We didn't get the chance to take a cooking class in Thailand due to the craziness of the Songkran celebrations, so we signed up for the next best thing: a Khmer (Cambodian) cooking class in Siem Reap. It was the perfect break from temple-hopping during the middle of the steamy hot day. We weren't sure exactly what Cambodian cooking was, since it was our second full day in the country, but it turns out it is quite similar to Thai cooking, but a bit less spicy. Main ingredients include coconut, lemongrass, coriander, basil, ginger, turmeric, garlic, sugar, lime, fish sauce, and peanuts.
We each made an appetizer and a main dish, and then the whole group picked one dessert to cook together. Our day started off with a trip to the market, where I tried not to drip my sweat all over the produce stands (sidenote: Siem Reap has to be the hottest place I've ever been), and then we took to the kitchen and got to it.
Our appetizers included fresh spring rolls with pork (one of my favorite apps, and one which I plan to make at home) and banana flower salad. While we probably won't be able to find banana flowers in DC, we wanted to make a typical Khmer salad. Unripened papaya or mango can be used instead of the banana flowers, and unripened tropical fruit shouldn't be too hard to find in DC! The dressing for the spring rolls and the salad is the same: lime, sugar, cilantro, garlic, shallot, fish sauce, and sweet red chilis (peanuts can be added afterwards). I could drink this stuff by the quart!
Cambodia's most famous national dish is amok, a coconut-based curry served in a banana leaf cup that can have any kind of meat or seafood in it, but fish amok is the most popular version. We made ours with scallops.
The other main dish we made was a sour soup, much like Thailand's tom yum soup, with lemongrass and morning glory. I made mine with chicken. It was incredibly tasty, fresh, tart, and light (there's another version made with coconut milk, but that makes it a heavier affair).
For dessert, our teacher showed us how to make pumpkin custard: essentially eggs, coconut milk, cornstarch and sugar beaten together and steamed inside a small pumpkin-- super easy and delicious. After cooking for over two hours, we sat down with our fellow novice chefs and had a feast!
If you'd like to take a stab at any of these dishes, or other Khmer specialties, videos and recipes from our cooking school can be found here