2 Awesome Cheap Cambodian Cooking Classes!
Are you travelling on a budget? Always wanted to do a cooking class? Me too! I have always wanted to learn to cook food from a different country, in that country, by a native of that country… know what I mean? I don’t want to learn to cook Khmer food in Australia by a New Zealander for example. I’m a good cook, and I cook a huge variety of food. Thai, Indonesian, Italian, French and good old Aussie roo on the BBQ, to name but a few. BUT this was my chance to learn to cook Khmer food from a Khmer chef! FOR ONLY USD$10!!!! It was cheap enough that Dwayne also chose to do it with me. And let me tell you it is a lot of fun doing it as a couple.
Being as cheap as it was, we decided to do two. We cooked in the morning at Coconut LyLy Restaurant and Cooking School and in the afternoon at Nary Kitchen Restaurant and Cooking School. I’ll tell you about each in turn, because, although they were very similar in the market tour and one of the dishes that we cooked, each was a very different experience for us.
Coconut LyLy Restaurant and Cooking School
The first class which we did in the morning was with Coconut LyLy. Coconut LyLy is owned and run by LyLy. LyLy is a graduate of Paul Dubrule Cooking School. Coconut Restaurant and Cooking School is a family affair with mum and his brothers helping out with the cooking and teaching. Our teacher for the day was Lim. We were the only two students so you could say we had a private lesson. Lim suggested a menu of four dishes, but because it was just the two of us we were able to change one of the dishes to another of our choice (they have nine different dishes to choose from).
Lim began the lesson by taking us to the markets to purchase some fresh ingredients. Most of the ingredients are purchased earlier in the morning as the markets open, to guarantee freshness and it also cuts down on the preparation time so we have more time to cook and learn. The trip to the market was interesting. Having spent the last year in South East Asia the markets themselves are no longer a novelty or a surprise, I have been to so many and often buy my food there… yes even meat (sometimes). What piqued my interest was having many of my questions about the food answered. Like “what are those green things and how do I cook them?” And being the only two students we could monopolise his time!
Lim purchased a few fresh ingredients such as the lemongrass, galangal, shallots, tumeric and finger root, as well as the fresh pressed coconut cream. He also showed us some of the ingredients, already purchased, that we would be cooking with.
And now for some of the weirder stuff….
After the market it was back to the restaurant, where we watched as Lim made the dessert while giving us the instructions and teaching us about the ingredients… Dwayne had never seen a sheet of gelatine before, so he was quite curious. Once the dessert was done it was popped into the freezer to set.
Next we made the fish amok. ‘Fish’ Amok is the only authentic amok, all the others… chicken, pork, vegetable etc are made for fussy tourists who don’t eat this or that. So instead of saying fish amok it should just be amok! This recipe took the longest to make. We had to pound the ingredients (lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, finger root, galangal, turmeric, shallot, garlic, dry chilli, shrimp paste) in the mortar for about 10 minutes until a smooth paste was made.
We then learnt how to make a banana leaf bowl. The bowl has to be made with careful precision. If the leaf splits the amok curry will run out while it is cooking… I split it, so had to redo it, but Dwayne got it first go!
Once the amok was made it was put aside until it was time to cook. Next up was the green mango salad. After we shredded the mango and carrot, the mortar and pestle were back again. First we had to smash up some dried (soaked) shrimp and then mix up a dressing.
We also made a very quick, very delicious, sour chicken soup. It was flavoured with lemongrass, lime leave, galangal, garlic and lime juice. Simple and flavoursome. The food was cooked and ready to eat so we sat down to our four course lunch. What a feast!
Nary Kitchen Restaurant and Cooking School
We headed back to our hotel room to put our feet up for a couple of hours, before going to another cooking lesson in the afternoon. This time we went to the cooking class at Nary Kitchen which we learnt was the first cooking school to open in Battambang. This is their seventh year. Nary and Toot are the wife and husband team of Nary Kitchen Restaurant and Cooking School. At this cooking lesson we were not the only participants. There was an english couple Tom and Jess, and also a couple from Germany Alissa and her partner.
Again the cooking class started with a tour of the market. It was the same market and we saw most of the same things but we still came away from the market with more knowledge than we had on the way in. Our market guide bought some fresh ingredients and at the end of the market tour we were all carrying fresh produce with which we were going to cook.
Once back at Nary Kitchen we were shown to our cooking stations and before Toot began his introduction he asked if we wanted a drink. Dwayne certainly appreciated being able to enjoy a rum and coke as he cooked and later we ordered a bottle of red wine… it was almost like cooking at home!
First we cooked Fish Amok (which was the only dish we doubled up on that day). We made a paste by pounding the ingredient in the mortar until our arm muscles were burning… this time, however, we cooked in partnership so when I tired of pounding Dwayne took over and vice-versa until it was smooth and ready to mix with the coconut milk and fish.
The banana leaf bowls were already made for us, but Toot did a demonstration with one. Once the amok was ready for cooking we moved onto the fried spring rolls. We didn’t make the spring roll wrapper, just the filling which was made with grated taro root, carrot, pork and spring onion. We were taught how to wrap the spring roll and then deep fried them.
Next we made Beef Lok Lak. Traditionally lok lak is made from beef. There really is no such thing as chicken lok lak, pork lok lak etc… again these variations to lok lak are simply made for fussy tourist. The Khmer people don’t call it beef lok lak, just lok lak because it goes without saying that it is beef… comprehendo?
For lok lak the beef is cut into small pieces and marinated in several sauces including oyster sauce, soy sauce, etc before being stir-fried and served with salad and a fried egg.
Lastly we chopped some bananas and cooked them with tapioca, water and coconut milk for dessert.
OK, it was time to plate up and eat! All the food, bar the dessert, we put on the one plate and then we got a big spoonful of steamed rice. Three of us shared a bottle of red wine and the others had beer. It was a great meal and nice to share with other travellers as we swapped stories of our travels.
Our thoughts on the classes.
It’s a great hands-on experience and awesome value for money.
We both thought the food we cooked at Coconut LyLy was nicer. Dwayne enjoyed a beer with lunch.
Dwayne loved the social atmosphere and being able to purchase wine/beer/spirits during the class at Nary Kitchen.
Both cooking classes were a lot of fun and run by professional people. They were both informative; we would recommend either.
Travel Notes (Sept 2015)
We stayed at Shang Hai Guesthouse USD $6.00/night (AUD $8.00) Pros – fridge, cheap. Cons – wasn’t cleaned during our stay.
For great deals on accommodation in Battambang check out Booking.com
The Trippin’ Turpin do not have an affiliation with either cooking class. All opinions our ours alone.
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