Siem Reap in Cambodia was the next stop on our Asia trip. It was a quick and easy 1 hour direct flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap.
One of my favorite activities to do in a new city is to take a local cooking class. We took a great one while visiting Paris last year. Prior to traveling, I researched several different cooking classes, and I found my clear favorite to be by Beyond Unique Escapes.
I had the option of booking a 'morning class' or an 'afternoon class', both options are only $24 each! I booked the 'afternoon class' thinking we would tour Angkor Wat that morning for a sunrise tour, but we ended up pushing out the sunrise tour to the next day due to the rain.
The tour picked us up at our hotel in a local tuk tuk (the local form of transport). After driving for about 10 minutes through the town of Siem Reap, we turned down a small dirt road and then spent the next 15 minutes on a bumpy ride through a small village. This in itself was an experience. With the temperature averaging around 88 degrees and humid, everyone we passed was staying in the shade. We also noticed small stands with what looked to be a yellow liquid in water bottles... which we found out was home made alcohol. yikes, i do not want to know how strong that is!
When we arrived we pulled onto a hidden dirt road covered by palm trees and we found ourselves at a beautiful small boutique hotel. After all of the fellow cooking classmates arrived (another 5 people) we were told by our cooking teacher that at the beginning of every cooking class we all walk to a neighboring house to visit a local family. We learn about food preparations in a typical Khmer home as well as typical ingredients they use. (In the pictures below you can see their lemon grass and a papaya tree growing) We also give them a gift of rice as a thank you. It was such an eye opening experience to see how little they have to live with yet they were some of the happiest people I have ever met.
Then we were ready to start our cooking class! We walked through their little gardens of fresh herbs (lemongrass is one of my FAVORITE ingredients after traveling to south east asia) and came upon a beautiful little open air hut where we'd be taking the cooking class.
As we took the 'afternoon class', we knew we'd be preparing Prahet Chien (minced fish on sugar cane), Cambodian Chicken Curry and Nom Tong Noun (Khmer brandy snaps) for dessert. We had our own personal little cooking stations all set up, with a cute little apron for us to wear. Our cooking teacher was lovely and spoke english very clearly.
First up was a lot of chopping as we learned to make curry from scratch. After all the ingredients were chopped, we had to grind it with a mortar and pestal until it turned into a paste. This was surprisingly difficult! Our arms were burning... and when I thought I was finished, she came over to me and said "close, but keep going"... geez!
After the curry paste was finished, we started cooking all of the additional ingredients.
After the chicken curry was finished, it was set aside so we could start the Prahet Chien (minced fish on sugar cane). We were supplied the fish already minced but we added in some cambodian spices and then wrapped them around a sugar cane to then be fried.
Last on our list was the dessert... my favorite course of any meal! We learned how to make Nom Tong Noun - Khmer brandy snaps. Now I will admit... i'm not one to brag but I usually find that anything 'baking / dessert' related, I will excel in the class. But this one took some practice! After getting the very thin 'batter' prepared, we had to pour some of it onto an interesting little metal contraption that was over heat. We then closed it to let it cook JUST the right amount. Letting it cook too little meant it wouldn't hold its form, but letting it cook too long would mean it would break. When it was justtttt right, you would take a fork, fold it, and then wrap it around to create this beautiful little cone shape.
Incase I didn't explain it well enough, here is a video of me attempting to make one. Keep in mind, this was not my best attempt! I think I was nervous because the camera was on me :)
After we prepared all three dishes, they had us sit under another beautiful little hut while they put the finishing touches on our meals. I absolutely loved the presentation! The used banana leaves to make a bowl for our chicken curry. Beautiful, right?
Overall, it was one of our favorite memories from our trip. We were able to experience part of Cambodian culture, meet a local family and also meet some lovely people doing the cooking class with us. (which we got some great recommendations for restaurants that night!)
Stay tuned for some of the recipes to be up on the blog!