Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mongkol Borei Crab Boil – Mongkol Borei, Cambodia

Here, fishy, fishy!
I experienced a lot of pinch worthy moments while traveling, and the first day in my parents' hometown of Mongkol Borei is definitely in the top three.  What I thought would be a simple fishing day at a nearby pond, Andy Griffin style, complete with happy-go-lucky whistling,  turned out to be a roller coaster ride on a motorbike down yet another ditch ridden dirt road in Cambodia. 

After my visit to the neighborhood market, my cousin asked me if I wanted to go fishing.  Never to turn down an offer to go on any excursion, I enthusiastically said yes. A half an hour later she swung by the house accompanied by two friends  perched on her very small motorbike.  She ordered her friends to make room and provided me with a centimeter of seat space. I let out a "only in Cambodia" sigh, hopped on and off we went!
A calm start to our bumpy journey

I wasn't sure where exactly, but I  quickly learned that when you're in Cambodia, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope for the best.  It was rainy season, so ten minutes into our journey, we were greeted with sheets of rain that quickly collected into a massive pool of water that engulfed a drowning motorbike with a napolean complex.  

"I guess we should turn around?" 

"No, my bike is stronger than his." 

The two bikes looked identical to me.

"Um, maybe there is an alternate..."  

Before I was able to finish my sentence, she revved up her engine and stepped on the gas.  Unprepared for this sudden jolt, I grabbed onto friend #2 to keep from toppling over.  With a squeal and a little prayer, not only did we manage to cruise to the other side, but also received our second bath of the day. 
Eventually I overcame the fact that we were a party of four on a tiny two wheeled vehicle miraculously coasting over random gullies and started to appreciate the beautiful scenery zipping by - vast lands of green lush rice paddies with oceanless palm trees sprouting in random areas of the field. 

The only thing I caught that day
When we finally reached   our destination, I was beyond excited to see multiple small straw bungalows suspended over water, held up by long stalks of dried bamboo. It was a Robin Crusoe adventure wonderland realized.  The “fishing park” was a buzz with locals napping in fabric hammocks, stereos blaring old love songs, people gossiping about the latest neighborhood news and of course, people fishing.  On top of that, there was plenty of food.  Vendors were selling kettle corn, beef jerky skewers, and my favorite, river snails and baby crabs steamed with beer.  This may sound a bit odd, but I don’t think it’s the taste that gets me excited about crab and snail.  I think it’s the obstacle of prying out the meat with any instrument that would suffice.  With the snails, you have to use a wooden toothpick and with a savvy flick of the wrist, pluck the mollusk out of its shell.  With crab, you simply crack it in half using brute strength and suck each crevice of the body and leg until you get something edible.  It may be too troublesome for most to endure such a tedious process only to be rewarded with minuscule pieces of meat, but I loved it. Maybe because it gave me a reason to get my hands dirty and play with food.
Better than peanuts

Beer Steamed Tamarind Chili Dungeness Crab


No snails or baby crabs here, but dungeness crab will do just fine.  
Say hello to my orange friend. Approximately 1 two pound crab per person. 

     1 two pound Dungeness crab
     1 bottle of red ale beer
     3 scallions, finely chopped
     3 red chili peppers, finely chopped
     3 tablespoons of peanut oil
     1 large handful of roughly chopped cilantro leaves
     4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
     ½ inch knob of ginger, finely chopped
 For the Sauce
     2 tablespoons of tamarind
     1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
     1 ½ tablespoon of fish sauce
1.  Pour beer in pot and place steamer basket with crab on top.
2.  Steam crab for approximately 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3.  Once cooled, pull a part crab and clean. Remove legs, crack shell to loosen meat.  Cut body of crab into smaller pieces.
4.  Add oil to wok.  Once hot, add ginger and garlic. Stir fry until fragrant. Add crab pieces and allow it to cook for approximately 5 minutes.
5.  Add chopped chili and the white part of the scallions to wok. Toss sauce in with crab.
6.  Top with green part of scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately.


  1. What kind of tamarind? Chunky preserved one? Juice (canned/jarred)? Powder? 2 tbsp + 2 tbsp = 4 tbsp of tamarind? What type of sweet chili sauce? I want to make this tonight so respond fasttttt!!!!!Thanks, btw :)

  2. Oops! That was a typo. I'll delete the second 2 tablespoon. I use the tamarind that doesnt have seeds. It's in a very liquidy paste form.


    Also, the sweet chili that I use is this...


    Fuuunn!!! Let me know how it goes!


Print Friendly