This Cambodian pork and rice recipe makes bai sach chrouk, a popular Cambodian breakfast dish that is a classic that’s found all over Cambodia. Sold at bustling morning markets and busy roadside stalls, thin pork strips that have marinated overnight are grilled and served with steamed rice and a quick pickle of carrot and daikon.
This Cambodian pork and rice recipe for bai sach chrouk makes one of Cambodia’s most popular breakfasts, along with the noodle soups kuy teav and nom banh chok, and the rice porridge borbor. Rise early with the locals and you’ll spot a pork and rice stall on almost every block of nearly every town and city in Cambodia. In fact you’ll spot the plumes of smoke, hear the pork fat sizzling, and smell the sweet aromas first.
This recipe is next in our series on the best Cambodian barbecue recipes, following recipes for smoky grilled pork ribs, marinated beef skewers, grilled eggplant with stir-fried minced pork and fermented soya beans, and pork spare ribs with star anise.
Along with our other barbecue and grilled ribs and skewers recipes, we’ll be including this Cambodian pork and rice recipe in the Cambodian street food cookbook we’re developing, alongside the epic first-of-its-kind Cambodian cookbook and culinary history that we’ve been researching, writing and photographing for the last six and half years. We’re still seeking patrons for that project on Patreon and you can support the project for as little as the price of a cup of coffee a month.
Cambodian Pork and Rice Recipe – How to Make Bai Sach Chrouk for Breakfast
As the pork and rice stalls typically start lighting their grills soon after dawn, the cook will marinate the pork overnight and I recommend you do the same. The thin strips of pork only take a few minutes to cook, so a busy family-ran stall will operate like a production line, with one cook grilling the pork, a family member scooping steamed rice from the rice cooker onto plates, and another adding a scoop of quick-pickle. When the pork is finished, the tray is whisked away and quickly replaced by another batch of bai sach chrouk sitting in a marinade.
A stall with a stellar reputation, like the one on the corner of Siem Reap’s Wat Bo Road and Street 20, where we used to live, will start around 6am and sell out by 9am or so, sometimes earlier in the busy tourist high seasons of the past. We would see everyone breakfasting on pork and rice at the hugely popular stall, from archaeological guides to Cambodian tourists in town from the capital, their big flashy 4WDs with VIP cards on the windscreen and Phnom Penh number plates parked near the stall. Both were sure signs of the stall’s outstanding reputation.
It’s important to note that these bai sach chrouk stalls rarely sell anything else besides pork and rice, with the condiments typically being little more than the quick pickle, perhaps a pepper and lime dip, and maybe there’ll be some chilli sauce or fish sauce on the table. Occasionally these sorts of stalls might also offer chicken and rice. But when the pork is as good as our old neighbourhood favourite, who could want anything else for breakfast?
Tips on Preparing this Cambodian Pork and Rice Recipe
When I’m making the marinade, I like to make sure the garlic is really crushed finely to spread over all the pork pieces. Some stalls omit the coconut milk from the marinade but I find it helps tenderise the pork, even though the pork is so thin it shouldn’t really need it, plus we just love the flavour.
Marinating time should be at least three hours, although it’s best marinated overnight if you want to prepare it for breakfast. Cambodians eat bai sach chrouk for breakfast, but you could also eat this for brunch or even lunch.
You can use large cuts of pork, as I did this time, but don’t try to use thicker cuts of pork as the pork will burn on the outside before it’s cooked through. Locals don’t mind if the fat on the strips gets a little burnt; it’s all part of the flavour, and we don’t mind either.
Note that this is definitely a Cambodian barbecue recipe where a charcoal grill is essential. The sign of a good stall is a vendor wearing a face mask and sometimes even goggles to protect them from the billowing smoke. This is ideally a balcony or backyard barbecue recipe, although with a good extraction system over your stove, you can try to make it using this little trick.
Use a stovetop Korean BBQ grill pan (the ones with the removable grill top) and crush up some charcoal briquettes and place these on the bottom of the pan. This will generate some smoke when the marinade or fat from the pork drips down and hits the charcoal pieces. Only do this if you have a good extraction system!
Cambodian Pork and Rice Recipe – How to Make Bai Sach Chrouk
- 400 g pork shoulder sliced 1cm thick
- 2 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 ½ tbsp light soy sauce
- 40 g palm sugar grated
- 125 ml coconut milk
- 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
- 1 lime juiced
- To make the marinade, place ingredients in a plastic container and stir to combine. Add the pork, coating all the pieces, put on the lid and marinate for at least 3 hours (preferably overnight) in the fridge.
- Half an hour before cooking, remove the pork from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature.
- Heat the barbecue or charcoal grill and let the charcoal heat until white hot.
- Remove the pork from the marinade and brush off any excess. Place on the grill and cook for around 3 minutes a side until cooked through. The meat should be a little charred and caramelised.
- Serve immediately on a bed of steamed rice alongside the pickled vegetables.
Please do let us know if you make our Cambodian pork and rice recipe for bai sach chrouk. We’d love to know how it turns out for you.