Recipe: Song Saa’s Superb Beef Lok Lak


Although I tend to be an equal-opportunity eater, I will admit to being partial to the food of Southeast Asia, and have taken cooking classes in both Vietnam and Thailand. So when I learned that Song Saa offered a class in Cambodian cuisine, I signed up right away. While there is no dearth of restaurants specializing in the food of Thailand and Vietnam, or cookbooks that bring them to the home kitchen, there is very little on the culinary traditions of Cambodia (and indeed, the restaurant scene there is just starting to come to life).

A Khmer classic, pepper prawns with garlic and green Kampot peppercorns at Song Saa - Photo by Hideaway Report editorThe Song Saa class is held in a small shed that is part of the fenced chef’s garden that provides herbs and produce for the kitchen. Le Cordon Bleu it was not, but that mattered little once we started. Chef Sophat Hing proved an informative, amiable instructor, open to questions and insistent that everyone participate in the preparation of the food.

During the well-organized hour or so we spent together, we went through three key Khmer dishes: a refreshing green mango salad with a zingy dressing; a delicious beef dish, lok lak, with accompanying vegetable sides in a black peppercorn dressing; and a Khmer classic, Kampot pepper prawns (Kampot pepper being a noted Cambodian product, the cultivation of which was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge and is just now recovering).

We sampled each dish as we went through the class, and while all were terrific, we all thought the beef lok lak was one of the tastiest things we have ever eaten. I was delighted that the chef provided us with full, clear recipes to take home.

Not long after we returned from our trip, I made the beef lok lak for a dinner party, and the results — and commentary by our guests — were gratifying, to say the least. It has earned a starred place in the Harper culinary repertoire.

Knowing from correspondence that there are cooking enthusiasts in the Harper family, I am delighted to share Song Saa’s recipe for beef lok lak by special arrangement with the resort. I have made some minor changes for clarity.

Song Saa's Khmer Beef Lok Lak

Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Serves 1

Beef Lok Lak

  • ½ pound thinly sliced beef (I used sirloin)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ½ tsp. palm sugar (available in Asian markets; if not, use brown sugar)
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1½ Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp. chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. sunflower oil


  1. Mix all ingredients except the beef in a bowl.
  2. Add the slices of beef and marinate for several minutes (I let it sit covered for an hour in the refrigerator).
  3. Heat a skillet or wok to medium high. Add the sunflower oil.
  4. Add the marinated beef and stir fry until medium rare. Depending on how many servings you are making, you might have to do this in batches. If there is too much marinade, spoon off and reserve, putting aside enough to make the dressing below.
  5. Put the cooked beef on a serving platter and spoon over the reserve marinade.

Garnish Accompaniment

  • 1 sliced tomato
  • 1/3 red onion cut into rings
  • 3 lettuce leaves

Dressing for Garnish

  • 1 tsp. finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. of the reserved marinade

Mix together in a bowl.

To serve: With the lettuce leaves around the edge, arrange the slices of tomato and onion on a plate. Serve the dressing on the side. For the beef, white rice makes an ideal accompaniment.

By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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