By this point in my semester, I had heard enough about Cambodia from other travel-addicted exchange students to know that there were 2 things I had to do in Cambodia: take an Angkor excursion and treat my taste buds to some delectable cuisine. Since I had done the whole Angkor thing, it was chow time and since I’m a “go big or go home” kind of girl, I decided that just going for dinner wasn’t going to cut it (I’d already eaten dinner before, I needed something new and exciting). So, I looked into cooking classes.
After refusing to accept the fact that the first 5 classes I found put the average price at around 50USD, I eventually came across Le Tigre de Papier – an exquisite restaurant in downtown Siem Reap that offered classes for only 15USD.
At 10am, my buddy and I made our way to the restaurant, where we were given menus and told to place our orders. Sceptical because the class consisted of a group of 6 of us and I assumed we would all be making the same thing, I put in my order for spring rolls and chicken bok choy regardless.
After a few minutes, we left the restaurant for a local market down the street where we were introduced to some local fruits and veggies and an entire wall of shoes.
Then it was back to the kitchen, we were each given a plate of veggies and told to start chopping. Our teacher made this look extremely easy, taking the knife and slicing the knife up and down faster than seemed humanly possible while simultaneously warning us something about kaffir I was too amazed to pay attention to.
When I tried the chopping myself, the blade didn’t magically take on a life of its own and chop the veggies faster than the speed of sound like I hoped, it awkwardly hacked them into large chunks. Thankfully, this was basically happening to everyone, so the teacher explained that the proper technique was “same same but different” (a common saying which is usually used as a response to questions like “is this a real channel purse?”). As it turned out, using the tip of the knife gave you more control over the direction of your hacking, and allowed you to manoeuvre much faster, so we were eventually able to complete our chopping.
Then, everything was placed in 2 drums and we were given large mallets to mash them into a paste. After getting the recipe, I learned you can just use a blender, which would have been far less tiring, but also far less legit.
While waiting for our concoctions to finish frying, it was spring roll assembly time, plus a bonus lesson in how to create pretty plate-ings using banana leaves (the secret is stapling the leaves into box-shapes). Soon enough, our meals were set and it was time to dig in:
Since I’m not completely evil, I can’t put a post that’s (fully) about food and not give out a recipe, so here’s how to make some yummy chicken bok choy:
Khmer Chicken Bok Choy
To serve yourself and 1 other person awesome enough to deserve to eat something so amazing, you will need:
2 Chicken legs (de-boned)
1 Head of bok choy
4 pieces of lemon grass
2 Kaffir lime leaf
8 Slices Galangal
1 Tumeric root
1 Tablespoon roasted peanuts
1 Teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoon Oyster sauce
4 Tablespoons Coconut cream
4 Pieces of Garlic
4 Tablespoons coconut milk
3 Tablespoons olive oil
- Like with pretty much any recipe, just change the proportions if you’re serving more / less people
- If you’re picky and there’s something you want to take out of the recipe (or there’s something you just don’t want to go to the store and buy), leave it out, you’re the one who’ll be eating it, not me
- If you choose to leave out the chicken or the bok choy, you might want to change the name though
- The recipe works well served with rice
Preparing the deliciousness:
1) Finely chop the lemon grass, kaffir, turmeric, galangal, garlic and shallot
2) Blend your mix (minus the garlic and shallot) until it forms an appealingly-scented paste
3) Add half the garlic and shallots and blend some more
4) Work the paste into the chicken along with the coconut milk, peanuts and 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, then let it all soak in for about 5 minutes
5) Fry that baby up in 2 tablespoons of olive oil a covered pan for 20 minutes, flipping it halfway through
6) Continue your frying spree for another 5 minutes with the bok choy, brown sugar and remaining garlic, shallots, oyster sauce and olive oil
7) Plate the chicken and cover it with the bok choy
8) Send your taste buds on an epic adventure