Vietnamese Salt & Pepper Squid

That dipping sauce might look a little muddy, it was doubling up but trust me, it was delicious!

One of the dishes (among many) that we loved on our travels through Vietnam and Cambodia was Salt & Pepper squid.  Naturally, that squid was ultra fresh, and so very tender it literally melted in your mouth.  Typically served with a bowl of rice, and a pile of greens it is the perfect light dinner.  I love the combination of flavours found in most Vietnamese dishes – fish sauce, lime juice and pepper.  Those show up in so many tasty dishes – makes my mouth water just thinking about it!


  • 400 gr squid **
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour (you can substitute corn starch)

OIL – to use for frying – make sure you use a high smoke point oil such as peanut, canola or vegetable. – heat to 350 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a chopstick in there …. once it bubbles all around the chopstick it is ready.


Prep whatever fresh vegetables or salad you want to serve.


  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped (or chili flakes to taste)
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar (I usually stick with 1)
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp water

If you try anything – make it this dressing! I use it for salads all the time and it is so light and refreshing while adding so much flavour to a simple salad.

** Squid – if you can get it fresh then clean it and slice into rings – leaving tentacles whole.  I’ve only used frozen at this point but you know I will be sourcing some fresh squid!!

Once your squid is prepped, bash up the salt and pepper in a mortar and pestle – bash until cracked and broken but don’t turn it in to a fine grind.  Sprinkle a little directly onto the prepared squid.  Pour the rest into a bowl with the flours and stir until combined.

When oil is hot enough,  put a handful of the squid into the salt/pepper/flour mix and toss to coat lightly and cook in batches in the hot oil.  Do not overcrowd your oil or it will cool down and your squid will absorb more of the oil. 

Remove from oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  

If you like a dipping sauce – just bash up a bit more salt and pepper, mixing it with fresh lime juice.

The dressing couldn’t be easier!  Again, the mortar and pestle comes into action so I hope you didn’t clean it after bashing salt and pepper …… Drop in garlic, ginger, spring onion and chili …give it a good bit of action until you have created a paste.  Add lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and water.  TASTE.  TASTE IT AGAIN.  Every single item can be a slightly different taste profile from what I am using and for your individual tastes.  Adjust if necessary.  It should be slightly sweet, slightly salty, slightly hot and slightly tangy.  

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle then just chop everything quite fine and add in the other ingredients … I have about 3 of them so I love using them but don’t run out and buy one if you don’t love the process!

To serve lightly dress your salad with the dressing, pile the squid on and serve with a side of rice if you like, just the way it is served in Cambodia & Vietnam ….. oh take me back! We bought our pepper from the Kampot Pepper Plantation in Cambodia. Touted as the best pepper in the world we had no choice. It really does make a difference when the pepper is that fresh.

Give that salt and pepper a good bash up, but stop before it is all pulverized, a little texture is perfect.
I wish you could smell this! (even though fish sauce tastes a lot better than it smells)
Ready to be dressed at the last moment – this is so light, partially due to the lack of oil.
At the Kampot Pepper Plantation …. yes, those ladies are hand selecting black peppercorns with tweezers!

Cambodian Lok Lak

Lok Lak is one of Cambodia’s national dishes, we fell in love with it during our trip this year.  The marinated beef is delicious on it’s own, but dipping in the lime pepper sauce accentuates everything.

Lok Lak 1

We are food geeks, it is true.  One of our trip highlights was visiting a pepper plantation in Kampot, home of the worlds best pepper.  La Plantation was incredible, and we loved seeing pepper being harvested by hand.  Of course you can use whatever pepper you have on hand, we just happened to bring it home with us.


  • lb beef steak , sliced
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 scallions , chopped


  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic , chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon Kampot pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon chicken broth powder
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch (or cornstarch)
  • 3 teaspoons paprika


  • Juice of 5 limes
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic , chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon Kampot pepper


  • A few leaves lettuce
  • 2 ​​tomatoes , sliced
  • Steamed white rice


  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a salad bowl, add the meat and stir well.
  2. Marinate the meat for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  3. Heat the 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wok or pan and fry the chopped scallions over medium heat until they turn light brown.

