This melange of turmeric root, shallots, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, and chili would soon become the spice paste in our fish amok. The burnt-orange turmeric root is responsible for giving the amok its distinct creamy amber hue. But it also leaves a yellow tinge on your fingertips long after you’ve finished your meal.
D and I just came back from spending an incredible three-day weekend in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We stayed in the old city, biked around 25km to Angkor Wat, wandered through the night markets, and on the last day, took a class at the Tigre de Papier cooking school. There, we learned how to make some staples of the Khmer kitchen – papaya salad, spicy shrimp rice rolls, fish amok, tom yum soup, and mango sticky rice. I also learned that the reason why everything I had eaten the past three days tasted magical was from the copious amount of ‘chicken stock’ added to every dish (which I’m preeeetty pretty sure is just a politically correct term for MSG). And also from the termites that we only noticed in the mortar and pestle right after we began to pound the spices into a thick paste.
The thing about these cooking classes is that they’re kind of like a Blue Apron box, you’re given a set amount of ingredients with specific instructions (dice! slice! peel!) but no real reason for why and how to put them together. I mean, what I really want is a Gwyneth Paltrow-like instructor telling me why I need anti-inflammatory turmeric in my life to balance my chakras. There’s not enough time to figure out what each spice tastes like on its own, and then our teacher mixes the salad dressing by eye and I have no idea whether she just added more salt or threw another heap of chicken-msg while we weren’t looking (probably the latter). But the experience is raucous. And at 15USD a person for a full meal and three hours of slapping D’s fingers away from the rice rolls before it’s time to eat, I would even say it’s worth it.
Tigre de Papier Cooking School – https://www.letigredepapier.com/en/cooking.php
Cost: 15USD/person for 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 1 dessert
Address: Pub Street, Old Town, Siem Reap