Beef Lok Lak – Cambodian Recipe: London’s A to Z

One of the things that fascinates me about food is the social, political and environmental history one is able to gain from studying simple recipes. And this classic Cambodian beef dish, Lok Lak, is a perfect example.

Before the French colonized Cambodia as part of their Indochinese colony in the 1870’s there is little evidence that the Khmer people ate beef. As famed rice growers and fresh water fishermen, there was already plenty to choose from and the only meat in their diet would have come from hunting animals such as deer and wild pig. Cattle were far to valuable to this agricultural society as tractors and modes of transports to be eaten, and thus the cow was and still is held in high regard in Khmer folk law.

But when an invading European power comes onto the scene with a lust for home comforts things are bound to change. As happened in Vietnam the arrival of the French in the later half of the 19th century. Not only did the colonists trigger a demand for French bread (Bhaan Mi – foreign bread) but also demand for beef. This new demand meant cattle were soon being bred for the table and with most of the fine cuts sold at market the lesser cuts and bones were kept at home.

In Vietnam this bovine introduction led to the birth of ‘Pho’. A noodle soup of rich beef stock, not dissimilar to the French ‘Pot eu Fo’, that is garnished with fresh herbs, boiled off cuts and tripe that is now the national dish of Vietnam.

In Cambodia they developed Beef Lok Lak, a far more luxurious dish than the neighboring Pho. Made with diced beef it was cooked in that most wonderful of French creations, butter and garnished with a citrus and pepper dip.

Here is a simple recipe you can try at home.

Ingredients:

150g sirloin of flank steak cut into 2cm cubes

For the marinade:

For the sauce:

For the Cambodian Pepper Dipping Sauce

1. Marinate the beef in the garlic, soy and cracked salt for two hours and perhaps a little more if you are using a flank steak.

2. Slice the onion and tomatoes and spread in a single layer on a large serving dish..

3. Add your butter to a wok, and heat until it simmers but be very careful not to burn it! As its starts to froth violently at the edges pour in the beef with the marinade. Stir-fry for a couple on minutes until it starts to brown.

4. While the beef is cooking, quickly put together your dipping sauce. This will not take a minute. Add the salt and pepper to a shallow ramekin and squeeze in the juice form one lime, making sure to catch the pips.

5. Now add the brown sugar, oyster sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce to the brown beef, mix through and spoon onto the onion and tomato on your serving plate.

6. Serve in the center of the table and let people pick out he succulent chunks of beef with chopsticks, briefly dipping them into the dipping sauce before devouring.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011 at 08:15 and is filed under A to Z of London Food, A to Z Recipe, Cambodian Recipes, World Cycling, World Food. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Comments

  1. As its starts to froth violently at the edges pour in the beef with the marinade. Stir-fry for a couple on minutes until it starts to brown.

  2. Marinate the beef in the garlic, soy and cracked salt for two hours and perhaps a little more if you are using a flank steak. These all are great to know about it.

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  7. Tyler

    Who the hell wrote the above bullshit introduction for the dish.??? “In Cambodia they developed Beef Lok Lak, a far more luxurious dish than the neighboring Pho,…” This Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese) dish has been in Vietnam ever since the French came to VN! Just look at the ingredients, beef along with all of the seasonings existed in both VN & Cambodia, with the exception of soy sauce, which was way more common in VN than Cambodia, how can this writter even make the stupid claim that it was originated in Cambodia. Second, how is this Bo Luc Lac (Vietnamese for Shaken Beef) be considered more “luxurious” than pho? Just watch one youtube video of how pho is made then one can easily know that the making of pho, which include slow cook/ stew of the finest beef, requires tons more delicated ingredients and time (up to days) than Bo Luc Lac, which can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.

    Also, pho did not originated after the French came to Vietnam as rice noodle (or noodle in general) existed in China and Vietnam milleniums before Europeans know about it. The French arrival might have added the beef flank flare into pho, but not the creation of pho.

    Rediculous writtings like this really undermine the cultural value of the art of cooking. The writter of the article above should be shameful of his or her self, and the bogus claim should be called out.

    • Thanks for the feedback Tyler and your advice. It appears from your words that my words have angered you and for that I offer my apologies and some reasoning where I can.

      1. As well as spending soem time in Vietnam and Cambodia I also did plenty of reading on the topic of Pho – here are another persons opinions. http://vietworldkitchen.typepad.com/blog/2008/10/the-evolution-of-pho.html I agree that the French did not invent Pho as a method of cooking (its a noodle soup with various flavours) but the from what I have researched their arrival in the region did begin a growth in the consumption of beef cattle from which Pho took hold?

      2. . I used the word luxurious simply to illustrate the comparative cost of each dish. The meat being far more expensive than the Pho ingredients. I have eaten plenty of both and agree with regarding the superior flavour of the latter.

      As I hope you can understand from my website that my mission is not to undermine the cultural value of the art of cooking but share it. As a blogger I try to take as many points of view as I can and then share my own. For this reason I want to thank again for your insight.

      Tom

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