  4. Add the meat, mix well and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. In a bowl, stir all the ingredients of the lok lak sauce vigorously.
  6. Prepare large plates.
  7. In each plate, place a bed of lettuce leaves and a few slices of tomato.
  8. Place the meat on the lettuce leaves and sliced ​​tomatoes.
  9. Serve with steamed white rice.
  10. Place a small bowl of lok lak sauce on the side or the center of each plate.

Lok Lak 2

Crispy but tender beef, soft rice, and a lime pepper dipping sauce to brighten it all up.  In Vietnam it is often served with French fries, but we like the rice best.

I found this recipe on a website 196 Flavors, and it was just like the Lok Lak we enjoyed in Cambodia …. lick your plate good!

Vietnamese Rice Bowl

Vietnamese Bowl

Lime juice is used in so many dishes in Vietnam and Cambodia, and we loved it.  Tonight I sautéed the green vegetables with garlic and ginger, once tender I just squeezed fresh lime over and used a generous sprinkle of fresh Kampot pepper – they were so good and fresh.

We’ve just returned from a month in Cambodia and Vietnam and can’t seem to leave those fresh bright flavours behind us.  This rice bowl (or use rice noodles if you like) is delicious – use a variety of different textures and flavours to get the right balance, but whatever you use – make it your own.  The only actual recipe portion of this is the Vietnamese sauce, Nuoc Cham, the rest of it is more of a guideline.

You will need:

  • cooked rice
  • grilled steak (or chicken/prawns/tofu)
  • pickled fresh vegetables
  • sauteed vegetables (tonight I used broccoli, baby bok chow & snap peas)


  • toasted peanuts
  • slivered spring onions
  • rough chopped cilantro/basil/mint
  • toasted sesame seeds

Nuoc Cham Sauce:

  • 2 – 2/12 tbsp sugar (I used palm sugar but you can use white, or maple syrup or honey)
  • 3-4 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup very warm water (warm helps the sugar to dissolve)
  • 2 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3-4 tbsp fish sauce

Stir sugar and lime juice together, then add warm water and stir until sugar has dissolved.  Add rice vinegar and fish sauce.  I always start with the lesser amount of sugar, lime juice and fish sauce … adjust as needed when you have it all together.

To assemble, place your rice or rice noodles in the bottom of a bowl, then layer on your other ingredients.  Drizzle Nuoc Cham over and sprinkle with garnishes.  This dish is just as versatile as you want it to be.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 1

This time the Vietnamese bowl featured rice noodles and chicken.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 2

Quick pickled vegetables and Nuoc Cham sauce ready to dress up your bowl.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 3

Put everything out on the table and let everyone create their own bowl.

Vietnamese noodle bowl 4

Good to the last drop!


Kampong Chhnang

90 k from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang by bus …. and it took over 2 hours! We think every road in Cambodia is being worked on, and Cambodians agree.  The city of Kampong Chhnang didn’t in any way wow us, neither with food or accommodation, but the aspects we loved were unreal.  So many memories to flash on.


The water isn’t very deep but we were still grateful for the lifejackets just to give us a bit of padding at the back!  How do they manage hard wooden benches as they do?



Shortly after arriving we were on a long tail boat touring floating villages on the Tonle Sap River.  It was incredible to drift through just observing how people live in such a small area.  Why do we in North America feel like we have discovered something new?  Tiny houses have nothing on these folks.  In general the people were so friendly, waving and calling hello – they don’t have enough tourists yet to make this seem like an intrusion into their world, we are more like a novelty, just like their way of life is to us.  On the ecological side of things it was very challenging to see the garbage floating and the outhouses for the homes nothing more than a privacy shelter built out over the river.  We spotted “general store” type of boats pulling up at homes and we were surprised to notice how many homes had satellite dishes on the roofs, with many of them also having solar panels on their roof.  I’ve included a few of the photos I took of the floating homes, just to show the variety.








