Reader, Digested: Cambodiana

There are, as Mike Sula points out in this week’s Reader review, no Cambodian restaurants in Chicago. So to dive into the cuisine of the south Asian country, he finds a backdoor: The festival of Pchum Ben, Ancestors’ Day, a fifteen-day religious celebration that is celebrated this weekend with copious amounts of food, and is open to the public.

On his visit, Sula finds dishes that are reminiscent of — but not identical to — Thai flavors: sweet curries, distilled fishy flavors, coconut, pickled greens, basil, mint, lemongrass, peanuts, and cucumbers all come into play. But the dishes are much subtler: where Thai food is, say, extreme mega bmx snowboarding, Cambodian food might clock in as fencing: not so much brute-force adrenaline, but still plenty engaging and calling on skill and technique. He also checks in with Kathy Reun, a who works for the Cambodian Association of Illinois, and is an active figure in the fight against diabetes — the disease is prevalent among the Cambodian community.

The article is augmented by a roundup of thirteen uptown Asian restaurants — while none are Cambodian, you can still catch a glimpse of some of the flavors involved. Included in the roundup are Pho 777, Silver Seafood, and MP favorite Thai Pastry.

[Photo: a Cambodian seafood-noodle dish, via nextography’s Flickr]


Reader, Digested: Cambodiana