Monday, November 3, 2014

We were recently invited by chef and owner Dylida Mao to try out her new menu focused on authentic Cambodian specialities. Cambodian cuisine (also known as khmer cuisine) shares many commonalities with their neighbouring countries - Vietnam and Thailand. Despite the many Vietnamese and Thai restaurants in Montreal, there are no Cambodian restaurants. What distinguishes Cambodian cuisine from the two others is the use of coconut milk, fish sauce, lemongrass and galangal as their main sources of flavour. It was a great move on her part on opening La Petite Mangue, providing Montrealers a taste of authenticity of her home country. I brought my Malaysian friend from Un Voyage Gastronomique to help elucidate the similarities between the South-East Asian countries.

Amok - Steamed Fish in a Coconut Milk and Lemongrass Blend
In this cold weather, we started off with the Phnom Penh - the Cambodian version of chicken soup. It is aromatic with small burst of basil freshness. The taste is almost identical to a well-made Vietnamese Pho. Cambodians also use edible flowers in their cooking, we were curious to try out their banana blossom salad with chicken and glass noodles. The blossom flowers are thinly sliced to give a crunchy and woody taste almost like eating a lotus root. It is elevated with the sweetness of the bell peppers and onions, and the freshness of the herbs. This salad would not be complete without their salty, mildly spicy and tangy fish sauce. 

Many countries has their own spice mix that are used as a basis to many traditional dishes. Like India has their garam masala and France has their Herbes de Provence, Cambodia has their kroeung - a mix of lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime skin and leaves, and paprika. Garlic, shallots and chilies are sometimes added to give a personal touch to the dish.

This spice blend is used in the two dishes we ordered. The Kroeung is a stir fry of bell peppers, onions and the protein of your choice with peanut sauce added to the mix. The other dish is their national dish - fish amok. It is made of filleted basa fish marinated in kroeung, then steamed on banana leaf with coconut milk. Both dishes give a harmonious contrasts of flavour.

We ended our meal with two desserts. We had the pumpkin and corn pudding with coconut milk and tapioca pearls. It was a light, creamy and delightful. Reminds me of Hong Kong's popular dessert - taro sago. The last dessert was the Mont-Royal cake, an elevated Southeast Asian version of our beloved québécois dessert - Pouding Chômeur. It's a batter of butter pecan infused with pandan and the syrup is a mix of palm sugar, ginger, coconut cream and pandan leaf. Piping hot buttery cake with a prominent flavour of pandan and some toasted black and white sesame seeds for added nuttiness.

Now winter is coming, grab some khmer comfort food at La Petite Mangue, cooked from the heart and pride of her homeland. The harmonious flavours of each dish will keep your palate entertained.

Phnom Penh - Chicken Soup, Rice and Onion
Banana Blossom with Chicken, Glass Noodles, Jicama, Peanuts and Fish Sauce
Kroeung - Tofu, Bell Peppers, Onions, Lemongrass-Peanut Butter Sauce
Pumpkin and Corn Pudding with Coconut Milk and Tapioca Pearls
Mont-Royal Cake - Warm Butter Pecan, Pandan Leaf Cake, Creamy Palm Sugar and Ginger
La Petite Mangue
300 avenue du Mont-Royal E.
Montreal, QC
H2T 1P6
(514) 288-8390
La Petite Mangue on Urbanspoon
// //