Kampot fish sauce is considered to be the best in the nation. The same goes for agricultural products grown in the province, such as peppers, durians, rambutans, and pineapples.
I’ve included a substitution for the noodles since you won’t really find fresh num banh chok outside of Cambodia.
Num Banh Chok Kampot
- 1 lb. fresh num banh chok, or 1-8 oz. package of rice vermicelli
- 1 ¼ cups dried shrimp
- ½ cup coconut cream
- ½ cup roasted peanuts, roughly crushed
- ½ head of lettuce, torn to bite-sized pieces
- 2 cucumbers, julienne
- 2 cups bean sprouts, trimmed
- A handful of herbs (mints, basil, coriander etc.)
- A handful of young mango leaves (optional)
- A handful of sesbania javanica flowers (optional)
Pineapple Fish-Sauce Dressing
- ¼ slightly ripe pineapple, julienne
- ½ cup fish sauce
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup sugar (preferably palm sugar)
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 bird’s eye chili (optional)
Dressing: Pound the garlic and chili in a mortar. Spoon out and place the garlic/chili mixture into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well. Taste and adjust accordingly. You can either add in the pineapple at this time or you can wait until you assemble the dish.
Noodles: If using dried rice vermicelli, prepare it according to the direction on the package.
Shrimp: Soak the shrimp in warm water for 20 minutes. Rinse them several times and drain. Pound the shrimp with a mortar and pestle until they become crumbly. Conversely, you can use a food processor.
Assembling: In a bowl, add all the trimmings, noodles, some pineapple, and shrimp. Add some fish-sauce dressing and coconut cream. And top everything with crushed peanuts. Enjoy!