I’m writing this as we are on a bus to Phnom Penh, hopefully I won’t feel woozy half way through. We have been in Siem Reap for four days-previously we were in Bangkok for a few days (that was our first destination on our big trip). I will do a blog about Thailand in a few weeks as we are going back. But in the meantime here is a picture of me, very smug drinking my first bubble tea-it’s tea with sweet milk and black pearls, big tapioca balls, that you suck up through the wide draw as you drink. You can get this in some places in London, try one if you can, it’s awesome!!
(Errm actually this photo is coming soon, I cant find it at the moment! )
We chose to travel to Cambodia the cheap way, by minibus, it took about 9 hours and apart from the very surreal movie set of Poipet, the journey was fine. Poipet was just yellow dust everywhere and skinny men carrying huge, I mean HUGE wheel barrows filled to twice their height with bags of 10kg rice. There was lots of ‘officials’, but lots were scammers just dressed up to convince foreigners to give up more money. But we crossed from Thailand, to a weird point that no one owns, to Cambodia (this was all by foot) and then got another minibus to Siem Reap. This border crossing, including visas and mini buses, for two people cost about £45 – so complaining isn’t an option really!
So we arrive in Siem Reap and it’s incredibly hot and humid-we had planned on staying in a cheap cheap room, but after trying to sleep in the smallest room and bed ever with only a fan busting out 40 degree heat, we swapped to one with air con. We both agreed afterwards that in this heat, no air con isn’t possible at all.
The next two days were spent in another hostel, SamSo guesthouse-a family run place and walking through temples at Ankor Wat. We got there by tuk tuk and ate pineapple and pointed at gibbons running about like squirrels do in the UK. Ankor Wat was incredible but this post is about yesterday’s cooking class and I’ve already written more on other stuff already, but I wanted to give you some perspective on our schedule as this is my first travel blog entry.
We had heard that the Tigre De Papier class was well worth the $13 pp so we booked in for the 10am-1pm class. There was six students, the other 4 were French couples, really friendly. Our teacher’s name was pronounced ‘Savlon’ and we each chose a starter and main course from the big menu and as a group we chose 1 dessert. I couldn’t believe we could all learn something different and weren’t all made to make the same thing, it was incredible value for money and her time. She was fantastic.
Fresh Spring Rolls (shrimp), these are the un-fried spring rolls.
Amok Fish Curry and rice, Amok is a local plant and its the leaf that you eat, it is large and you shred finely and eat it as a vegetable.
Pork Nem (fried spring rolls)
Kmer (pronounced Kam-ear) chicken with Bok Choy
Can I just say before I start, Rich’s food was awesome, the chicken was like a curry jerk and the Bok Choy was cooked in an incredible seasoned dressing. Also, the Nem was bang on.
So we started off by going to the market, which was about 5 metres away.This was an experience! The smells were a journey in itself. It was great having Savlon there to tell us what some of the things were, as before we had just wandered around in awe and now we know what liquid palm sugar looks like (see below) They use it in basically every dish.
Savlon warned us that when we get to the meat and fish part the fish are still alive, we were like, “yeah that’s fine” and when we saw it, it was an eye opener. the women just chop fins off and then the head when they are still alive and monk fish are just swimming, or roaming about big metal plates that you walk past. Chickens are dead (luckily) and skinned but they all have the heads and feet still on, not like at home when it’s very un-animal looking and we see it as just ‘meat’.
The class was set in the back of the restaurant in a really clean and nice atmosphere, they run 3 classes a day so I guess it’s crucial to be set up as a proper school.
We were each given our ingredients and were instructed on how to slice and shred each vegetable for our particular dishes. The shredder was possibly what I was most impressed with the whole class, it was great! I wanted to buy one but then we would have to carry it around with us the whole trip and our tiny bags are bursting already, and it’s only been a week.
This is a banana flower, I didn’t even know they existed! They grow in pod shapes and you strip them to reveal rows of tiny bananas inside, which I guess, grow into the big ones. They only eat the young ones as the outer part is bitter. Maybe that’s when the skin starts to grow? I must google that to find out.
This is all the spices for my Amok Curry Paste. The long finger on the right is called Finger Root, Savlon kept saying “like a baby’s finger” but I thought that was a bit grim, so finger root is fine for me. Then in the far middle is fresh Tamarind, which you can get at home but its usually powder or dried. Our fingers were bright orange after chopping that.
This was the giant pestle and mortar, my paste happened so fast in this, it was amazing! Basically a heavy bongo drum! Bang bang bang!
After preparing all the ingredients we learnt how to wrap our spring rolls, the fresh ones don’t get fried and the typeof wrapper you use gets dipped in water to make it bendy, then you line your veg up fast in your roll before it becomes to gooey and sticks to the board. It was really fun and I could have sat there doing it for ages, it was satisfying. You don’t stick the ends with anything as it seals itself.
Rich’s Nem was a different type of wrapper, Savlon said something about “Rice Flour”
So I will have to see more about this when I’m home. He had to seal the edge with an egg yolk and it didn’t need to be dipped in water before as it was already soft and bendy to roll with.
All the veg, even the cucumber was blanched for 10 seconds before being put in the rolls. You dont blanch the herbs though, mine had coriander and sweet basil (we call it thai basil in the Uk, it has purple stems) Also my prawns or pork like in this picture, was cooked in a pan with some sock powder, fish sauce, palm sugar and oyster sauce beforehand. When you roll it, you do veg first, then roll a full roll, then line up the meat/fish and complete the roll, this is all for ascetics and I would never have thought that’s how you do it. But also then you can tell which is meat,fish, veg etc. Good tip for party platters!
I really want to get back and make some more of these, I think they’d work well with minced meat too, and the fresh ones don’t need to be with Asian flavours really, it’s just another vessel for the meat and veg. Although, I doubt it could taste better than this as it was so tasty.
The dessert we chose was banana with tapioca. We also added jack fruit but to be honest I wasn’t that keen in it. It was a sweet soup with cooked banana chunks, not really my sort of thing. Although, in Bangkok, we had sticky rice (sweet) with coconut milk and mango-now that was good! Although, again the flavours are incredibly sweet here.
So that’s it, we ate all our dishes in the restaurant, there was so much food!
This is a six hour bus journey and we have (in theory) three and a half hours left, you can’t be sure as cows keep crossing the road (they are very skinny and bright white) but I’m sure we will get there at some point today!
This is such a long post but if you have got to the end of my ramblings, then well done!