Monday, April 11, 2011

Gastronomy Repertoires From the 12th Century – The ‘Bayonese’ Cooking Style

Bayon Temple – This is the most preserved activity on Angkor Gastronomic art era, are carved on the south wall of the temple. A legacy of Khmer cuisine and civilization is also easily can be found in this magnificence ancient building. The Bayonese in that time applied several technique of cooking; barbecue, steam, grilled, etc. It might sound as simple acts and with minimum knowledge of ingredients but they tried to create a very elegant yet exotic cuisine to mark the civilization of that particular era. I am sure with array of herb and spices they have, it might the food will taste very good and of course suitable to be presented to their kings and offer to their Gods and Goddesses. 

About the image above: the magnificent Bayon temple has been lighted up for the first time for special occasion after more than 900 years. Imagine if this electricity was available at 12th century, all of this temple sites will look more beautiful, grand and different.

According to the Zhou Daguan’s report written in the 13th century, he listed some vegetables like eggplant, onion, cucumber, leek, squash, mustard green and lotus root consumed within the Kingdom. And fruits include to his list; watermelon, banana, orange, lychee and pomegranate. He also added his list with some spices and fresh herbs like peppers and variety of aromatic herbs.

Listed also country chicken, ducks, bulls, horses, pigs and sheep, fresh water conger eel, black carp, bastard carp, prawns, sea turtle, mussels, alligator and many kind of sea fish were included in his list fro his book – Customs of Cambodia.

Some of the utensils and equipment like earthenware stove, pots, copper cooking pots and coconut shell ladder and ceramic dishes are used in that period.

From the wall of Bayon Temple I traced that most of the notes made by Zhou Daguan nine centuries ago is mostly true. As I can see today, large number of fishes appeared here from the large size to small one, many variety from different spices. Crocodile, buffalo, wild boar, many domestic animal and games also appeared on the wall

Along with the ingredients available and type of utensil used to cook food in the kitchen, the Bayonese introduced style of cooking with many different techniques.  The type of food that being prepared - from steaming to boiling and barbecuing, from small pieces of food to large carcass of whole suckling pig which prepared by group of peoples in teamwork.

The composition of the menu maybe consist of both fishes from the lake and the sea, shellfishes, chicken, duck, eggs, suckling pig, wild boar, buffalo, Cow, sheep and few games. Vegetable and rice was also available as additional.

From the clay pots they can be used on preparing soups and stewed food. The open fire of charcoal or firewood could inspire on preparing slow roasted, barbecued or grilled. Sundried, smoked and fermented ingredients were also introduced due to keep longer foodstuff to be consumed in the sandstone query site for all of the kingdom’s workers.

Visiting the Bayon Temple make me realize that Bayonese peoples were so advance on gastronomy creation plus presentation that chinaware has been used. Should might they still eat by hands or introduced small spoons made of leaf or coconut shell could be possible for the mostly people in the kingdom but I will not be surprise if gold or silver made plates, spoons, jugs, cups or similar utensils were in used to serve the royal family like what Zhou Daguan noted that most of the utensils, palanquins, parasol flecked with gold and gold handles. If we study the story of the kingdom surely we knew that this kingdom is very rich and strong which can see from all of the temple they have built and ornaments shown on every wall.

To enjoy the meal, they use their hands/fingers to transfer food from plate or leaf cup to their mouth, for this purpose a fingerbowl was also in used to wash hands before and after the meals.

I tried to put some analyses of menu possibilities appeared during this period:

  1. Chicken
Easiest way to cook chicken is to roast or stew
Menu possibilities: roasted chicken, steamed chicken, grilled chicken skewers, chicken curry, other stewed chicken, fried chicken, stir-fried chicken, variety of chicken soup.

  1. Duck
Menu possibilities: roasted duck, duck curry, or stewed duck

  1. Pigs and Wild Boar
Menu possibilities: roasted suckling pig (exist until this time), barbecued pork skewers, braised pork, pork curry, fried pork, variety of pork soup, stir-fried pork, grilled pork and roasted pork pieces.

  1. Buffalo and Cow
Menu possibilities: roasted baby cow (exist until this time), barbecued beef skewers, braised beef, beef soup and stir-fried beef.

  1. Fishes
Menu possibilities: steamed fish, grilled fish, variety of fish soup, fried fish and roasted fish.

  1. Shellfishes
Menu possibilities: snail soup, stir-fried snail, grilled clams

  1. Variety of Vegetables
Menu possibilities: most of the vegetables might be used and combine with some sliced meat or seafood and fishes. Possibly: stir-fried vegetables with meat or seafood, braised vegetables or combine in the stewed or soup like squash soup with pork or fresh water fish. Might be also eaten as fresh salad or condiments for the roasted food like roasted suckling pig.

  1. Rice
Menu possibilities:  steamed rice, fried rice, rice porridge, or from the sticky rice they produced sweets and local cakes.

  1. Fresh Fruits
Menu possibilities: mainly fresh fruit eaten as it is. Or few fruits like green mango, sour plum, or green papaya has been consumed as salad that combined with cooked meat or seafood.

  1. Sour Plant and or Lime
According to Zhou Daguan, the people of Bayon did not know how to produce vinegar. When they would like to have sour taste to their food, they will add some sour tree leaves, sour fruits or lime.

  1. Palm Sugar
The important thing of this palm sugar is to be a sweetener agent. While preparing sweet dessert or local cake or even use on cooking to give richer flavor and sweet taste.

  1. Sea Water or Salt
The seawater or salt also has been used to preserve food or give richer taste

  1. Spices and Herbs
The predominant of herb and spices like fresh garlic, onions, turmeric, pepper, chilies, root spices and fresh herb, really gave a big hint to this cooking delicacy because will differentiate from one dish to the other dishes on look, taste and flavors.

About the image above: in front row they’re a muscular man carried whole suckling pig or a baby wild boar. Maybe he would like to plunge the whole pig to a large pot of boiling water, while the other person tries to maintain the fire, one person prepared for barbecuing, other person in the front row was adding ingredients or cut vegetables to the boiling pot. While in the back row we clearly see a person carried tray full of food on his head, two persons passing by carry something on try.

About the image above: in the front row a person looking at the stove and maintain the fire to be ready for cooking. Two persons work together to ladle a liquid food probably a soup and poured to the soup cups. Another person would like to carry something on his left hand. In the back row there were three persons carried food in tiffin containers on the tray, ready to be served.

About the image above: in the front row, one person filled in food in the tiffin box, a person arranged tiffin filled with food on tray and passed it to the man, another person to decorate large tray with layers of food and also beside him another person to prepare soup. In the back row there were few peoples carried food on the tray to be served either carried on his head or carefully transported by two hands, and another person standing with water jug on his hands. 

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