Authentic Cambodian - Baih Khmer
Step into Bai Khmer and you´ll feel as you’re walking into a fisherman’s house by the Mekong river in the Cambodian countryside. Especially when Rodney and Dani – the brains behind the newest restaurant in Warkworth – greet you with big smiles and a menu full of tempting and exciting flavours. After chatting to Dani for ten minutes I felt as if I’d known her for years. She was born in a refugee camp on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, and it was this that forged her strong, determined yet vivacious personality. Her family moved to New Zealand when she was three, sponsored by a Christian family as part of a UN program to relocate Cambodian refugees after the horrors of the civil war.
She met Rodney, the father of her three children, when she was only twelve and she knew then he was the man she wanted to be with. Defying their traditions and families Dani called off her arranged marriage, and Rodney renunciated all rights to claim his family's fortune.
Fifteen years later they’d owned several successful bakeries, proving they had food industry know-how. The couple have at last opened a restaurant to offer the flavours they were longing for; the flavours of Cambodia. Lemongrass, fish sauce, coconut milk and tamarind are some of them; they blend together to create the complexity of Khmer cuisine.
As with other regions of Southeast Asia, the balance of the four foundational tastes (sweet, salty, sour and bitter) is crucial, but Cambodian food is bolder, more aromatic and with more layers that fill your palate with bursting flavours. A typical Cambodian meal includes a soup, a stir fry, a salad and a protein dish all served with rice and shared at the table.
The list of dishes eaten every day is long and sensational, and at Bai Khmer you'll find them all and more. Dani and Rodney together capture the essence of their culture, their heritage and their traditions and bring it to you on a platter.
A rice and coconut pancake ball, crispy and golden on the outside and incredibly silky and luxurious on the inside. Eaten with your hands, it’s stacked on top of fresh vegetables to add freshness and served with a powerful fish and chili sauce to enhance its tropical flavours.
Num Ba Jok
An all-in-one noodle dish served at lunchtime and served at room temperature. Thin vermicelli noodles combined with morsels of crunchy spring rolls, patè and a generous slice of tender pork belly, all bound together with creamy coconut sauce and a touch of sharp fish sauce.
Bai Cha Kroeung Sach Ko
A classic. Tender pieces of beef cooked with a homemade lemongrass, garlic and spice aromatic paste called kroeung (there are as many recipes for this as families in Cambodia). Crunchy curry leaves and herbs add freshness, and chillies are present to awaken your palate. Light and full of flavour, this dish is the close cousin of Thai curries, although more aromatic and less heavy as there is no coconut cream in it.