Angkor and Amok – A Cambodian Cooking Adventure
Siem Reap, home to UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Wat, is a vibrant city filled with temples, Tuk Tuks, and food opportunities galore!
One of the best ways to understand a country’s culture is through their food….their specialties and the everyday fare. As a couple of foodie’s, we like to know what ingredients are used, what spice combinations bring out the best flavours, and how dishes are prepared. What better way to experience all this than a local cooking class. We have made it a point to sign up for a cooking class in each of the countries we visit. Rick is a great chef and we have been cooking ethic dishes for sometime now at home but have never cooked any Cambodian food before.
With a name like “Cooks in Tuk Tuks”, how could we resist signing up to learn all we could about Khmer food. We’ve been taste-tasting at local street vendors and restaurants for a few days and we’re looking forward to learning some secrets.
Arriving at The River Garden Restaurant, we and three other people hopped into the Tuk Tuks with the Chef for a tour of the neighbourhood morning market to learn about local ingredients.
Now, Rick and I had been to many local markets over the course of our two months of touring Southeast Asia so far, and I have to say…..it is an assault on the senses, good and bad, every time! It was great to have the Chef along to show us different things like a coconut dessert, which they often have at the beginning of a meal.
There were also little individual bags of spices, herbs, and sauce made up for the locals who didn’t have enough money to purchase large quantities or were only making one bowl. Most Cambodians, as with other countries in Southeast Asia, do not have refrigerators and do their market shopping every day.
Once back at the restaurant, we donned our aprons and chef hats and were promptly put to work chopping and preparing the ingredients for five dishes. The best cooking classes are the hands-on ones and this one proved to be just that.
As we chopped, sliced, and used lots of elbow grease to make our own spice paste in the mortar, our instructor told us about each dish and Khmer cooking.
The air filled with the smells of fresh lemongrass, kefir lime, chillies, coconut cream, turmeric, galangal, garlic, and shallots as each of us focused on our knife skills.
A favourite dish of Cambodia is called Amok. You can find this dish on any restaurant menu or being cooked by grandmas in the family home. It is prepared two different ways….one with whipped eggs so it is like a soufflé, or cooked loosely like a curry. It’s a blend of lemongrass, kefir lime leaf, turmeric, galangal….all pounded to a paste, add coconut cream, water, fish or chicken and let the flavours blend together like the canvas of an artist. The soufflé version is cooked in a banana leaf bowl and is a feast for the eyes and the nose.
Over the course of three hours we worked as a team to prepare a mouthwatering lunch…..for just $25 per person.
With our cookbook carefully packed into our luggage, we are looking forward to introducing our family and friends to the wonderful tastes of Cambodia.
Banana Flower Salad Fish Amok (loose style)
Sweet Potato, Sago, Coconut Cream Dessert
Fresh Lemon Juice (lemonade)