My cooking class in Battambang, Cambodia
Today my mom and I went to a cooking class in Battambang, Cambodia. We were going to go to the Smoking Pot for a cooking class but our teacher didn’t show up. so we went to Nary’s Kitchen which also does cooking classes. Sadly, we missed the market tour but at least we still got to cook. We cooked three dishes Amok Fish and rice, Fried Spring Rolls and Beef Lok Lak. The first one we started was the Amok Fish and rice. I picked this one to write down in my blog post because it was the most challenging for me because it had fish in it and I’ve never cooked with fish before. It also tasted the best and I think it was the most traditional Cambodian dish.
There were some ingredients that I had never seen before, such as:
Lemon grass – I’ve heard of lemon grass before, but did not know how to prepare and slice it.
Galangal – Is a root from the ginger family, it looks similar to ginger, but it can never ever be substituted for ginger.
Chinese Ginger (or Finger Root) – I have never heard of it and it is in the same family as ginger as well.
Fresh Turmeric – Looks like a carrot on the inside and stains your fingers and everything else yellow or orange.
Taro – Is in the potato family, it can be substituted with potato or sweet potato and is not good to cook and eat when the specks on the inside turn from purple to brown.
Kaffir Lime Leaves – Kaffir lime leaves are tough and you have to remove the center spine of it.
Slek-Nhor, or NONI leaf – I have never seen or heard of it, I don’t thin, we get it at home, a substitute could be spinach or kale, it looks like a big spinach leaf.
-100g fish filet from fresh water fish, we used Snake Fish
-15-20g finely sliced lemongrass
-1 Kaffir lime leaf
-1cm cubed fresh galangal (a root that looks like ginger but can’t use ginger as substitute)
-1cm cubed fresh turmeric (can use 1/4tsp turmeric powder)
-1-2cm cubed fresh Chinese ginger (also known as finger root)
-1-2 red sun-dried paprika (can use 1/4tsp paprika powder)
-150ml (6-8tbsp) coconut milk
-1/2 tsp chicken stalk
-2-3 cloves of garlic
-1/2 tsp white/brown sugar
-Pinch of salt
-1/2 tsp shrimp paste
-1 fresh NONI leaf, spinach or kale
-2 banana leaves to make bowl
-pinch of cornstarch
If you can’t find the fresh ingredients you can use the powder for it just remember it isn’t the same measurement as the fresh so you’ll have to experiment. The directions are relatively simple. You’ll need a pestle and mortar though.
1. Rinse then soak red-sun dried paprika to re-soften for 1 min
2. Thinly slice the fresh lemongrass then set aside
3. Slice small pieces; Kaffir-lime leaf, galangal, turmeric, finger root, garlic and set aside.
4. Put everything in a mortar paprika, lemongrass, Kaffir-lime leaf, galangal, turmeric, finger root, garlic and shrimp paste pound for 10 min or longer until it becomes a very fine paste then set aside.
5. Finely slice the Snake Fish
6. Put the Snake Fish into a bowl and add chicken stock powder, salt, sugar, 1 tbsp lemongrass-paste, 3 – 4 tbsp coconut milk and then mix and stir with a spoon until the flavours are infused. Set aside.
7. Fold 2 pieces of banana leaf to make a bowl. Secure the ends with toothpicks and trim the top.
8. Strip off the stem of Slek-Nhor (NONI leaf) then tear small pieces and put it into the bottom of the banana leaf bowl. Transfer all the marinated fish into the banana bowl and then steam for 20 – 25 mins. After 20 minutes, sprinkle 1 tbsp coconut cream over it and then garnish with a few small sliced kaffir lime leaves along with a few long sliced fresh sweet chills on top. Steam for another minutes or so.
To make the coconut cream:
Pour 4-5 tbsp coconut milk in a pot and add a pinch of cornstarch. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Cook until thickened, about 1 minute.
Serve with steamed rice for lunch or dinner. This recipe is for one or two servings.
This lesson was an amazing experience for me and I really enjoyed learning about Cambodian food and culture. My lesson was for three hours and everything was made from scratch. I thought it looked amazing and tasted amazing. I would defiantly make it again and would recommend you try to make it too.
Thank you Toot and Nary for teaching me these Cambodian dishes.