Sach Ko Ang Recipe | Bon Appétit

The distinctive scent of sach ko ang (សាច់គោ អាំង) fills the air at most street food markets and community gatherings in Cambodia. I recognized the smell of these sizzling grilled beef skewers, a traditional Khmer meal, during a visit to Cambodia more than a decade ago (sach ko means “beef” and ang “grill”). It became a mission to find it everywhere I went and taste its many variations in a country not known for its incredible cuisine.

The heart of the dish is Kroeung (គ្រឿង), one of five signature spice pastes used in Khmer cuisine. Galangal, lemongrass and macrut lime leaves form the aromatic base of the taste of every Kroeung, which branches out into different styles depending on the addition. Sach ko ang uses yellow kroeung, thanks to the fresh turmeric that gives it its golden hue.

You can find Sachko ang most often at busy street stalls where vendors grill them on clay stoves (charcoal burners). Passers-by can buy a skewer or two as an afternoon snack for on the go, but at lunchtime they are eaten as a full meal with a sweet, crispy green papaya and carrot pickle (chruak l’hong or ជ្រក់ល្ហុង). , served in a crispy baguette or with steamed rice. In addition to the Kroeung marinade, the beef is seasoned with oyster sauce and palm sugar as well as a multitude of additional variations of roasted, ground star anise, MSG, chili paste or fish sauce. My version is inspired by a recipe I was taught by Pek Sarann, a Khmer chef from Phnom Penh and owner of the Bok it Ihe (បុក ឥត ល្ហែ) restaurant in Koh Kong, who learned the recipe from her mother. While other Khmer cooks prefer a longer marinade for more pronounced flavors, Sarann ​​cooks their skewers after a short 30-minute marinade, which increases the freshness of the ingredients in the kroeung.

It is best to wear gloves when preparing kroeung as fresh turmeric will stain your fingers. The quick cucumber is ready to eat after just 30 minutes. To make a richer meal, add steamed rice or serve in a buttered baguette with the cucumber and drink it with an ice cold beer, just like the Khmer do. —Lara Lee

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