Larb Nachos

These nachos are inspired by Christopher’s trip to Cambodia. There he ate nachos with gloriously spiced ground chicken. Here, we took a rather simple larb recipe… with ample lemongrass and hot chili… stolen from Foodnetwork and paired the meat with a very thin cheese sauce prepared with Habanero jack. Our initial desire was to use freshly fried wantons. However, a sample batch proved the wanton too weak to handle the heft of our topping. As such, we reverted to our preferred chip – freshly fried corn tortilla wedges.

The pictures after the jump tell the full story.

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Cambodian Nachos, Pt. II

Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC), Phnom Penh. This historic establishment overlooking the convergence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers served as an unofficial HQ for journalists who were let into Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. These days, it has been taken over by a lively crowd of ex-pats and tourists, but it remains a well-known institution throughout Phnom Penh. Like most of the bustling restaurants lining Sisowath Quay, the FCC offers an extensive menu covering local Khmer cooking, assorted Thai and Chinese dishes, and a hodge podge of “Western” specialties. However, it distinguishes itself by offering nachos amid the latter category. Needless to say, we ordered them.

At first glance, these had all the trappings of a decent to good plate of nachos: solid corn chips, diced tomatoes, fair cheese covering, and a guacamole whose thin consistency was compensated for by its full flavor. However, like the delicious nachos in Siem Reap, the FCC nachos distinguished themselves through the unique flavoring of the primary topping. At Ivy Bar it was an Asian-spiced concoction of ground chicken, but these meatless nachos advertised “refried beans” that turned out to have a consistency and flavor more akin to lentils. It was a bit like emptying the contents of several Ethiopian sambusas onto a pile of tortilla chips. The result? In a word, rather delicious.

August 12, 2006

Cambodian Nachos, Pt. I

In the summer of 2006 I traveled to South East Asia with my ladyfriend. In between sweating and looking at temples, we found some truly “off-the-beaten” path nachos.

Yesterday I had some nachos at Ivy Bar in Siem Reap, the town that serves as the point of entry for anyone visiting Angkor Wat. They were probably on top 15 of all time list — I’m not exaggerating. The chips were surprisingly excellent, the cheese was whitish and sauce-like but considerably more culinary than a fast-food cheese sauce (more like a rue), and the salsa was simply an exceedingly fresh medley of tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. (Side note: What is the appropriate salsa choice for nachos? Too flavorful or spicy a salsa might just be better served on its own. I find that with the heaviness of nachos sometimes some tomatoes, onions, and chiles do the trick. That said, a thin, liquidy restaurant style sauce or pico de gallo is always excellent.) What took the nachos from just being surprisingly fresh and well-built given the surroundings to being exemplary in a global sense was the chicken–ground and spiced in a way that gave it a distinctively Asian flavor. This might be an interesting avenue of exploration for the future.

An important aspect of nachos is what kind of residue is left on the plate when you finish. In this case, it was a deliciously smooth pool of cheese sauce, spices, and oil. My girlfriend got angry at me for aggressively running my finger through it and licking it off, but I explained that it is always reasonable and imperative to attack the residue with your bare hands.

Even though this area caters almost exclusively to tourists visiting the temples at Angkor Wat, I still found nachos in Cambodia to be an exotic discovery. I also had some very solid nachos on the Malaysian island of Langkawi. Again, they benefited from very fresh, basic salsa. Overall, I’ve decided that nachos in Southeast Asia are far better than those on the East Coast. Furthermore, beers here only cost 45 cents.

— August 9, 2006