Once upon a time while volunteering in Cambodia, I took a walk in a local market to see what my tummy could find (shocking, right?). I rounded a corner and spotted out what appeared to be one of my favorite vegetables with some sort of goodness in the middle. Here are the actual photos from the quaint little market outside of Phnom Phen.
I looked around for a seat, quickly realizing that the pint-size stool at my feet was the prime location to experience the meal I was about to order. Squatting low with knees in my chest, I pointed eagerly at the dish and singled for one slice, followed by my palms together in gratitide. Considering I was the tallest, whitest lady at the miniature table, I was being observed by several locals for my reaction to the first bite.
With the toddler spoon that matched my shoebox chair, I scooped up a bite and gave it a go.
How to make best friends in a foreign market:
Step1. Order something they don’t expect you to get.
Step2. Try it in front of them.
Step 3. React sincerely.
It didn’t take but a second for me to realize I had found my new favorite treat. Needless to say it became a daily routine to greet my new friends, squeeze into my usual seat (visualize Will Ferrel sitting in the classroom in the movie Elf) and indulging. Was this lunch… dessert? A meal or a snack? I have no idea but it was delicious!
When arriving back into the states I started research to find something that would closely resemble the magical taste of pumpkin custard or Lapov Songkya (ល្ពៅសង្ខ្យា).
To be honest, I have yet to find a recipe but I’ve had fun trying! Here was my most recent attempt (attempt: an act of trying to achieve something, typically one that is unsuccessful or not certain to succeed.)
A buttercup squash (Pumpkin, Kombucha, Delicata, etc.)
4-5 Eggs (I used whole and some whites)
3/4 cup Coconut milk (it suggests cream or full fat, I used lite)
1/3 cup Sugar (I used coconut palm sugar)
1/2 tsp Salt
A dash of Cinnamon if you’re feelin spicy
Optional: In Cambodia they will often put shave ice and coconut over the top and drizzle with condensed sweetened milk. (See photos above)
Cut open the top of your pumpkin the same way you would for a Halloween carving. Take a spoon and gut your squash. For the sake of my sanity, please save your seeds and eat those too… They do not belong in the trash! Thank you.
Mix all of the ingredients saving the eggs for last.
Grab a double boiler and fill with an adequate amount of water. Crank the heat until it’s boiling. Place your squash in the over sized steamer, cut side up. Poor the liquid into the hollowed out pumpkin and close the lid.
Lower the heat and let the baby cook until the custard is cooked thoroughly and the pumpkin is tender. Remove and let cool.
This is the part in which you eagerly slice into as you contain the water in your mouth before giving this amazing dish a try…
Or in my case, you slice into it and have all the undercooked insides come pouring out into the table as your heart breaks into tiny little hungry pieces. I’m not sure if this failure was the specific recipe, the substitutions I made or in fact, that I actually didn’t follow the recipe.
I have you know, I ate the pumpkin separately with dinner and enjoyed every bite! I took the insides (what should of been custard) added oats and ground flax seed, then poured it into a baking dish and made scrumptious bars out of it. Problem solved.
So, if you want to try this Cambodian delight, I highly suggest you google it yourself and find a recipe that you think will be golden. When you find it, let me know!