Sach ko ang jakak is perhaps what bánh mì is to Vietnam, a mouthwatering marriage of barbecued beef, sweet and crunchy shredded pickle, and mayonnaise-like butter, brought heartily together by a crusty French baguette, the shared food legacy of the former colonies.
There are other comparisons to be made with sach ko ang: the faintly spicy mince beef skewer could be compared to the sausage-like Balkan lamb ćevapčići, or, slathered with pickles and a hit of fresh chili, the juicy-sour textures of a bratwurst and sauerkraut or a smoky grilled kebab. Basically, it confirms the universal appreciation for good meat and sauce in bread.
Sach ko ang stalls can be found in the lunchtime food sections of all the city’s markets, but on Street 51, within a stone’s throw of Central Market, stands what could be considered a beef skewer institution. At the delightfully named Yee-ay Sok Sor (white-haired grandma), rotating skewers of mince and diced beef and liver sizzle deliciously over two clay charcoal burners. The thriving outdoor shop has been there for 30 years, says vendor Sok Vandy, cutting open a freshly baked crunchy bread roll, scraping it with butter and laying it on the grill to lightly toast. Around her three staff are busy turning and fanning the hot grill and quickly packaging take-aways. Over the years, says Vandy, other sach ko ang outfits have followed suit and the block is now a strip of smoking grills, stocked up high with baguettes and prepared meat skewers.
Yay-ay Sok Sor cooks up a couple of thousand of the tasty beef sticks a day, up to 3,000 when there are special events on and bulk orders come in.
The meat skewers are prepared offsite, marinated in aromatic kroeung, the ubiquitous spice mix of lemongrass, turmeric and galangal, and threaded onto chopsticks, a solid utensil for on-the-go eating. The diced brisket skewers are fattier than the mince, but more common in smaller operations at the market. At Yee-ay Sok Sor, the translucent yellow ber that provides a mildly sugary contrast to the tasty savoury beef, is made with butter, sugar and egg. If you dine in, Vandy piles up bright plastic plates with crunchy pickles in accordance with the most popular way of eating, which is a bite each of pickle, meat and bread, washed down with cold tea. I prefer to make up a baguette myself, forking off the red beef into the bread, a dab of chili, and a good mound of j’roo-uk: fine ribbons of green papaya, carrot and a hint of ginger, lightly pickled in sugar, vinegar and fish sauce. The dish is so good, our table of three orders another, texts a friend to tell them just how good it is, then orders another to go. Vandy smiles on, slightly bemused – no need to tell her, she knows.
Yee-ay Sok Sor (written in Khmer)
#35, street 51, open 12pm-9pm.
Sach ko ang jakak 2,700 riel.