A few weeks ago my husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Siem Reap in Cambodia. There is something for everyone here – the Angkor architecture amazes you, the backpacker vibe along with the luxurious hotels and spas surprises you, the poverty and scams break your heart and the food: well what can I say? The Cambodian food was something that surprised us, amazed us and shocked us all in a good way. To tell you the truth, we were a bit apprehensive about the food in Cambodia – you know you keep hearing of water issues and bugs and weird meats being consumed there? I may love food but I am surely not in the “Man vs Wild” category. I enjoy, relish and devour the foods I love. By that I mean the foods that have been written about on this blog 🙂
Now my husband and I may not be experts on foodie destinations around the world, but we were convinced after a few meals in Siem Reap that the Cambodian cuisine had surpassed all our expectations and made it’s way on top of our list among the varied South East Asian cuisines. I am sure that there will be lots of dishes that I will not like that are meat heavy or weird for my liking, but the abundant use of varied spices, fresh vegetables and fruits makes the cuisine so versatile and exploratory that you are no longer limited in your options.
Hence we enrolled for a cooking class in our short trip to Siem Reap. Besides having lots of fun it was a very interesting experience filled with learning and the yearning to explore more. It was not very hands on and that is something we should have researched more on before enrolling. Anyway I will share 3 of the dishes we cooked and are pretty simple if you have all these ingredients available. I believe palm sugar may be the difficult one to find, so see the recipe notes for substitutions. And I must add, I was thrilled to discover this new ingredient. For those unaware, Palm sugar has a rich caramel flavor and is more complex than cane sugar. It is made from the sap of the sugar palm tree by reducing to a syrup which is then dehydrated.
The best thing is that we did an all vegetarian cooking class , so all these recipes will be vegetarian for you 🙂 So much fun exploring them.
The first recipe is that of a very simple and basic green papaya salad. This is vegan and vegetarian. It is quick and easy, make it as a side salad or even for a fun snack
Vegetables for the salad:
230 grams julienned peeled unripe green papaya
60 grams long beans cut into 1.5 inch long segments
60 grams shredded red or purple cabbage
60 grams shredded white cabbage
10-12 fresh sweet basil leaves
1 Tbsn lime juice
1/4 tspn salt
1 tspn mushroom stock*
1 tspn palm sugar melted with 1 tspn water**
1 fresh chili cut into thin strips
60 grams chopped unsalted roasted peanuts (To serve)
1) Mix all vegetable ingredients in a bowl
2) Mis inthe dressing just before plating the salad
3) Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and serve
*Use an organic mushroom stock cube if you do not have fresh mushroom stock. Add in little boiling water to the stock cube and use the thick paste like concentrate to add to the dressing
**Palm sugar may be available in gourmet or Asian grocery stores outside Cambodia. If not try buying Jaggery which should definitely be found in Indian food stores. Else use dark brown sugar mixed with water , bring to a boil and form a thick syrup.
I will be sharing 2 more recipes from the cooking class in the next few days – one of fresh vegetable spring rolls and the second of a Cambodian curry that totally blew me away :). So be sure to drop by again to read some more on the mouth watering food of beautiful Cambodia.