I cooked everyday when we lived in a house and had everyday lives. I miss cooking and so do my 2 daughters. One of them even wants to be a Chef one day. Whenever we stay in an apartment with cooking facilities she will always ask me to buy ingredients so she can make something.
While walking in Battambang, Cambodia, one day I happened upon a sign outside a restaurant that advertised $10 USD cooking classes with a Khmer Chef. We had been enjoying some delicious Cambodian meals and also thought the girls would love to be in the kitchen again and learning some new cooking techniques. With such a great price, I booked it right away.
There is a limit of 5 people per class and when we showed up to do the cooking class we were happy that we were the only 3 signed on for the day. We got a private cooking class for only $30 USD and were to cook two Cambodian dishes, Fish Amok and Chicken with Lemongrass and Basil, and also received a tour of the morning market to buy our produce to cook with.
After meeting at the restaurant ‘Smoking Pot’ in Pub street (they have another restaurant off pub street where they host the cooking class) it was off to the local morning market to buy fresh produce to cook.
If you have never been to South East Asia before and you are a bit sensitive you may want to miss the morning markets. An array of fresh meats, vegetables and fruits are sold here. We saw some pretty gruesome stuff like little chickens heads being cut off and disemboweled but as we have visited other markets in South East Asia it was nothing we hadn’t already seen.
All food is so fresh and some of the fish and seafood were still alive. The fish we chose for the dish we were cooking was picked out of a tank and killed right in front of us. How fresh is that?
Dish 1: Fish Amok
At home my least favourite activity when cooking is preparing all the ingredients, and luckily for us some of the staff washed and prepped all the fresh ingredients for us so all we had to do was cut it and cook it. The girls had never used a cleaver to cut before so after a quick lesson they were ready to rock.
The first thing we prepared was the curry paste blend that we would use for both dishes. We ground up garlic, lemongrass, chilli, fresh turmeric and galangal and some other spices into a fine paste and used half for this recipe.
We then cut our fish and put it into the paste and tipped fresh coconut milk that we purchased from the market over the fish and let the curry paste marinate the fish for a few minutes.
We next make little boats out of banana leaf and spooned our fish and curry paste sauce into the boats. This Cambodian curry is specially steamed in these little banana leaf boats. They are steamed for around 1 hour to thicken up the coconut curry sauce around the fish.
While our Fish Amok is steaming we move onto our second dish.
Dish 2: Chicken with Lemongrass and Basil
We used the left over curry paste as the base for this dish and cut up some morning glory (water spinach) and chicken breast to go with it. We are cooking this dish over the wok so once we have prepped all our ingredients we are set to cook.
This was the girl’s first time cooking in a wok so the chef explained to them that everything has to be done very quickly. He then takes them step-by-step through the cooking process while they stir and add the next ingredients. They got a little bit stressed but both did a wonderful job and this dish only took around 2 minutes to cook.
Once we were finished cooking this dish we sat down to enjoy it with some steamed rice. The flavors were amazing and I am definitely going to recreate this dish when we go home. We were too full to try the Fish Amok after eating the Chicken dish so we opted to take it away, and Dad was happy we had cooked him lunch.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day cooking and learning more about Khmer cuisine and culture. The girls became more confident in their cooking abilities and are excited to try more cooking classes around the world.
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The cost of $10 USD per person also included a cook book with recipes we cooked including other Cambodian dishes, a bottle of water, transport to and from the morning market and of course lunch.