These fish farms were everywhere on the river – they subsist mainly on fish for their protein.



These little girls stopped to ask my name, and laugh at my tentative steps as they ran back and forth! 😳

This rickety bridge is just as unsafe as it looks.


That took about two hours, and then we were off to the next adventure.  A tuk tuk driver took us to a local pottery village and it was simply fascinating.  The government now legislates people pulling clay out of the mountains, and so it is all regulated and paid for. One family home we stopped at is the largest producer of clay ovens for Cambodia.  They had just received an order for thousands of these ovens – in Cambodia each family has at least two of these on the go in the kitchen, one for rice and the other for whatever they are cooking that night.  The entire family was very hard at work, and yet still welcomed us with smiles and allowed us to wander around and didn’t mind me taking a few photos.  Our driver knew them all, and was able to explain to us what was going on.


Grama sits here in the dirt all day, pulling out the chunks of clay.


Next it all has to be cleaned – water poured in and then they clean all the impurities, bits of rock etc out of the clay.


Meanwhile these guys have a really efficient process on the go – they are creating molds, which will later hold the oven for firing and then be painted.


Under the plastic tarp is a huge mass of soft clay, this lady is filling the molds, and creating the oven shape, removing from excess from the centre.



The kids have to trim all the surfaces, and etch in designs.  No such thing as playing with the mud around here, they are all valuable members of the team (they do go to school in the morning).


look at all her wooden tools and implants around her


Black ash is rubbed inside and outside the pots before firing – these are all waiting to be fired for 24 hours in an open air type of fire – huge pit.



The next stop was a totally different pottery experience.  This woman learned the craft from her mother and is carrying on her work.  She exclusively makes pots for cooking on those ovens, in all sizes.  She allowed me to work with the clay, and even do the designs on one of the larger pots she was working on.  Again, she had so much work to do, but seemed genuinely happy to be explaining to us (through driver again) how things work and how to do what she does.


The third and final pottery stop was with someone using a potters wheel to create many different pottery items.  It was so much fun to have her show me how to do it, and my own pottery bowl didn’t even turn out too bad.  So wish I had been in the area long enough to have it fired and finished to bring it home …. but they carved my name into it so someone in the world that buys it will have an original “Kathy” design …



So patient, showing me exactly where to put my hands.


Done, pretty good if I do say so myself!  If we were around in a few days it would be fun to see the finished product and even take it home.


Cows, everywhere there are cows!!!  And red dirt roads.

I was going to put everything from our stay in Kampong Chhnang on one post, but that would just make it too long.    We spent 2 nights here, and saw so many amazing sights that it is just a lot to take in.  All this was just one day!  I will save day 2 and our trip to Kampong Leaeng for the next post.  After all even I can only listen to me for so long, and look at so many photos.

Usually Wilson is with us, and he often reviews for rambling run on sentences, sentence structure or even spelling mistakes, and I’m sorry if you are subject to all that.  Grant is here for accuracy, but missing Wilson & Vivi’s input on the writing!  Next time guys???


Phnom Penh

Our first time to Cambodia, and we are loving it.  Until we arrived I didn’t realize we’ve been mispronouncing Phnom ….. that is not a silent P!!


The marathon travel is over!  Arriving in Phnom Penh and climbing into our first tuk tuk of many for our Asian adventure.

What a chaotic city.  Anyone who has ever travelled with us knows that we walk and walk and walk …. 5 blocks anyone??  Mexico City has often seemed challenging for walking, you are so often looking up, down and all around for obstacles.  Well, Phnom Penh is insanity compared to that!  At first we thought maybe they don’t have sidewalks, but technically they do ….. it’s just that their purpose is for parking, small businesses or restaurants and even scooter or motorcycle driving (in any direction).  In fact even in the lanes of the road, the direction of traffic is ONLY a mere suggestion.  Pedestrians, walk at your own risk!  Every time we crossed a street we breathed a sigh of relief.


