May I invite you to a unique and traditional Cambodian breakfast? As in many Asian countries, soups are usually served for breakfast in Cambodia, and the local people are not able to start the day without it. Let’s have a deep jump into the world of soups! I am sharing with you one of my favorites. It is called kuy teav, a meat noodle soup.
Can you imagine Asia without street food? No, it is impossible. As I am talking about Asian soups now, I can imagine the narrow Cambodian streets, the fragrant marketplaces where the vendors sell their aromatic foods during the day. The peak time is the morning, when most local people are looking for their soup for breakfast. Kuy teav, this hearty and spicy, pork broth-based Khmer soup with Chinese origins, is one of the most typical morning street foods in Cambodia. It can be found almost at every marketplace stall, roadside vendor, small street side restaurant, but only before midday.
The name of the dish, in the Khmer language, refers both to cut noodles made from long grain rice flour (not glutinous rice flour) and to the dish itself with minced meat and other toppings. There are various terms throughout Southeast Asia to refer to the same noodles made from long grain rice flour, including hủ tiếu in Vietnam, kway teow in Malaysia and Singapore, and kuai tiao (ก๋วยเตี๋ยว) in Thailand.
But before we dig into how to serve this soup, let’s first discuss the base ingredients of the dish. As I already mentioned, it has a pork broth base, which is prepared from bones and meats as well. The bones are one of the most important parts of a meat broth since it gives body to the soup during the long cooking, as the gelatin gets loose from the bones and thickens the broth. Besides the pork broth, the fermented ingredients are key part of this soup. The fish sauce, the soy sauce and the rice wine give the final taste to the dish.
In Asian and of course Cambodian cuisines, the fermented elements have an important role because of their taste and health effects. The fish sauce and soy sauce are used to add salt and umami to the soup and create a harmonious meal. Rice wine is responsible for the acidity of the dish.
Kuy teav is always served with a lot of garnish to give aromatics to the soup. It can be served in two ways:
1. every garnish (bean sprouts, eggs, meats, cilantro leaves, scallions) are in a bowl and served with the soup together
2. the soup is served separate from the garnish. This option allows to control the balance of the flavors, aromas, textures.
Different regional versions of kuy teav
As in most of Asian countries, the regions have a big influence on the final taste of a single dish. This is the same for kuy teav. There is a base recipe, but every region in Cambodia has its own version. Not everyone uses the same garnishes when they serve the soup. Some versions can be very basic with only a few toppings and others can be more extravagant.
For example the Phnom Penh version often contains pig blood, liver, as well as heart. Near the Mekong, families add prawns and fish cakes into the soup. In the modern versions, you can find beef, seafood and chicken kuy teav soup as well. Sometimes, it is eaten with deep fried breadsticks and some local people eat it with chili pepper.
- In a saucepan over high heat, boil the pork necks for 10 minutes after reaching boiling point.
- Drain and discard the cooking water.
- Put the pig's necks back in the pot and fill with enough water to cover the bones by at least 2 inches.
- Add the dried shrimp and mix.
- Simmer on low heat for 3 hours, until the meat comes off the bones.
- Slowly skim all the foam that forms on the surface of the broth. Add boiling water to maintain the same level, if necessary.
- Remove the necks from the broth using a skimmer and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Remove the meat from the bones and set aside.
- Add the fish sauce to the broth and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Simmer the broth over low heat while the rest of the recipe is prepared.
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil, cook the noodles for 30 seconds, drain and rinse immediately with cold water.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the minced pork and mix well. (Crush the ground meat as you cook with a mashed press).
- Add rice wine, soy sauce and honey. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the pork neck meat and the sesame oil, mix and reserve.
- Bring the broth to a boil over a high heat.
- Place the shrimp in a metal colander and immerse it in the pot to cook the shrimp for 10 minutes in the simmering broth.
- Remove the colander, drain and reserve the shrimp.
- Divide the noodles into 4 large bowls.
- Add the shrimp, pork, and a little of each topping to each bowl: soy sprouts, chopped cilantro, chopped scallions, fish sauce, Sriracha chili sauce, lemons)
- Pour the broth into each bowl and place pieces of hard-boiled egg on top. Serve very hot with additional toppings on the side.