Take a bite out of Phnom Penh's 'canine' cuisine

Take a bite out of Phnom Penh's 'canine' cuisine

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090123_21.jpg

While many would frown upon eating man's best friend, dog meat is big business in Cambodia - not to mention a cheap and tasty source of protein.

Photo by: Stephanie Mee 

Barbecue your own dog meat at one of the capital's dog serving eateries.

When it comes to food in Cambodia, there are no set rules, particularly when it comes to eating food that is typically taboo in the Western world.

One tasty Khmer snack that is often frowned upon by foreigners is the meat of a creature commonly referred to in the West as "man's best friend" - the dog.

Although not as popular as in China or Vietnam, dogs in Cambodia have long been a cheap and freely available alternative to beef, chicken and pork, and there are many Cambodians who believe that dog meat is even tastier than all of the above.

The meat itself is generally dark and tastes a bit gamey, not unlike pheasant, deer or venison. It has a slightly stringy consistency, with some fat attached to the meat, although this does not make it particularly greasy.

Popular Khmer superstition states that if you eat the meat of a black dog or drink its blood, any internal illnesses you may have will be cured. This is only true, though, if the dog has no white or brown spots anywhere on its body.

Commonly referred to as koh dtreuk in Khmer, or simply sait chkaeh, there are numerous ways to cook and serve dog in Cambodia.

Dog-meat soup is popular in Cambodia, particularly in the countryside. Called somlah majew kreung, it is a combination of dog meat, bones, head and organ meat mixed with young tamarind leaves, water and lime juice to create a tangy sour soup. The dish is very similar to the popular sour chicken soup served in Khmer restaurants across the country.

In Phnom Penh, the most common form of dog meat to be had is barbecued dog, which can be found at many roadside food stalls along the East side of Monivong Boulevard, just north of Norodom Boulevard, and at the corner of Norodom and Street 214, to name a few well-known locales.

Barbecued dog is served in the same way that barbecued beef is served in Cambodia - that is, piping hot with sides of fresh, raw produce such as carrots, cucumbers and young bananas, and dipping sauces of prahok (fermented fish paste), and pepper and lime sauce.

Dishes are usually shared with friends or family and washed down with plenty of cold beer.

Although it is rare to find dog-meat cuisine in Phnom Penh's conventional restaurants or supermarkets, one doesn't have to look far to enjoy this tasty treat.

House speciality

Phnom Penh's most popular dog meat eatery is Hang Taprunch, located across the Japanese Friendship Bridge.

Take the first right after coming off the bridge, go behind a makeshift hammock bar and pool table hangout, and the restaurant can be found amid an abandoned-looking fairground.

This restaurant-beer garden is decked out in green plastic vines, plastic chairs and metal tables, and serves up plates of fried dog meat and Muscle Wine to hungry police officers, moto drivers, groups of teenage boys and local families.

dogs in cambodia have long been a cheap and ...available alternative to beef, chicken and pork. 

The fatty and lean parts of the dog are served up on small plates - bones and skin intact - in a sweet and spicy sauce of chili oil, peanuts and sugar.
Accompanying the meat are plates of fresh vegetables, herbs and young banana plants, and a dipping sauce of fish, garlic, lemongrass, lime and chilies.

Patrons can dip the combination of veggies and meat in the sauce while watching traditional Khmer boxing on TV and sipping cans of cold Anchor beer. Small plates of fried dog meat cost US$1 each.

All of the dogs used at Hang Taprunch come from Kampong Cham province, where they are cleaned and cooked before being sold to vendors from the capital.

This particular restaurant uses only the meat from the body and legs, although common practice is to use all parts of the dog, especially the head and brains.

By the kilogram

Close to Phnom Penh's Boeung Keng Kang market on Street 380 is a small family-run business that sells fresh dog meat by the kilogram. For 15,000 riels ($3.64), you can get one kilogram of meat, and customers can purchase up to 10 kilograms  at a time.

Fresh dog meat is procured in the early hours of the morning from the Olympic Market area and resold to buyers out of the family home for the first half of the day.

After midday, the family marinates the dog meat in spices and sets it to dry in a basket, to be barbecued later.

The remaining dog meat is mixed with curry paste and greens, to be served to hungry customers with rice or on its own, or it is boiled into a soup.

Although dog meat may not be for everyone, eating it is legal in Cambodia and offers a cheap alternative to the more commonly consumed sources of protein in the country.

With the variety of different dog-meat dishes and eateries on offer in the country, it seems that this snack won't be going by the wayside any time soon.

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