Akor. Gluten & Dairy Free Rice Desserts from Cambodia

Akor. Gluten & Dairy Free Rice Desserts from Cambodia

Little did I know about Cambodia (and Cambodian food) before I got there to visit Angkor Wat. But during my very first breakfast at the Park Hyatt in Siem Reap, when I was welcomed with a feast of local gluten & dairy free rice desserts (Akor was my absolute favorite), I discovered that traditional Khmer food is naturally free from two of the most common allergens: gluten and dairy products!

Gluten & dairy free rice desserts

The Park Hyatt’s Executive Chef, Pisith Theam, says “it’s really easy for Cambodian food to be gluten and dairy free as here we don’t grow any wheat and mostly, when we talk about “flour”, we refer to “rice flour”!

Most of our typical baked goods are naturally free from gluten, like our Ginger Cookies, the Akor, the Num Poum (typical rice and coconut waffles that are sold in every local school), or our Root Puddings, made with taro, cassava, pumpkin or banana”.

Gluten & dairy free rice desserts

Not only is my whole stay at the Park Hyatt wonderful because of the spotless amenities and the impeccable service, but I can also relax and enjoy the local food, a feeling that, for those with food allergies, is not always easy to achieve!

Gluten & dairy free rice desserts
Gluten & dairy free rice desserts

As one might expect in a tropical country scattered with palm trees, coconut milk here is a staple.

Our cows are too skinny to produce milk. – Chef Pisith continues – They are mainly used to work in the rice fields and the only dairies you can find in Cambodia are imported form other countries. You’ll never find butter, milk or cheese in a traditional Khmer recipe, as those ingredients are simply not our staples”.

Gluten & dairy free rice desserts

I am fascinated by learning about how the different climate and local traditions can affect the entire culinary fashion of a country. “All of the families in our villages make their own coconut milk, just by grating and straining coconut pulp. And many of them make their own palm fruit sugar too”.

Park Hyatt, Sim Reap, Cambodia
Green Mango Salad from the Park Hyatt Siem Reap

Palm fruit sugar is one of the most commonly used sweeteners in Cambodia, and apparently, like Chef Pisith tells me, it’s much better than regular sugar too.

To learn a little more about this interesting ingredient, I venture in one of the villages around Siem Reap with the Chef, who’s happy to be my guide as we visit a family who produces and sells palm fruit sugar.

Gluten & dairy free rice desserts

They live in the middle of the rice fields, in a stilt house made of dried palm leaves with no bathroom nor electricity, and yet, they are happy with what they have. 95% of the population here in Cambodia is Buddhist, and this affects the society in such a way that’s easily perceivable.

A sense of calmness and spirituality emanates in the air and puts an aura of peace over a living situation that’s way less then ideal, according to our western standards, but that we definitely have a lot to learn from.

Chef Pisith Theam Park Hyatt Siem Reap copy

As we get there, Chef Pisith hands me a little yellow disc of crystalized palm sugar: “This is what we put in all of our gluten and dairy free desserts to give them that great caramelized taste. And to add a bit of sourness, we use palm fruit juice, a thick liquid that resembles the taste and texture of blended apricots”.

While we chat, one of the men in the family climbs up a tall palm tree, with a few big bottles tied up to his belt. He’s going to replace the bottles he placed there the night before to collect the sap from the palm tree.

Gluten & dairy free rice desserts
Gluten & dairy free rice desserts

He will pass it over to the women in the family, whose role is to boil it, pour it into molds made out of palm leaves, and let it solidify into granules.

Chef Pisith explains to me that palm sugar has a glycemic index of 35, as opposed to white sugar whose value is 64. “A lot of the customers of the Park Hyatt, who have problems with diabetes, say that they are totally fine with it and they enjoy Khmer cuisine because they can finally have dessert”.

