Here they were, the most dreaded words for a serious arachnophobiac like myself. Tarantulas for breakfast-really??? What happened to fried eggs or toast with jam?
I didn’t really know what to expect from the Cambodian food before we came here. All I knew was that Cambodians tend to eat everything that crawls – that includes frogs, snails, snakes, bugs, crickets and from the looks of it – even tarantulas. I am usually a person who tries everything. I have eaten grubs in the Amazon, ox tongue in Hungary, snake wine in China and haggis in Scotland. But whilst I appreciated the friendly lady’s kind offer, and as much as I hate to disappoint you guys, I had to politely decline that particular snack. Unfortunately my phobia of spiders was just too big. But never say never – maybe one day I will be brave enough…
|Or mini snakes for that matter?|
|Tons of fresh and organic produce|
|Abattoir at the market – not for the faint-hearted!|
Once we bought all the ingredients we were shown how to prepare various dishes. It was great fun and I have mastered the art of cooking the following dishes now:
|Preparing the filling of carrots, taro root and peanuts|
|Ready to fry|
|Making the herb paste|
|The banana leaf cup – a piece of art I reckon.|
|In the steamer|
|Adding a bit of decoration|
|And ready to sample my masterpiece|
|My absolute favourite!|
For anybody who feels inspired to try some Khmer dishes now please see below a recipe for the national dish: Fish Amok. The fish can be replaced by tofu or chicken as well. Happy cooking!
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves
3 chili peppers
500g white fish (i.e. cod)
3/4 cup coconut cream
2 cups coconut milk
1 beaten egg
For the herb paste (Kroeung):
5 dried red chillies (soaked, drained and chopped into a paste)
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp galangal
1 tbsp lemongrass (thinly sliced)
zest of 1/4 kaffir lime
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp chopped peanuts
For the Kroeung combine all ingredients and smash up in a mortar (or food processor, but this is less fun) and blend into a thick paste.
Then slice the fish thinly and set aside. Remove nhor from stem, slice the kaffir lime leaves and cayenne peppers thinly. Stir the Kroeung into 1 cup of coconut milk. When it has dissolved add the egg, fish sauce and fish. Then add the remaining coconut milk and stir well.
Now it comes to the fun part-making the banana leaf cups. Clean the leaves with a wet cloth, then dip them into boiling water so they are soft and do not crack when being shaped. Cut circles (25cm in diameter) and place two together, on top of each other. Then put a thumb on one right angle of the square and pull in two sides, tucking the fold, and pinning together with a toothpick. Continue until all four sides of the cup are held together. The cup should be about 4cm deep.
Fill the banana leaves with your ingredients and place in a steamer. Steam for 15-20 minutes.
Pour coconut cream on top and add the sliced cayenne peppers and kaffir lime leaves. Serve with rice.