Contrary to beliefs, I am not just a glutton. I can cook too. Amidst my travels, ‘cooking’ is one of the most useful skills that I have acquired. Since I do not have the luxury of cooking at home, I jump at all opportunities to ‘have fun’ in others’ kitchen – sometimes for free, sometimes at a minimal cost.
In my recent trip to Battambang, the multi-lingual Nary generously imparted his cooking skills and recipes in HIS kitchen. Our cooking tour took place over an ordinary afternoon, where I’d soon find out the not-so-ordinary outcome of ordinary ingredients.
Cooking tours in developing Asian countries are quite common, and these usually kickstart with a visit to the local market. This is possibly my favorite part of the tour, as the guide would share his knowledge on the local practices, cultures and fresh produce.
The vibrancy of Battambang’s town market can be heard from afar, as the physically challenged sing to earn a living. Their melodic voices floated in the air, carrying lightheartedness that matched the idle chatters of the stall vendors. Flies flitted around large slabs of meat, while fishes and tortoises (some still alive) swam in shallow pots of water. The variety of vegetables and fruits was impressive and I snapped away happily, taken by the combination of vibrant colours and odd shapes. Here, we bought fresh ingredients such as coconut milk and lemongrass.
Back at Nary’s Kitchen, everyone was given a pink apron and chef’s hat. Instructions were clear and under the watchful eyes of Nary (who’s really a chef with standards), we were able to create delicious Khmer dishes with ease. In total, we learned to cook the traditional fish amok, fried spring roll, stir fried beef lok lak and a simple dessert of banana in coconut milk.
The two ingredients that constantly turned up were sugar and bouillon (chicken essence). The Khmers like sweetness – not just in life but also in every meal. Yes, even your plate of savoury morning glory will have a tinge of sweetness. Although I am not a fan of bouillon, I have to admit that it presents great convenience to make a dish flavourful. Just remember to drink plenty of water after each meal.
In case you were wondering, you get to enjoy your food once you have finished cooking it – either lunch or dinner, depending on whether you have booked a morning or afternoon tour. You will also get to bring home a comprehensive recipe book so that you have no excuse to forget what you’ve learnt at Nary’s.
The above information has been compiled based on various sources, including my own experience and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, do check out: http://www.narykitchen.com/