Our culinary experience of Phnom Penh started off on an interesting note – for Matt at least (I’m far too unadventurous). A kind lady on our mini bus offered to share her snacks with us. Matt, having sworn that there was nothing I could do to persuade him to eat insects, out of politeness agreed to try one when pressed by this lady(I stayed strong in the face of such peer pressure!). Apparently the deep fried insect wasn’t that bad, it was just crunchy all the way through and didn’t taste of much. So Matt managed to pretend he liked it. However, it turned out that this was a pick and mix bag of snacks and the woman, encouraged by Matt’s initial willingness, insisted on him trying each type of bug. As they got progressively bigger, Matt was finding them harder and harder to stomach – meanwhile I was finding the whole situation hilarious. According to Matt the biggest bugs were the worst because they were gooey in the middle (eeurrghh!). Still that was no where near as stomach churning as the frogs that were sold in the market, skinned alive and still squirming. No pictures of that, as I couldn’t look at the poor hideous things long enough to take any photos.
Less pleasant aspects aside, we really liked Cambodian food and were eager to learn how to cook some ourselves, so we signed up to a half day cookery course. Cambodian cuisine has a lot in common with Thai food, but is more subtle in flavour and a lot less spicy. I don’t like fish normally but I absolutely loved fish amok, and Frizz restaurant (where we booked our cookery class) claimed to serve the best. I’m normally sceptical of any restaurants own claims to be the best but seriously, from the taste of it, I think they were telling the truth.
The class started with a tour around the local food market, which was both fascinating and not for the faint of heart (at least you could be certain of the freshness of the meat and fish).
There were only six of us in our class which meant that we could all be really hands on with the cooking. I’ll definitely make some of recipes again now I’m home, but I’ll be using an electric food processor rather than a pestle and mortar. My arms were so tired by the time we’d made the curry paste. Matt on the other hand was over enthusiastic and as well as pulverizing his ingredients, accidently sent them flying across the room. We made chicken sausages in banana flower and fish amok, cooked in little banana leaf baskets.
There isn’t much in the way of street food in Phnom Penh, but with a wide choice of cheap restaurants who cares. Sitting down is far less effort anyway. As well as a good choice of restaurants there are also lots a cafes, one we absolutely loved was Gong Cha, where I discovered chocolate milk tea, Taiwanese style, YUM.