Cambodian Cuisine has caught the imagination of the world. Even though you may have a passion for Samlor Machaou, brewing one up yourself may leave you stoned. In this article, I help you kick start your journey into the Cambodian kitchen.
Cambodian delicacies can be hard to recreate. We as westerners won’t even know the names of most of the ingredients of Cambodian cooking let alone know how to use them. To begin with, try striking a rapport with the Asian spices. Khmer food incorporates cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and nutmeg along indigenous ingredients like lemongrass, garlic, shallots, cilantro, kaffir lime and lemongrass. Cambodian cooking is still very close to its primitive forms. This means that you will not require hi-tech kitchen equipment like steamers, microwaves, blenders and mixer etc to cook. These dishes can be made by using a simple gas stove, bamboo basket steamer, ladles, mortars and other inexpensive equipment.
Cookery classes for Cambodian food are not as popular as classes for Chinese or Italian cooking. However, if you have caught the bug of Cambodian dishes, you would not let this fact stand in your way of learning how to cook them. Try finding a detailed Cambodian cookery book, preferably written by a native author. The internet has several forums and websites dedicated entirely to Cambodian cooking. These are great places for finding new recepies and discussing fallbacks with like minded people. Many Asian spices may not be available in your area. Such websites help you by providing methods of sourcing the spices or by suggesting substitutes. Video sharing websites like YouTube has several videos showing detailed procedures of cooking Khmer dishes.
Another great way of learning Cambodian cooking is by enrolling in native classes when you visit the country. The capital city of Phnom Penh has a few culinary schools dedicated to passing the tradition of Cambodian delicacies to tourists. These schools take into account the fact that most of the travellers are pressed for time and gladly tailor a course to suit your needs. The restaurants in the Cambodia are largely friendly and if you find a small place with a friendly owner, you most probably will be able to learn a thing or two about their cooking from them.
Begin with simple dishes like soups and rice, gradually advancing to more elaborate dishes like steamed rice, pudding and curries. Learning anything is a journey in itself and the same applies to Cambodian cooking. As you progress, you will notice that certain herbs do not go well with certain ingredients while certain ingredients bring out the taste of certain herbs. A few disasters later, you will eventually arrive at a made to perfection Cambodian piece of culinary art.