Gluten & dairy free rice desserts
Gluten & dairy free rice desserts

I buy a few packs of freshly crystalized palm sugar and head back to the hotel, where I get to try some of the amazing gluten & dairy free rice desserts that can be made with this delicious ingredient.

Akor is by far my favorite type: little white puffy rice flour balls (or actually they look like tiny muffins), covered with threads of freshly shredded coconut pulp and served with a delicious array of coconut dipping sauces.

Akor. Gluten & Dairy Free Rice Desserts from Chef Pisith Theam

Gluten & dairy free rice desserts

Preparation
time:

00:40

Cooking
time:

00:30

No. of
servings:

30

For the Akors:

  • 250 gr Fine Rice Flour
  • 5 gr Yeast Powder
  • 400 gr Coconut Milk
  • 150 gr Palm Sugar (replaceable with Coconut Sugar)
  • 150 gr Palm Fruit Juice (replaceable with blended Apricot)
  • 5 gr Salt

For the Pandan Dipping Sauce:

  • 300 gr fresh Pandan Leave (or 5 gr Matcha Green Tea Powder)
  • 300 ml Coconut Milk
  • 50 gr Palm Sugar (or Coconut Sugar)
  • 1 pinch of Salt

For the Caramel Dipping Sauce:

  • 300 ml Coconut Milk
  • 50 gr Palm Sugar (or Coconut Sugar)
  • 3 tbsp Water
  • 1 pinch of Salt

For the Sesame Dipping Sauce:

  • 300 ml Coconut Milk
  • 5 gr Palm Sugar (or Coconut Sugar)
  • 1 pinch of Salt
  • 1 tsp Toasted Sesame Seeds

For the Akor:

  1. In a bowl, put together fine rice flour, yeast and coconut milk and palm fruit juice or (blended apricot) and mix well.
  2. Let this mixture rest for 35 minutes.
  3. When the mixture rises, add salt and sugar.
  4. Pour the dough mixture into individual mini muffin molds (or espresso cups) and steam for 30 minutes in a regular steamer.

For the Pandan Dipping Sauce:

  1. Blend coconut milk and pandan leaves until completely smooth. Strain it, add sugar and salt, bring to a boil and let cool.
  2. If you use matcha green tea, you don’t need to strain.

For the Caramel Dipping Sauce:

  1. Caramelize sugar and water until brown, add coconut milk and a pinch of salt. Let cool.

For the Sesame Dipping Sauce:

  1. Boil coconut milk, sugar and a pinch of salt. Let cool and top with toasted sesame seeds.

I can’t wait for you to try this recipe as I am sure you’ll become as addicted as I was during my amazing time in Cambodia, when I legitimately finished every single one of my meal with these amazing gluten and dairy free rice desserts.

Make sure to save the pinnable infographic at the bottom of this page, and if you liked this post, please share it with your friends!!

Big love,      Ambra

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Akor. Gluten & Dairy Free Rice Desserts from Cambodia

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6 Comments

  • Sylph June 18, 2017 7:04 am

    I just love the fact that they are steamed. That must make them pudding like. Are they served warm or cold? I am definitely going to try this for my family. Thanks Ambra.

    • ambra June 18, 2017 12:34 pm

      Thanks dear! Akors are quite spongy and not pudding like (the other sweets in the photos as those are actual root puddings). And yes, they are served lukewarm and paired with lukewarm dipping sauces as well. You’ll love them!!

  • Aimee June 18, 2017 10:06 am

    Beautiful article Ambra. Although I can’t eat it, it’s a joy to read and inspiring for future dishes.

    • ambra June 18, 2017 12:36 pm

      Thanks so much Aimee! So glad to hear you enjoyed the read! Hang in there, I am sure you will soon be able to tolerate all of these foods! 🙂

  • irene June 18, 2017 10:35 am

    They look like dolls sweets! I will make them to pretend I am Barbie😄

    • ambra June 18, 2017 12:35 pm

      Lol! That’s true Irene! Served with a “doll house” tea set as well! 😉

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