Cooking and Eating Battambang

Often bigger tourist towns are full of international food aimed mostly at westerners, so I have better luck finding local food in my smaller stops.  This proved no exception as I hit the town market as soon as I got in.  Cambodian food still isn’t the most exciting thing, particularly after the more strongly flavored Thai and Vietnamese foods but it is tasty and has a strong street food culture.

Like most Asian fried chicken (besides Korean), this was a tad dry fried for my taste. The spicy dipping sauce and extra breast nugget attached to the wing was delicious though. The tourist price per wing was a bit steep.

Right next to the deep fry chicken cart was a deep fry meatball cart. It even comes with slits to not explode, a peanut satay sauce, and a tangy mild chile sauce. Somehow these were even more overpriced than the wings.

All day all over the place you can find people wandering around with carts of instant noodles or these thick short rice noodles and hot oily woks. Good for a small snack anytime or a meal with an egg and drenched in chile garlic sauce.

Common desserts in Cambodia and Vietnam are things made with rice flour and covered in coconut milk. This is a soup dumpling that I was hoping was full of palm sugar but was full of yellow bean instead.

I saw these green beehive looking things starting in Vietnam and finally bought some. Turns out they’re fresh lotus seeds. It also turns out I don’t find them very tasty at all but they make a good high work snack like sunflower seeds.

I didn’t find a papaya cart here but I found a roadside family stall making this bright ruby papaya salad. I’m still not sure what gave it this purple pink hue. The bottom got a bit fishy but it was otherwise delicious.

As for the other restaurants and stalls around town I managed to have probably two fruit shakes a day, some wonderful homemade noodles, and some nice Cambodian soups.  I’m excited to note that Cambodian corn tastes like American sweet corn and not the fibrous old style corn that I found in Vietnam.

The cooking classes were even cheaper in this town so I took another crack at it.  Unfortunately the low season means some classes can’t get enough people (read: more than me) to run a class.  The Smokin’ Pot guys kept giving me the runaround and told me “well, someone told us they were going to sign up, so come back tomorrow morning!”  Yeah, right, I’m not holding out for your flaky plans.  Homestyle cooking with Nary’s Kitchen it is! I realize I may be less amazed than most people who take these classes because I was already making my own Thai curry pastes from scratch before I went on this trip, so this isn’t new information to me.  At least this particular class uses prahok, a super fermented fish paste that western aimed restaurants usually leave out.

Our translator Toot showing us how to use banana leaves to make a little boat to hold amok (curry).

Our fish amok steaming away with a yam. The mousse like texture of a steamed curry is complimented by the drizzle of coconut cream and kaffir lime/dried paprika shards.

I wish we got to pick the dishes as I wouldn’t have gone with the three most western friendly ones, but I’m glad I got to see how to make fish amok Cambodian style. The beef and fried egg was just that, an easy stir fry.

I went back the next day just to get lunch and was excited to see mango sticky rice on the menu. Alas, while the portion was big, the rice was dry and not full of delicious coconut milk.

This class was taught by a homestyle cooking housewife turned chef of the restaurant.  Her rather bright husband used to work as a guide and taught himself English completely by interacting with tourists.  He translate for his wife who speaks no English and cannot even read Khmer.  I like that it is more home cooking than the restaurant run classes where the manager who otherwise does not cook teaches.  I do miss my kitchen and I can’t wait to get back to having one again one day.

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