Happy new year everyone! I can’t believe that we’re already two weeks into 2015. I’m still playing catch up with my blogging and it seems I’ll never be on track…EVER. At least I now have my first post of the year and I’m pleased to share a couple of recipes which I learnt while in Cambodia.
A must-do when you’re in Siem Reap is to visit Angkor Wat – one of the world’s largest religious monuments. The well-preserved temple represents the most glorious classical Khmer architecture in its day. In fact, the temple is such a significant part of the country’s history, it made it on the Cambodian national flag! We trudged to the temple (along with hundreds of other tourists) in the wee hours of the morning, right before daybreak so we could catch the postcard beauty of sunrise at Angkor Wat. Was it worth waking up for? I’d say yes.
We’re getting closer to those recipes I promise!
I organised for a group of 10 of us to attend a cooking class to learn about Khmer cooking and it was a fantastic experience. Le Tigre de Papier, situated in the popular Pub Street of Siem Reap, is a restaurant and cooking school. Upon arrival, we were seated in the restaurant and handed the restaurant’s menu and told to pick a starter and a main that we would like to cook. That in itself was a surprise as many cooking schools do not have that kind of flexibility.
Once we picked our dishes, our teacher ushered us through the back so she could give us a tour of the fresh food market around the corner. If you have never been to a Southeast Asian style ‘wet’ market, be prepared to either be amazed or totally grossed out. (Apologies for the photo quality…shot on the move, with an iPhone…)
Fish so fresh they flipped about and fell on the ground right before our feet, chickens with their legs sticking right up in the air and heads dangling off the makeshift counter where the vendors sit barefoot and cross-legged, cooked food stalls with its bubbling pots of curries and stews right next to the mountain of fresh vegetables and fruit. I don’t think they have health inspections there, but wow, what an experience.
Once a few of us in the group got over their gagging reflexes (haha), we headed back to the restaurant, donned our fiery red aprons and started prepping and cooking. After two well-spent hours in the kitchen, we sat down in the restaurant and enjoyed the fruits of our labour, along with a dessert which we also helped to prepare.
I haven’t had the chance to try these out at home but I sure will. The dishes are all easy to prepare and are totally scrumptious. If you’re planning to visit Siem Reap one day, be sure to add these two activities to your plans!
Here’s what I chose to cook.
Green mango salad – a very popular salad in the region. Tart green mango julienned and tossed with other vegetables and fresh herbs in a tangy and spicy dressing.
1 small green mango, peeled and grated/julienned
1 small carrot, peeled and grated/julienned
20g sweet basil, leaves only
1 tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
3 small stalks coriander, leaves picked
½ tsp sugar
3 tbsp dressing
For the dressing
1 shallot, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 stalk coriander root, chopped finely
½ sweet red chilli, chopped finely
Lemon juice, to taste
1 tsp chicken stock powder
Sugar, to taste
Fish sauce, to taste
Prepare the dressing by adding finely chopped shallot, garlic, coriander root, chilli, stock powder and sugar to a ladle of hot water. Stir until sugar and stock powder dissolves. Add more sugar and/or fish sauce to taste. Once cooled, add lemon juice to taste. (This recipe seems a little ambiguous, so I found a similar version here)
Combine all the salad ingredients, add dressing to taste.
Amok Chicken – normally cooked with fish, this is a traditional Khmer dish full of freshly ground spices cooked in a rich coconut base.
2 pcs, thinly sliced Ngor leaf (use a small handful of spinach as a substitute)
100g sliced white cap mushroom
¼ onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp Amok paste
200g finely sliced chicken or fish
3 tbsp sliced swiss chard leaves
4 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp fish sauce
½ tsp chicken stock powder
1 stalk lemongrass, white section only, thinly sliced
1 thumb size piece of turmeric
2 small pieces of finger root (substitute with 1 thumb size piece of regular ginger)
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
To prepare Amok paste: In a mortar/pestle or food processor blend lemongrass, turmeric, garlic, shallot and finger root until it forms a rough paste.
Heat 1/2 of the coconut milk in a pan and add amok paste, sugar, fish sauce and fry until brown. Add chicken and mushroom, onion, ngor leave, the rest of the coconut milk, chicken stock powder. Add more fish sauce to taste, if required. Dish is ready when sauce thickens/reduces slightly and chicken is cooked through.