During our stay in Siem Reap, we were lucky to come across a highly recommended authentic cooking class offered at one of the city’s popular bar- restaurants, Temple Bar.
Our 4 hour class included a tour of the Old Market, where our teacher shared her knowledge of the natural ingredients we’d be using as well as any others we may be curious about. We also received a souvenir T-shirt, recipe sheet, and of course instruction on how to prepare the fresh, flavorful and healthy dishes we were about to create.
We each (my travel bud and I) had our choice out of 3 mains, appetizers and desserts to select from to build our 3 course feast. We both started with fresh spring rolls, a favorite of mine that I often make at home! But these were special. We finely chopped the ingredients (these ones included meat) seasoned, and sautéed as our chef instructed. The next step was loading the rice paper babies up with the spicy meat mixture and fresh veggies, delicately rolled them into tight packages of goodness and served (to ourselves) with the sweet and sour dipping sauce we had also prepared from scratch.
I’ll toot my own horn on this one, they were probably the best fresh spring rolls I’ve ever had. Cooked with time, care and love, the flavours of the spices and textures of the vegetables all combined made these massive rolls a winner.
Next we moved on to the main (which we had to have room for!). I chose a traditional Khmer curry.
This was my favorite dish to prepare as it contained heaps of vegetables, utilized one of my favorite tools: a mortar and pestle, and featured a tantalizing curry paste we made from SCRATCH!
As a long time user of various pastes and powders, this was amazingly rewarding.
All of the nutritious spices were chopped finely and ground along with shrimp paste and chili oil into a rich saffron colored lump of magic. Into the pan it went along with the veg and a generous couple ladles of creamy coconut milk. The result was just as delicious as it looked and smelled. As long as you have the spice paste pre-made, this is a super healthy meal that could be prepared more quickly than it seems!
Before starting the main, we had begun to prepare our dessert, a Pumpkin Sago Pudding, which simmered to tenderness while we cooked. It was a combination of palm sugar, coconut milk, tapioca pearls and pumpkin cubes. A simple and tasty dessert that gets some vegetables in there!
We left stuffed, proud of our creations and thankful to the chef who taught us the ways of traditional Khmer cooking in a fun hands-on class. This was a perfect way to further explore a rich culture and adopt new knowledge of using the beautiful foods the earth provides to craft healthful works of art. Definitely recommended! And if you can’t get there yet, the three recipes featured here are soon to come!
Did you find this post helpful? Have you ever taken a cooking class abroad? How was the experience and what did you make?