If this was a video you would see that guys head swivelling in all directions as he tried to cross, at a crosswalk!  There is no way I even got a photo of us crossing or walking anywhere, just too perilous, each walk was dangerous ….

They do however, have a beautiful walk way along the Tonle Sap river which is wide, well lit and very busy.


Wats and feral cats everywhere!  I’ve never seen so many stray cats of every description. They don’t bother you at all though, certainly no begging for food or attention.


These salted snails cooked with lemongrass and lime leaves with chili are a very common snack. No, we didn’t try them …. always a wee bit leery of seafood sitting in the sun (plus Reid tried them and said the texture was off putting).  Well maybe that isn’t the word he used but you get the idea.


These mangos though!!!  Outstanding and so very plentiful.  We ate them in salads, for breakfast and just for snacks.


Love the way two different factions of buddhism are side by side in Cambodia.  They have a strong influence from both Chinese and Indian.




Always monuments!  This was in the centre of another pedestrian walkway.  It is obviously the only place for safety in activity as entire families were out there walking, joggers were jogging, badminton games and roller skating – the place for it all.


In order to recover from our arduous journey we went for a traditional Khmer massage.  Was it relaxing???  Not on your life it wasn’t.  Grant had plans to nap, as he usually does in a massage.  Not a chance of that happening as we both moaned and groaned and yelped throughout the entire hour.  (ever had a aThai massage? ha ha ha) By the time it ended we were absolutely glowing however, and enjoyed our relaxing cup of tea with the hand stimulator going.  Even two days later our calves were still tender from the experience, but we’d do it again!


Loved staying at Corner 9 Bassac Hotel …. an oasis in the middle of a very hustling bustling city.  The rooms were quiet and comfortable and it was great to have the pool to relax with.  Their breakfasts were the best we’ve had.

The best breakfast were delicious ….. they bring the ingredients for your noodle bowl and you put it together as you like.  The pork with rice had a dipping sauce that was a bit sweet, spicy and salty … so good.  And, have you ever had rice fresh from harvest?  It is incredibly tasty.

PP 22

We did go to the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh.  This peaceful garden was once a secondary school before Pol Pot took over with the Khmer Rouge and their horrific methods of removing any citizens that were scholars, artists and effectively wiping out generations of Cambodians.  Cambodia is still struggling with recovery.  This is the only photo I took there, where it is now once again a peaceful garden with monks gathering alongside people coming to learn about the genocide that took place as well as pay respects.


FROG!  and not just frog legs.  Marinated and fried, then tossed in a ginger lemongrass sauce that was finger licking good.  


Betel leaves wrapped around marinated beef with peanut dusting as well as a lime pepper dipping sauce.  The pepper is so fresh (grown in Kampot, Cambodia) which means it is fragrant and very tasty without being overwhelmingly hot.  Just look at all that pepper in the dipping bowl, and yet it wasn’t too spicy.

We ate at Mok Mony 3 times over our few days in Phnom Penh, it was that good.  The owner Peter was very entertaining, and I loved his philosophy.  Go ahead and order whatever you want to try, if you don’t like it (for whatever reason) he simply takes it back.  At the end of the night they reheat all the leftovers, make rice and serve it to the homeless.  This was our first taste of Cambodian food and we were immediately hooked. We actually hadn’t heard much about the Cambodian food culture like we do for Thailand and Vietnam so this was a real bonus in our books.



The streets around the Royal Palace are for pedestrians only, and you will be sure to spot plenty of monks around.


This old colonial building is for sale or rent ….. just a wee bit of a fixer upper.


This old abandoned building has been taken over by squatters, and is full of families.

Phnom Penh has been great, a busy hustling and bustling city that was our introduction to Cambodia.  Now on to smaller areas as we make our way up to Siem Reap.