Tuesday, June 05, 2007

love at first bite

anyone who knows me knows that of all the pleasures in life, food is my paramount source of joy. my gourmandizing ways often lend heafty definition to my experiences of a place or a people, and such is the case with cambodia. much to my delight (and surprise), i have found that phnom penh not only offers a veritable buffet of choices (pun TOTALLY intended ), but it is an incredibley delectable city. just about anything you could possibly want to eat is available at dirt cheap prices (most restaurant meals are under $5 and 6 of us ate dinner for a total of $10 the other night!) and it's all delicious.

though burgers, pizzas and all other manner of cuisine are readily accessible, traditional khmer food is the most abundant (and so far my favorite). makeshift "restaurants" (a lady with a few pots of food, some plastic chairs and a sidewalk) are set up on almost every corner and a variety of food "carts" (that offer quick snacks like fruit shakes or dumplings) can be seen wheeling up and down the busy streets. i have to admit, i haven't yet had the courage to try anything that comes from one of those greasy lil carts, but soon as my stomach builds up the necessary microbes, i'll be the first in line.

i have the added bonus of working in an office full of cambodians who love to snack even more than i do and every afternoon is filled with some new and curious treat (like khmer beef jerky or fresh lychee). everyone gets a kick out of watching the "foreign girl" try to figure out how to eat something (i had to follow my colleague's lead on cracking into a lychee and i could have sworn the beef jerky was a bag of dried bark) and i don't mind being the spectacle so long as i reap the yummy reward.

of the khmer food i have tried (from fresh spring rolls to coconut cury fish to noodle soup), i've loved it all. but nothing has blown me over quite like the mangoes. now look, i know some of you are from or have been to indigenous mango regions of the world, but this is my first time and the only way to describe that first bite of fresh, ripe mango is to liken it to giving a blind man sight. no, wait, better than that. it's like positioning a blind man right beneath the sistine chapel and THEN giving him sight! mmm...i think i just drooled on my keyboard thinking about it. haha
my love of the mango has turned into a full-blown obsession and you can find me stalking the streets of phnom penh at all hours of the day, hunting for mango vendors. my mother says i should ease up because too many mangoes will give me zits. but peak mango season is almost over and if it's one thing this addict won't be doing is quitting her habit anytime soon!

(ps: i could dedicate a whole blog just to my gustatory experiences here and promise to expand on those experiences soon)

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