Hungry travelers rambling down National Road Number 3 will be happy to see rows of beef sausage hanging in storefront windows like wet clothes out to dry. About 20 km outside of Phnom Penh, on a road winding towards Kampot, a line of sausage stores wait to feed the growling stomachs of the road weary.
Like the old saying, "where there's water, there's fish", a similar phrase may be coined about sausage. "Where there's beef sausage, there's sour nectar." Meat eaters often develop an intense thirst from the salty sausage, demanding that a good meal be followed by a good drink.
"I can't get along without it," said Ley Det, gesturing to the glass of "sour nectar" (Palm wine) in his hand.
A plate of beef sausage and a generous glass of sour nectar will cost a diner just 3,000 riel. If beer is desired, an extra fee will be charged, but most vendors will be happy to provide the cool suds. Both city slickers and country dwellers are known to choke back a few links any time of year, but sales are highest during the Water Festival, when hoards of party revelers crowd city centers in search of food and fun. Sausage also sells well during the Kathin ceremony, a momentous event used to raise money for building a pagoda.
The act of eating beef sausage not only serves to nourish the body, but it soothes the soul as well. Sharing a meal with friends and family is a means of strengthening bonds old and new. Newcomers to Cambodia may get to know the country better by sitting down at a roadside sausage shop to enjoy the local fare. Although upscale restaurants may be more familiar to the sophisticated traveler, little may be learned about Khmer culture in an air-conditioned eatery. But sharing a warm meal with even warmer people will draw visitors closer to understanding a foreign land and its people. Regardless of the customer's origin, sausage vendors are always happy to serve a good meal to nice people.
"I have operated my business for more than 10 years. At first this place had only one seller, but the living conditions of beef sausage vendors got better each day. Seeing this, other villagers started to create their own stores," said 42 year-old Davy, a long-time beef seller. Now more then 20 stores offer slabs of beef to hungry shoppers. Nearly all sellers purchase their meat from a wholesaler.
Kimnary is the owner of the sausage shop Mlob Sbove Wat Slang and has more than 10 years of experience in the craft of making sausage. With a little persuading, she shared her special recipe for the delicious beef links.
A handful of chopped citronella first is placed into a mortar and ground into small pieces. The citronella is removed and replaced by peanuts, which almost must be ground into small pieces. Beef next is chopped and ground with a piece of Rom Deng, a kind of ginger. The two are mixed into a paste. A small pig intestine is washed out and scraped thin to be used as a casing for the beef filling. In the past, a cow's intestine was used as casing but was replaced because of its excessively large size and unattractive appearance. One must then mix the citronella, peanuts, meat, seasoning and salt all together and stuff the mixture into the pig intestine until full. To finish the sausage, Kimnary finally ties a small round knot at each end of the casing, giving the finished sausage the look of a wrapped candy.
Since there are numerous vendors selling beef sausage, many have had to lower their prices to stay competitive. Still, little money is made from the laborious task. From 5 kg of quality meat, about 5,000 sausage links can be made. Three uncooked links sell for 100 riel while three cooked pieces are priced at 500 riel only.