I always found that eating the local cuisine added more to the whole travel experience. Yes, the food may be unfamiliar, but tasting the delicacies and local fare gives me a chance to experience life in the local scene, as well as a glimpse to the traditions and rituals of everyday living. Local food is prepared with consistency, often reflecting a tradition passed on through generations, with the meal as its product. A medley of various flavors assault your senses and truly makes the whole experience more memorable.
So while there were many reasons why i wanted to visit Siem Reap, food was certainly high on that list. It was an added bonus that along with our trek to one of UNESCO’s heritage sites, we would be having a cooking class to learn more about the local cuisine. Signed up for an afternoon with a local Khmer chef, we headed off to Siem Reap’s old Market.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect (after all, this was our first “cooking class” during a trip) but from the moment we shook hands with our instructor, we both had a feeling it would be an interesting afternoon. 🙂 After a few minutes in the market getting to know our ingredients, we took a short walk to a small studio-like house with a garden patio. Our would-be kitchen for the class was a renovated house set up prettily, with a table laid out for a romantic dinner for two. Yup, we will be cooking our own dinner tonight!
Our teacher, Chef Rado, taught us how to make 3 items, an appetizer (Fresh spring rolls), a main dish (Khmer specialty “Fish Amok“, a fish curry loaded up with local vegetables) and a dessert (caramelized bananas with passion fruit).
I was a bit skeptical of how i was going to accomplish this and have something edible as a result (yes, we were going to eat this as dinner once we were done) so i pretty much sweated it out throughout the process. What probably kept me going was the idea that I was going to eat all this when I’m done 😀
Thankfully, the recipes turned out to be pretty easy, and yes, no cuts for me! Yay! The experience was a fun one indeed, and probably my most memorable (of this trip). Going through each step and getting to know the history behind the dish made me appreciate what we were eating a lot more. Of course, there is no greater satisfaction than to create a completely unfamiliar dish on your own and tasting it, knowing that you did it right! 🙂
After this, i think I’ve come to know and enjoy Khmer food a bit more. Its food, like its culture, is a fascinating blend of fresh local ingredients and a fusion of various traditions. This trip, has truly been a flavorful one!