Beef loc lac, sometimes written as lok lak isn’t exactly a Khmer dish – The name comes from the Vietnamese bò lúc lắc, which translates as ‘shaking beef’ in reference to the constant pan movement to cook the small chunks of meat.
It does however have flavours and ingredients which I found to be inherently Khmer – fresh pepper & green tomatoes. Loc lac features on most tourist menus across the country – chances are if you’re looking at an English language menu, it’ll be on it.
Cubes of beef are marinated in a mixture of soy, oyster and fish sauce with garlic and sugar before being stir-fried. It’s usually served on top of a bed of lettuce, with green tomatoes and slithers of raw onion. The meat is paired with a lime, pepper and salt dipping sauce which is both intense and addictive, it’s a perfect accompaniment to the seared beef.
Before the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975 they farmed what was considered some of the best pepper in the world. Production has taken off again since the removal of Pol Pot and his regime. The pepper has an incredibly layered taste, it’s used in a number of Khmer dishes.
It’s best served with a fried egg on the top and a side of boiled rice (as it’s a tourist favourite, it’s often seen with French fries and may be described as loc lac barang) Expect to pay upwards of $3.50 (15’000 riels ) depending on the location and how touristy the restaurant is.