There isn’t enough Khmer food in restaurants around the world and I can’t understand why not. Before my visit to Cambodia, I’d never even tried any myself. Of all the cities I’ve loved across South East Asia, Siem Reap is my favourite, in part because of Khmer food. (Other pluses - a great vibe, gentle people, brilliant handicrafts, the temples of Angkor, design shops, dollar beers!)
That food though!
I was a fan from the first mouthful and my friend Hayley and I promptly signed up for a cooking class at Pub St restaurant and cooking school Le Tigre de Papier. The cooking class began with a tour of the food market, a bustling, impressive place and the perfect introduction to some of the ingredients used in Cambodian cuisine. We later moved to the class kitchen where we each learned how to create two dishes in a very hands-on lesson. As we worked, the friendly tutors also demonstrated how to make a simple sticky rice with fresh mango.
Banana flowers are my favourite exotic ingredient (though they are quite easily and abundantly available in India and the rest of Asia) and for my appetizer I made a lovely banana blossom salad that was was light, fresh and full of flavour. A great Khmer dish starts with a good kroeung or spice paste and I ground mine from scratch in a mortar and pestle which was then turned into amok trei or fish amok, Cambodia’s national dish of steamed fish in a thick, luscious and fragrant curry. I even made my own banana leaf bowl to serve it in.
The market visit and cooking class is three hours long and currently costs $14. It's a fabulous way to spend an afternoon and concludes with gathering around around a communal table with the other class participants to eat what you’ve cooked and marvel at how good it tastes.
For more details, check out Le Tigre de Papier.