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Nov 30 Khmer Cooking Class

Nov 30, Saturday afternoon

sunny 32 °C

Danielle had looked on line for things to do in Siem Reap. A Khmer cooking lesson appealed to her, so we booked it for Saturday afternoon. We headed to Pub Street, where we found an appealing little restaurant called "Le Tigre de Papier".
A nice little spot under the yellow umbrellas

We arrived and were seated with a small group of would be chefs. We relaxed with a drink and perused the menu to choose a starter and an entree that we would prepare. Once we had chosen, we met Chenny, our master chef, who said that we would go to the market to see where cooking a Cambodian dish always starts. We wandered through, smelling fresh ginger root, leeks, unusual mushrooms, fragrant spices and mountains of wonderfully fresh vegetables. Some of us purchases spices to take home. Those who didn't vowed to return to the market later.
Chenny shows us around the market. Here she presents a banana flower.

My crew looks at trinkets before venturing deep into the market.

The market is cavernous, and a sense of direction is needed to navigate to the fruit and vegetable spots.

We wander past mounds of just picked produce

Ready made sauces.....

Squash, tomatoes, sweet peppers, aubergine .......

All these I can identify. But there are plenty more in the market that are new to me.

Mangoes, bananas, ginger root and lychees.

Ladies selling their wares were good at multi-tasking.

Once we returned to the restaurant, we were ushered upstairs where Chenny had us wash our hands in lemon water and don hats and aprons. We then sat at a long table and were presented with our plate of ingredients to make our individual dish.
Chenny promised to be a good orchestrator of the Kitchen Dance.

The happy chefs, with Chenny at the head of the table.

Chenny got us started: "First, banana flower salad people, ...this is ginger - peel like this - chop fine like this - this is banana flower- peel off like so - chop chop very thin slices......" Then we were under way in out tasks, she sought another would be chef: "Please! Fresh spring rolls. Who make them? ..." Soon we were lined up and chopping and laughing. Some ingredients were familiar and others were not found in your average Canadian supermarket. For the next two hours, we sat at the table chopping or relaxed and looked at the goings on at Pub Street, below, or we ground spices with a mortar and pestle. In a beautifully orchestrated way, we were brought to the gas stoves at the sides of the room, where we sautéed or steamed, adding plenty of coconut milk or fish sauce. A dizzying number of fresh bits and pieces were added, and it seemed to be a beautifully choreographed dance of chefs with Chenny gently leading us on.

Chopping, slicing, peeling and tasting was about to begin at a dizzying pace.

Banana flower must be sliced very thinly, then soaked in lemon juice. Warning: it is soooo bitter if tried before the lemon juice soaking!

Julienne the carrots. Thinly slice the hot peppers.

Chop the leeks. Squash, then chop the garlic. Plenty of garlic!

At the gas stove, veggies were added along with plenty of coconut milk, and stirred.

At last, the dressing for the salads. Erlin (from Iceland) is given the task of grinding the spices with a mortar and pestle.

At last, we had completed our preparations and had cooked two Khmer dishes each. We removed our hats and aprons and descended the stairs, where we were once again seated at the comfortable table inside the restaurant. We settled in with our new friends and cooking companions to enjoy a feast - too much for me to eat. And the price of this wonderful three hour experience including the lovely meal: $14.

Presentation is an important element of a fine chef's craft. We use palm leaves and flowers to make the presentation complete.

Downstairs, we are seated and our lovely dishes are presented to us.

Certificates of our culinary training were presented and we each wrote our email address, so that all recipes could be forwarded to us. You should check it out: Le Tigre de Papier
If you are in Cambodia, you surely should try it. If not, you may be interested in some of the recipes that are offered.

We parted company, and Danielle and I decided to stroll along the downtown area for an hour. With full bellies, and darkness setting in, we headed towards the night market for a last look at trinkets, then back to the hotel to relax, do some reading and to have an early night.

Not far from Pub Street, the night market attracts plenty of tourists.

Posted by Sue McNicholas 23:45 Archived in Cambodia

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