The Muller Menu: Looks like Cambodia, Tastes like America

13 02 2012

Due to the what Katie has labeled the “popularity” of the first Muller Menu post, I’ve decided to once again sit down and answer what may be everyone’s favorite question, “What’re you/yinz/ya’ll eatin’ over thur?”

Black Bean Burgers - A weekday staple

Since I had nearly two weeks off from school, I set out to do all the things that I said that I’d do if I had more time: laundry, cleaning, Khmer studying, email returning, and cooking. Guess which one I actually got around to. (I was practically camped in the kitchen – just the way I like it.)

I have really enjoyed cooking in Cambodia, mostly because it comes with some serious limitations. In the US, I tended to cook with a certain flavor profile in mind: creamy, cheesy, rich, and ridiculous. Anybody who knows me has probably been subjected to a 12 pound slice of my triple layer chocolate raspberry stout cake or a piece of meat of my choosing, stuffed with cheese, coated in cheese sauce, with crumbled cheese on top. Moral of this overly descriptive story: I overdid everything.

A simple, cheeseless mango and purple cabbage slaw.

In Cambodia, I have been separated from my most reliable cooking weapons: cheese and cream. Not having a refrigerator really puts some limits on the dairy options. Another limitation is only having one small portable burner. It works great, but good luck having two hot things at the same time for dinner. Lastly, what is a warm-blooded American male without gadgets? Stripping away the food processor, blender, mixer, mandoline, slow-cooker, garlic press, coffee bean grinder, knife set, oven, 4 burner stove, sink, running water, and counter space has made me a much better cook. Having to MacGyver ways to make American classics without actually having the proper tools or ingredients is the best way to learn how to actually cook. Recipes aren’t really an option, so I’ve been able to really feel my way around meals that I’ve always wanted to master.

Mastering an intricate American classic - chili cheese fries, sans cheese.

There is no more spending $50 on groceries to copy one Food & Wine recipe exactly. Our budget is about $2.50 a day for two people for two meals and a snack/dessert. Cambodian prices make a difference to be sure, but we’ve also gone vegetarian at home due to a lack of appetizing meat at the market. This isn’t entirely new for us, but it adds a nutritional component that we have rarely had to think about before. In a complete change from home, we’re on a never ending search for new sources of protein and lately, calories. We’ve both lost weight since arriving, and have been trying hard to level out and stay healthy.

Here’s some of what we’ve been eating since the last Muller Menu:

Regular Sunday pancake breakfast, complete with maple syrup (Thanks P&B!), honey, homemade dairy-free caramel, cinnamon apples, bananas, and peanut butter.

Dumpling soup - when we have no culinary creativity. Or time.

Peanut Butter and Banana Custard Parfait

Katie's favorite - veggie hoagies

Thanks to an excellent meal inspirer, photographer, and eater, Katie.

-Tim

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4 responses

13 02 2012
kbergen

This post was wonderful…and mean :) It looks like you are making wonderful things! Don’t get too skinny! If you need help, my recommendation is more sweet and condensed milk, and fry everything you’ve got in cheap cooking oil. ;) Also, as a person who knows you I would like to say I have yet to be subjected to a 12 pound slice of triple layer chocolate raspberry stout cake. Clearly I must stay friends with you until after Peace Corps.

13 02 2012
Sam

Ok, we really need to get on more of the cooking bandwagon. We’ve been so lazy lately. We did make an amazing salsa and tortilla chips this weekend. ok, so now I need these recipes. Specifically the black bean burgers. I’ve wanted to make them, but haven’t gotten around to researching how to do that…so thanks for doing the research for me! AND that PB and banana custard parfait, holy cow!

13 02 2012
Niki

You know I **love** to hear about anyone going veg (even temporarily!), but it was particularly interesting to hear about your whys and hows. Thanks for the post– good to hear what you guys are up to!

16 02 2012
Kate

This is so interesting to see! Chris and I end up just cooking Khmer at site- as in, rice with our two meals, eep!- so it’s awesome to see you guys finding ways to make comfort foods here! that parfait looks pretty amazing!

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