One of the cheapest places in Southeast Asia to do a vegetarian cooking class is Cambodia and it only cost $10 to take one in Battambang.
There are two restaurants next to each other that both do recommended cooking classes in Battambang and I chose Nary Kitchen which was great.
The class was 3 hours long (starts in morning or afternoon) and it began with a trip to the market. I’m normally not that bothered about visiting the market, but it was interesting to see an authentic Cambodian market.
While the market is fascinating, you will see eels and frogs being skinned as well as snake fish jumping about the place and ant eggs. It can be a bit much if you don’t like seeing dead animals.
We cooked four dishes in 3 hours, which were:
- Fresh vegetable spring rolls
- Tofu Lok Lak
- Tofu Amok
- Banana, tapioca and coconut milk pudding
This is what I learnt and what you can expect when you take a vegetarian cooking class in Battambang in Cambodia.
The first dish that we made was fresh spring rolls and there are so many methods to make them. We lightly fried some finely chopped vegetables and then we wet the rice paper in a bowl. It’s important to soak your board as well so the paper is fully wet. You need to roll fresh spring rolls quite tightly, unlike when you’re frying them when they need to be loose.
Amok is a coconut curry that is steamed in a banana leaf. The key ingredients for the amok are lemongrass, kaffir leaf, galangal, finger-root, turmeric and paprika. You grind all these up with a pestle and mortar to make your lemongrass paste which is the base of your curry. You then add coconut cream to the curry to make it really creamy as amok is very rich.
The lok lak has similarities with Vietnam’s shaking beef but it uses Kampot pepper to give it that little bit of fire. It’s an easy marinade to make using soy and fish sauce as well as stock. Once you’ve made it, you stick it all together in a pan with the tofu and fry it. You can also make peppery dipping sauce to put on the side.
Next, our chef Toot showed us how to make the bowls from banana leaves by cutting them into circles, folding them and securing the corners with cocktail sticks. We then spooned in the tofu and placed them in the steamer to bake. You can make this dish with snake fish instead of tofu.
The pudding was very simple and it was made from tapioca, banana, coconut milk, water and a tiny bit of salt and sugar. You soak the banana and tapioca for a while, add it all together, then reduce it down in a pan for 20 minutes.
It reminded me of baby food, but in a good way and it’s a great vegan dessert that is easy to make that kids will love.
This is the main meal that we cooked and it was certainly a delicious treat to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon. I wouldn’t eat two types of tofu at the same time, but lok lak is a less time consuming dish to prepare than amok if you want to make things easier.
My only worry is finding some of the ingredients, but with a bit of experimentation you could find the right taste for you using things that you can get in your country. I also don’t have a steamer for the amok, but you could definitely prepare it in a pan. In the absence of banana leaves you could use small bowls instead.
Overall, it was a lesson, a cookbook with ten recipes and three-course meal all for $10 which is pretty good. I was certainly do it again as it has really increased my fascination with Southeast Asian flavours.
We stayed at Lucky Hostel in Battambang, which was a decent budget option in a good location in the centre, with lots of rooms. It also offers free pickup. Check the Tripadvisor link below to check reviews and find good deals for hotels in Battambang:
If you live in the UK, and you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, then I highly recommend getting a veg box, like this one from Abel & Cole:
￼Have you been to a cooking class in Cambodia? What did you cook? Let me know in the comments below!
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