Mar 22 2011
For those interested in learning more about Khmer cuisine, the Smokin’ Pot restaurant in Battambang offer what they say is the longest-running cooking course in Cambodia. The restaurant has been open for 11 years and they’ve been teaching tourists how to cook Khmer-style since the beginning.
The owner of the restaurant, Vannak Robie, runs the cooking course himself, first shepherding the students through Battambang’s Psar Nath, the local market in the centre of town, to purchase ingredients for the day’s menu. Each class is allowed to choose their three favourite dishes off the restaurant’s menu –which include both Cambodian and Thai dishes — to learn to cook. Our class chose fish amok, beef fried with basil leaves and sgnor chrouk, a fragrant Khmer soup made with lemongrass, galagal and kaffir lime leaves.
Robie learned to cook from his mother: “I grew up in a cooking family. I know how to cook from seeing, from growing up tasting in the kitchen.” Robie admits that cooking isn’t a usual pastime of Khmer men. Once women know you can cook, he explains, they then expect you to cook. “If I’m a real man,” he tells me, “I don’t need to cook.” Luckily, he doesn’t really believe this and shares his cooking expertise with travellers from all over the world.
Robie’s a seasoned — if initially grumpy — teacher. By the end he had warmed up to our charms and confessed that some students just aren’t right for his cooking school. If you’re picky or particular, you’re better off elsewhere. But if you’re looking for an entertaining way to spend a morning and are ready for a very large Khmer lunch, the class is a good way to learn more about the local cuisine and to get the chance to grill Robie about his opinions any number of subjects, an opportunity that I took advantage of. (He told me that Khmers are often given incorrect change too, which was a relief.)
Each student gets a cookbook that includes a dozen recipes and information on all of the ingredients, including how to say the names of each ingredient in Khmer. The class moves quickly and was entertaining for our group, which included seasoned cooks and a total newbie, all of whom enjoyed the proceedings. At only $8 per person, the class is good value for money compared to what’s on offer in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.
Smokin’ Pot 229, Group 8, 20 Ousephea Village, Battambang. (Near Angkor Hotel)
T: 012 821 400
Book at least one day in advance for a class.
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