“Stop the car!!!” This was the second time I asked our guide/driver Mr. Samithy to make a sudden halt. The other instance was when I ran out the vehicle to photograph an elephant crossing the street. We were on our way to Beng Mealea, an enchanting temple ruin about an hour and a half drive away from town to the rural area of Siem Reap.
Our guide must think I’m hyper or crazy, but I was intrigued to find out what was cooking inside the bamboo poles being sold along the roadside stalls. The bamboo delicacy turned out to be kralan. It is sticky rice cake made with beans, palm sugar, grated coconut and coconut milk. First steamed and then roasted over charcoal. Cost is three pieces for one dollar.
For lunch we asked Mr. Sam to take us to a restaurant where only the locals dine. He took us to Lyly’s along Sivutha road in town. Away from the tourist traps of Pub Street, the sumptuous Kuy Teav noodle soup (Cambodian version of Pho) was USD$ 1.50 only. We also ordered a very refreshing glass of iced coffee. Cambodia’s drip coffee with condensed milk is pronounced as gah-fay dteuk-gork. For dessert there was sweet sticky rice with bananas chunks wrapped in banana leaves called Ansom chek.
Cambodian food is also known as Khmer cuisine. The country is situated between Vietnam and Thailand, the two neighboring nations have very strong influence on its food. There is also the fusion of French cuisine as Cambodia was once a part of Indochina. National dishes like Amok and other coconut based dishes are not spicy. Like most Asian nations rice is staple.
The most common ingredients used : lemon grass, finger root, shallots, palm sugar, coconut milk, fresh green peppercorns, shrimp sauce, prahok (fermented shrimp paste), calamansi, ginger and turmeric.
We joined a cooking class at Tiger Paper restaurant for a better understanding of their food. Our teacher Savon first took us to the market to buy our ingredients; we prepared the dishes, and later had them for dinner. It was a lot of fun plus we made new friends!
Amok chicken – Chicken and mushrooms simmered in coconut milk with kroeung (make into a paste: lemon grass, turmeric, finger root, shallots, garlic )
Loklak – thinly sliced stir fried beef
Chruok svay – julienne green mango salad
For recipes and more on the Khemer cooking classes: http://angkor-cooking-class-cambodia.com/html/index.php
Cambodian guide: Mr. Chhom Samithy/ His email firstname.lastname@example.org , +855 12893181