One of my favorite things to do is learn about different cultural traditions because they tell us that we have more that make us the same than make us different. For this special post, I am partnering with a local Bay Area business, Angkor Cambodian Foods, to talk about Cambodian New Year which takes place on April 14-16.
I was first introduced to this brand at the Fancy Food Show in 2018. I personally had never had Cambodian food before, so I was instantly fascinated by this brand. When I tried a sample of their products, I was blown away. All the flavors were different but also similar to the food I grew up with. They were easily the best thing I discovered at the show that year. The next year (last year) I came to their booth again specifically to sample more of their products. It was just as good that second year. I knew that this was something that I had to talk about, so when they approached me about writing this piece, I was like hell yes!
Cambodian New Year
Cambodian (Khmer) New Year takes place in the April, marking the end of the Cambodian harvest season. The New Year takes place over the course of 3 days with each day being celebrated in a different way. This year it takes place on April 14-16. The first day is called Maha Songkran. This is the last day of the year. On this day, people clean their homes, light candles and offer thanks for Buddha’s teachings. The second day is called Virak Vanabat. This day is used to respect one’s elders. People pay respects to their elders living and departed, and they contribute to charity to help the poor and less fortunate. The last day is called Vearak Loeng Sak, and it is the first official day of the new year. People bathe and wash elders, and in return, receive blessings and advice for the new year. In addition, Buddists wash and clean buddha statues. The purpose of this is to ensure Cambodia receives the water they need in the new year.
What do they eat on Cambodia New Year?
As with many other celebrations in Southeast Asia, the holiday is celebrated with food. Many of the dishes are made using Kroeung which is similar to Thai curry paste. This paste is used to make amok which is a curry stew served in a banana leaf. Amok can be made using a variety of proteins like beef, fish, and chicken. Fish amok in particular is usually served during celebrations like the New Year. Other foods you can also see being served are spring rolls, soups, and barbecue.
I was lucky enough to get some Kroeung Prawlak from Angkor Cambodian Foods. This paste is made with lemongrass, avocado oil, beef flavor, tamarind, and a variety of other ingredients. This is perhaps one of my favorite pastes I’ve ever had. It has such a unique flavor combination that makes my taste buds sing happy songs, and is typically used to make Cambodian barbecue meats on a stick. That was actually the original plan for this recipe – to make some type of meat on a stick, but with our current situation, I had to work with what I had in my kitchen. That’s how this Cambodian rib ragu recipe came about. I really wanted to make a dish I could imagine myself having during a New Years celebration. So this is my non-traditional take on a celebratory Cambodian dish in quarantine.
- Ribs – This recipe calls for 1 rack of ribs. Make sure to remove the membrane from the inside of the ribs before roasting.
- Salt & Pepper – The salt and pepper are used to season the ribs. Any kind of salt and black pepper would work for this recipe.
- Angkor Cambodian Foods 7 Spice – This 7 spice mixture has red chile pepper, cinnamon, clove, fennel, turmeric, galangal, and star anise. The warm Southeast Asian flavors of these spices adds an amazing flavor to meats like chicken, pork, and beef.
- Angkor Cambodian Foods Kroeung Prawlak – This is probably one of my favorite ingredients of all time! It is typically used to make Cambodian barbecue on a stick, but I used it to add some caramelization to these ribs.
- Marinara sauce – Any kind of marinara sauce should work for this recipe.
- Dried Linguine – Any kind of pasta noodles should work for this recipe. Good substitutes for linguine would be fettuccine and spaghetti.
Making this Cambodian rib ragu
First preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Next prepare your ribs by removing the membrane on the inside of the ribs. It is not a very pleasant texture to eat. Combine salt, pepper, and Angkor Cambodian Foods 7 spice in a small bowl. Sprinkle the seasoning on the ribs. Make sure it covers every inch of the ribs. Place the ribs on a baking sheet and cover it with aluminum foil. Roast in the oven for 3 hours until the ribs are tender. After they finish roasting, brush some of the Kroeung Prawlak paste on it, and put it back in the oven for 3 minutes. This helps caramelize the sauce on the ribs. Remove the ribs from the oven and shred into small, bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
Cook linguine in heavily salted water. Set aside the pasta once done, and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Heat the marinara sauce over medium heat. Once it starts to bubble, add in the shredded ribs and pasta water. Stir until everything is well incorporated. Lastly, add in the linguine and stir to coat the pasta in the sauce. Your Cambodian rib ragu pasta is now done! Garnish with Italian parsley and parmesan cheese and serve.
I love how this dish came together even if it’s a bit non-traditional. To be honest, I was not sure this recipe would work because of the contrasting flavors of Cambodia and Italy mixed in. But somehow it does! I love this dish because it’s both comforting, yummy, and feeds small crowd, exactly the kind of dish we all need right now. Lastly, to all the Cambodians celebrating the new year this week, Happy New Year!
Did you make this Cambodian rib ragu?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
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Cambodian Rib Ragu
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
- Prepare the rack of ribs by removing the thin membrane on the inside of the ribs.
- Combine salt, pepper, and Angkor Cambodian Foods 7 spice into a small bowl. Sprinkle the seasoning over the rack of ribs. Make sure every part of the ribs is covered with the seasoning. Cover the ribs with aluminum foil and place in the oven.
- Slowly roast the ribs for 3 hours until the ribs are tender and cooked through. Use a pastry brush to brush the Kroeung Prawlak on the ribs. Roast the ribs for another 3 minutes to caramelize the sauce. The ribs should be done at this point.
- Once done, shred the ribs into small, bite sized pieces.
- Cook the pasta in heavily salted water. Set aside the pasta and 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
- Heat marinara sauce over medium heat. Once the sauce starts to bubble, add in the ribs and pasta water, and stir until everything is well incorporated.
- Lastly, add in the pasta and stir until the sauce coats the pasta. Turn off the heat.
- Garnish with parmesan and parsley and serve!