Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Khmer Curry

We are back from our adventure! Visiting Cambodia and Thailand was an amazing experience- it feels somewhat surreal to be back living a normal life. Life over there was so simple and we vowed to look at our American life differently when we returned. However, we moved to a new state, are starting new jobs and life seems to overtake you. Thankfully we have pictures and souvenirs to remind us of our trip and of life in Cambodia.
Noodles with spinach, bean sprouts and a fried egg

Cambodian breakfast soup

Stir-fry type dish with brown rice (rarity to find brown rice)
And, we have our memories of the food! All of the food that we had was amazing- noodles, stir-fries, soups, curries, and rice. There are of course fried bugs, snakes, fertilized eggs and other oddities. We had to try something out of our comfort zone so we tried the fertilized egg- not the best, but everything else was delicious.
Fresh fried frogs, duck and snakes
Fertilized duck egg
Because I am not very familiar with Asian food, I wanted to take the cooking class offered by our first hotel in Siem Reap. It was $10 for a two hour class and I thought that if we learned to cook some Khmer dishes, then we would know more of what to order when we were out and about.
Noodles with vegetables and egg
Our class instructor was a very soft spoken and direct Cambodian girl who put us to work. She said that she was not the normal teacher for the class, but she seemed to know exactly what to do. She had us chopping and dicing in minutes. Aaron and I made every component of the dishes (3 each) under her guidance and instruction. We learned how to make fresh and fried spring rolls, Cambodian curry, amok (traditional dish with fish, curry, vegetables and coconut milk), and banana and mung bean desserts. I was surprised to learn how easy these dishes actually are to make. I thought curry was something that takes hours and hours to cook, but with once the paste is made I found that it comes together pretty quickly. Spring rolls don't seem as daunting anymore either.
Grinding spices for the spice paste

The funny thing was that we had ordered the exact foods for lunch thinking that the class would be cancelled due to rain. We devoured those foods at lunch, learned how to cook them and then were given the complete portions of food that we cooked. It was enough food for at least 4-6 people! We nibbled on it after the class, and then had it for a bedtime snack later that night. Favorites were the fried spring rolls, the curry, and the amok. The desserts were a little soupy and beans for dessert just did not taste right to me- where is the chocolate??
Fresh spring rolls and a peanut chili sauce

Fried spring rolls
Since coming back, I have already been trying to recreate some of the wonderful dishes that we had in Cambodia and Thailand. The rice cooker has been put to good use along with our chop sticks and our new Asian spoons. We also found a Cambodian restaurant to try here in Minneapolis.

If you want to try something a little different, than here is the recipe for Cambodian curry. It is not as spicy as a Thai curry, so do not worry if you are not a spice lover. In fact, when I ate this at Khmer Kitchen in Siem Reap, it was so tasty I wanted to just drink the sauce it was so good! Enjoy!
Cambodian (Khmer) Curry

Khmer Curry
From: Golden Temple Hotel Khmer Cooking Class

Spice Paste: (a pre-made red type of curry paste could also probably be substituted for making this fresh)
2 dried chilies, soaked, drained and then cut into pieces
2 slicks of lemon grass, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 garlic clove
1 shallot, roughly chopped
Kaffir lime leaf
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled
1/2 inch piece of galingale, peeled
1 tablespoon of peanuts
2 tablespoons of chili oil
1 tablespoon of shrimp paste
1 Star Anise
1/4 inch piece of cinnamon
2-3 coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

1. In a dry pan on medium-low heat, toast star anise, cinnamon, coriander, and fenugreek for several  minutes until fragrant
2. Crush dry, toasted spices in a mortar and pestle
3. Add all ingredients and crushed spices to a food processor and process until smooth

Eggplant, boiled potatoes, carrot, onion and long beans (or green beans) cut into 1 inch pieces
Chicken or fish, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons curry paste
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp chicken bouillon
Fish sauce
Cooked rice

1. Add cooking oil and curry paste to pan and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 cup of coconut milk, sugar, bouillon and 3 splashes of fish sauce and cook for several minutes
2. Add meat and allow to cook for several minutes
3. Add vegetables and cook for about 10 minutes. Add additional cup of coconut milk and 1 cup of water if needed during cooking period.
4. Serve over rice

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