Friday, April 13, 2012

So what's (new for us) to eat? Cambodia

28th Feb - 7th Mar 2012

Anyone who knows us, or this blog, will know that we love our food. Especially finding new dishes or ingredients, we’ve never seen or tried before and eating them. During the 9 days we spent in Cambodia we were able to discover a few, as well as take part in a cooking class in Phnom Penh.
As in nearly every class we’ve attended in Asia, alas, spring rolls were on the menu, although this was the first time I’d seen shredded taro as the main ingredient. Our teacher informed us sweet white potato is a suitable substitute. Shredded, soaked in water and squeezed dry.

However, the Amok was the main reason we were there. A (traditionally) fish curry, steamed in a banana leaf cup, similar in taste and name to Thailand’s (hòr mòk bplaa /ห่อหมกปลา).
Amok 1
The first Amok Stray sampled at a restaurant (above) was a little watery in comparison and included pumpkin, but it did arrive in a bowl made from an oh so versatile banana leaf  all be it stapled together. Unlike our precisely pleated and toothpicked versions, that had to be ‘just right’. Now for our Amok, in brief.
The curry paste
Everything assembled and into a steamer for 20 minutes
Ready to eat - topped with reduced coconut cream, chilli and kaffir leaf

* A note from our teacher, Thai food is like Khmer food, not the other way around.

"A thousand years ago the Khmer Kingdom, which centred on Angkor, ruled an empire that included most of South East Asia. The first Thai kingdom was established only in the 13th century. Hence, many of the Thai and other regional dishes have their roots in Khmer cooking from that time!' - Cambodia Cooking Class Recipe Book

Before we hit the kitchen, we took a trip to the local market. I’ve visited a lot of Asian markets, but had never seen (noticed) these before.

One more for the ‘E is for oology’ collection.  They’re just your run of the mill raw salted eggs, which have had their innards pulled out, and put on display. Just to say ‘Hey, look at me, I’m ready to eat’. I was impressed by the inside out thing, it must take a bit of practice and skill.
Ant eggs I’ve eaten. This bowl contained both partial eggs and whole ants.
Crabs - They’re just cute and colourful, and I've never sampled these type before. Very fiddly I imagine.
Milk Apples, or milk fruit or star apples. Should have bought one, but didn’t.
Waterlily stems, very pretty.
A type of Water grass we were told, but it’s Mimosa Pudica. When alive the leaves close shut if touched or annoyed by wind, thus its common names: ‘shy, bashful, sensitive, shrinking or touch-me-not ’ plant. ‘Sampeas’ or ‘paklab’ in Cambodia and are reported to be medicinal.
Taro cakes, similar to a potato scallop (they’re black sesame seeds, in case you were worrying) and a Khmer pancake, thin, crispy and eggy, stuffed with mainly bean sprouts and minced meat in a sauce. Really lovely.
Late one night walking back to our hotel we stopped off for a snack and I ordered this from a photo in the menu. I can’t locate the Khmer name, but was told by our cooking teacher it was a type of Chinese Zongzi, or nom asom in these parts according to Wiki…haven’t been able to verify that yet.
Anyhoo, this one’s made of slightly flavoured? rice with semi dried fish and red beans in the centre. That's all I could identify. I’d eat it again, but would have to be in the right mood to do so, like any other seafood dish. I think it needed sauce and a big glass of beer to wash it down.
Not food, but food related. This old dear took 2 minutes to set up shop for the day. One old fashioned manual ice shaving machine, a polystyrene box of (I’m guessing) ice, not sure where the flavouring is hiding, a chair and she’s open for business!
After visiting the museum we stopped at a nearby cafe for a coffee. Inside were numerous fold up chairs lined up, facing two large flat screen TV's, playing different movies. One with subtitles and one with the volume turned on. Mini cinema. Sorry about the out of focusness, didn't want the flash going off!

Bon appetit!

Previous Cambodia related posts
Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai


Lani Cox said... Best Blogger Tips

Looks like you all are having an amazing time! And Stray with a beard! 555

Hopefully I'll make it to Cambodia one day, until then I'll enjoy your POV :P

Miss you, xxoo

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

@Lani Cox We did have a wonderful time. Writing all now since we've returned...I can make it last longer that way ;)

You should go, you're so close.

We miss you too!

Martyn said... Best Blogger Tips

Snap - I'm catching up with your latest posts as I've been working a bit extra lately and I've not had too much time to myself.

The food looks quite tasty, especially the watery amok with pumpkin. I could definitely tackle that one myself. It's amazing how Asians make use of such simple things like banana leafs.

Those salted eggs look wonderful. A bit like lily white ginger headed men. Cambodians obviously put a lot of thought, decoration and colour into their food and the result looks all rather impressive.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

@Martyn sorry to hear your've been working's always nice to have you visit Cooee.

We enjoyed Khmer food very much, which is not surprising. South East Asian cuisine is never boring. Our cooking teacher was very adamant about the construction of our banana leaf bowls, checking them, pulling them apart and making us get it right...or doing it for us.

Catherine said... Best Blogger Tips

How did I miss your post on FOOD??? Gawd. Now I'm hungry. Those photos (especially the curry in banana leaves) are bringing it all back.

Snap said... Best Blogger Tips

@Catherine, I'm not sure...FOOD is, after all, a universal language, lol. I keep buying fish to give the Amok a go...but end up doing something else with it. We have a good supply of banana leaves out the back door, so that's no excuse.

Speaking of food...I'm stuffing my face with good old fashioned home popped pop corn at the moment, with lashings of butter and salt. It's been years since I made it, yum! AND, I did something extra special with it, I added cracked pepper...adventurous hey!?