This past January, James and I took a trip to Cambodia because he had some work to do there. We added on a short vacation since we’d never been there before. While we were in Phnom Penh, we took one day cooking class at The Frizz restaurant. We’ve found that cooking classes are a great way to learn about food and culture in a new place. In some ways this class was similar to the class that James took at Tamarind in Luang Prabang, Laos.
First we went to a market. I wasn’t so excited about that part because I had already seen that market and markets in Cambodia are not all that different from markets in Laos. I did see some interesting things there though that I haven’t seen at my local market – salted duck eggs and many more kinds of fish than in Laos. Salted duck eggs are covered in black ashes as part of the preserving process. You can see what it looks like here. Our guide said when she feels sick, she likes to eat these eggs with rice. That’s about the last thing I’d want to eat when I’m feeling sick, but I suppose different cultures have different comfort foods!
After the market, we went to a covered balcony on the top floor of a tall thin building. It was set up for about 10 people to learn to cook. We all had a gas burner, a pot, a cutting board, a knife, and a mortar and pestle. We learned how to make a shrimp and pomelo salad, ground chicken fried in banana petal, green curry, and coconut custard cooked inside a small pumpkin.
James opted to cook fish amok instead of green curry so that he and I could try both main dishes. Fish amok is one of the most famous dishes of Khmer cuisine and I can understand why! It’s a mixture of curry paste, other spices, coconut milk, and chopped fish steamed in a little banana leaf boat. Here’s the recipe: Fish Amok Recipe from The Frizz in Phnom Penh.
We have something similar in Laos called mok pa which is also chopped fish mixed with spices and coconut milk and steamed in a banana leaf. Lao mok pa has more subtle flavors, less spice, and it white instead of yellow because it doesn’t include turmeric.