Cambodia - Prahok is a crushed, marinated and fermented fish paste commonly used in Cambodian cuisine as a seasoning or a flavour-enhancer. It was invented to preserve fish in times of inadequate supply in ancient times. It is also nicknamed 'Cambodian Cheese' due to its strong and unique smell.
The tranquil fishing village is an untouched wonder that bears witness to the collection of local traditional heritage bestowed with the intrinsic wealth of land and sea for more than a hundred years. Walking along the piers around sunrise, the rustling sounds of the tiny Tai O fishing village seem largely unspoiled by time.Gold from
The sea in Tai O is regarded as a treasury of natural wealth containing many different varieties of fish. Endowed by the sea, fish marinating and drying became ingenious crafts of the Tai O people, in order to preserve the abundant harvest of fish and enhance the flavour of foods since the 1950s. The growth of fish processing was attributed to the rich yields, crystal clear sea salt and plentiful sunlight in Tai O. While similar techniques of food preservation have faded away over the course of time in other countries, this inherent richness remains to the present day in Tai O, living as an enduring regional specialty.
Salted fish tastes bittersweet and is renowned for its high nutritional value. People usually cook the salted fish head with bean curd, using it as a therapeutic tool in clearing heat, dampness and toxins from the human body.
Another soup comprised of salted fish, leaf mustard and candied jujube is also a great combination which is used for nourishing the kidneys and restoring health.
To balance the high sodium level of salted fish, drinks are always served in meal. This is the wit of indigenous Tai O people to retain traditional distinctive charm and maintain a healthy lifestyle at the same time.
Fish maw is the air bladder of a fish, a traditional and valuable food product in China, which is suitable for people of all ages. It is one of the four fine dried seafoods.
Containing abundant colloid, vitamins and proteins, women especially love fish maw as they believe it has a nourishing effect on beauty and can moisturise their skin in dry conditions. Yet fish maw doesn't have a distinctive taste. In some Asian countries like China, people choose thicker fish maw for cooking, while using fish maw of ordinary quality for soup, as to enhance its texture and thickness. In Tai O, fish maw is a common ingredient used in different types of dishes and cooked in various ways, such as stewing, poaching or simmering, regardless of whether it's a sweet or savory dish.
Dried shrimp is a valuable food rich in protein and minerals and beneficial for kidneys and bones. Many people in Tai O use homemade dried shrimp to enrich dishes, not simply to enhance the flavour of food but as a valuable ingredient that is good for their health.
Shrimp Block and Shrimp Paste
Shrimp block and shrimp paste are iconic of Tai O, which is home to a time-honored local brand with eighty years of history behind it, now in the hands of a fourth-generation owner. Tai O-produced shrimp paste and shrimp block are made traditionally by the indigenous method, producing a strong aromatic flavour that makes them the perfect condiments. Restaurants serve a wide range of dishes that utilise shrimp paste and shrimp block and offer gourmets a truly unforgettable experience. Both shrimp block and shrimp paste are made with shrimp, yet due to different manufacturing methods, both offer distinctive tastes and forms.
Shrimp block has a milder flavour than shrimp paste since it is not fermented and uses less salt. To make shrimp block, first clean and grind the shrimp, then place it out to dry in the sun at 31 - 32 degrees for five to six hours. Alternately, shrimp paste is made after grinding and drying for three to four days, which produces fine paste that is further dried for five to six hours.
Tai O's greenery is a treasure trove of Chinese medicinal herbs that safeguards the health of the Tai O people, such as Begonia fimbristipula and Paederiascandens. Each contributes to making the people of Tai O healthy and long-lived.
While some praise wine as a lifelong companion in times good and bad, Begonia fimbristipula herbal tea, or Phoenix Tea, is like a member of the family in every Tai O household, a godsend gift only for this blessed pearl.
A remedial and protective drink infused with delicate flavour, Begonia fimbristipula herbal tea is the extract of a miraculous tea tree leaf from Phoenix Mountain of Lantau. This magenta elixir with a slightly acidic sweet flavour has the power to help refresh, detoxify, fight off the years, invigorate the digestive system, and more. Besides soaking Begonia fimbristipula in wine and water for medicinal liquors or tonic teas, people in Tai O also treat it as an essential ingredient of appetizers, soups and sautéed dishes, presenting it in various cooking styles. As a genuine Tai O treasure, Begonia fimbristipula herbal tea is not just a snack or thirst-quencher, but has also become an integral part of the Tai O people's life, across all generations.
Even the great contemporary Chinese calligrapher and poet GuoMoruo glorified the value of this invaluable treasure, saying, "Put aside tea and liquor, toast to guests with Begonia fimbristipula."
Steamed Glutinous Rice Dumpling
The fame of steamed glutinous rice dumplings has spread far and wide. Traditionally made with glutinous rice flour, modern elements have been added to the mix; for example, pumpkin and glutinous rice produce an eye-catching orange exterior. It can be salty or sweet – made with black-eyed peas, it has a salty flavour, while red beans, green beans and peanuts are used to make the sweet version. It's soft when served hot; and chewy when served cold. It is a definite gastronomic delight that Tai O visitors should never miss.
Paederia Scandens Rice Cake
From its appearance, this little black glutinous rice cake is hardly appealing. Yet if one dares to delve into the mystery of this oriental snack, no one could resist its flavour, scent and amazing efficacy. Made of Paederiascandens, this rice cake gained Tai O people's affection due to its special qualities in both internal and external use. Internally, Paederiascandens helps cure rheumatic muscle pain, cold coughs, and bronchitis; externally, Paederiascandens heals dermatitis, eczema, and similar conditions. As the saying goes, no doctor will get rich from Tai O residents--the inexhaustible natural wealth of this sacred land is powerful enough.