The Storks of Böbs

The Storks of Böbs
A Very Fine Pair

Around the World (Again) Phnom Penh and Cookery Course

The cookery school

I had booked on the course the day before, I had decided on the whole day course as why skimp, if you’re doing something you love doing. Starting time was 08:00, I was first there, in fact it was still bolted and barred, a couple of others turned up and then the chef, a petite young Cambodian lady, who went by the name of Sorn (pronounced sawn or sore'n  depending here you hail from).

She put the seats out in two rows and eventually we were complete (well not quite as a  German couple would be joining us later).
Sorn explained how the day would be put together,

Those cheapos doing the half day would be doing spring rolls and the fish Amok, we the ones with money to burn would be doing in the afternoon a further two dishes, Banana bud salad and mango, sweet sticky rice and coconut caramel dessert.
But first it was off to the market, we split into two groups, Sorn taking half and her head cook the other, I was part of the other. He was rather good; he knew all of the market women and was obviously a bit of a lad, stopping to have a chat, making the women young and old alike giggle.
We bought our ingredients and then jumped into our Tuk-tuks back to the cookery school. This is situated on an open fronted balcony, airy and spacious. By this time the late risers had joined us, from the “Pot” need we say anymore? And Dortmund fans to boot!
Setting out the chairs

For sale, no I didn't buy a one
Off to the market

Sticky rice parcels

Mangrove crabs

Eggs of every sort

Fresh vegetables

Pork skin (crackling) and sweets
Chickens, alive, dead and about to be dead in a few minutes

Pork (the whole animal)

Fresh fish

Fish heads for a stew
Filleting fish

Mango's gallore

The pig, the whole pig and nothing but the pig!

Chinese New Year cakes
Our Tiger fish
A beef filet
Fish sauces and products

Sucking pigs ready for the feast.
So it was aprons on and follow my instructions:
Cambodian Deep Fried Spring Rolls

First it was learning how to grate taro and carrot the Cambodian way (not a lot different from the European way, but I have since bought one of the julienne graters).

Then the taro was sprinkled liberally with salt and mixed. It was then massaged quite well squeezing and kneading by doing this it exudes a milky liquid.

The taro is then washed 3 times to get rid of this, when the water runs clear it is squeezed dry and mixed with the carrot and peanuts, season with salt and pepper. They are then squeezed into little sausage forms ready to be laid in the pancakes.

This is the spring roll filling, it is vegetarian, my hand went up like a shot, can you add anything to this, yes was the reply shrimps, prawns, fish, chicken in fact anything you wish, but we always do a vegetarian dish for those funny people, Sorns words not mine.

Now the sweet/sour dipping sauce, I suppose one of the things that make a Khmer spring roll different.
4 cloves of garlic
1 shallot finely sliced
1 red pepper diced
1 hot chilli (or more) diced
2 tbsp. fish sauce (a good quality)
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. lime juice (lemon if nothing else available)
1 tbsp. peanuts (they get everywhere)
½ a bowl of water (the small bowls that you eat out of in SE Asia)
Crush the garlic in a mortar to a paste, add the sugar, salt, chillies and red pepper, add the water and stir well, add the fish sauce and lime juice, stir and leave to mature a while.

You will have prepared your spring roll pancakes beforehand (or bought them), These had been made that morning by the kitchen staff, they are made from a mixture of rice and potato flour, mixed to  paste with a beaten egg, add salt, sugar and enough milk to make a very thin batter.

Make thin see through pancakes about the size of a side plate (I will be trying these when I get home)
Lay the spring roll pancake out onto a cutting board and place the roll of mixture at the lower 1/3, roll the flap over, the filling.

Fold the sides across using the thumb to make a nice clean fold, while also squeezing out as much air as possible. Now roll the pancake around the filling very tightly, sealing the end flap with beaten egg. Repeat until all of the filling is used up.

Heat a good 6 cups of oil (a frituese would be great) to a high temperature, when very hot reduce heat to medium, slide the spring rolls gently into the oil and fry for 15 minutes, moving them all of the time to ensure even cooking and colouring.

We used this time to make the dipping sauce

Serve with the sauce served in individual bowls, topped with the slices of shallot and peanuts. You can fancy up the plate with sliced cucumber, tomato and shredded lettuce.

Fish Amok
There are two types of Amok, this one, which is always simply called Amok and a one made with snails in their shells, called Amok Chouk.
The Amok is a dry curry (probably came across from India with the Hindu religion)
Ingredients for the yellow curry paste
1 small piece of fresh turmeric
1 small piece of galangal
2 stalks of lemon grass outer husk removed and very finely sliced (this aids in getting a smooth paste later)
Pound the turmeric and galangal together, then add the lemon grass and pound to a fine powder.
1 clove of garlic (or more depending on your taste) crushed
1 finely sliced birds eye chilli finely diced
And 1 diced shallot
Pound all this into the paste (do not skimp on the time, the longer the finer the paste)
Now add 2 tsps of chilli paste (more or less, I added more the rest added less)
Add 1 dsp. of fish sauce
Pinch of that pungent shrimp paste (it stinks, but is a must)
Zest of a kaffir lime or a few kaffir lime leaves shredded
Juice of the lime
½ dsp.  palm sugar
Taste and if needed a pinch of salt
Now add a ladle full of coconut milk
Then stir in ½ a beaten egg
Add the cubed fish, this was tiger fish, but I doubt if you will find this, so cat fish is a suitable substitute. Mix well, cover and allow to stand.
Now comes the fun part making the banana leaf containers.
For each portion you will need two banana leaf discs, the head chef had made them for us, but I saw him using a pan lid to cut around, this would have been the size of a side plate.
These discs are placed shiny side together (I don’t know why as I didn’t ask) the veins of each disc at 90° to each other
Fold a pleat in the side opposite you and pin this together with a piece of toothpick turn 90° and repeat, you now have a boat, turn the boat length ways and do a pleat opposite you, pin, then turn and do your last pleat, pin and you have your banana cup.
Fill with your fish curry mixture, place in a steamer and steam over a just bubbling pan of water for 15 to 20 minutes (depends on the size and type of fish pieces)
Reduce some coconut milk to a cream and add at the halfway stage, add some shredded kaffir lime leaves and julienned chillies on top.
It is eaten straight from the banana cup with steamed rice.
Wonderful, you can adjust the amounts of chilli, chilli paste, shrimp paste etc. to suit your personal preference.

One of the kitchen staff cooking for down stairs

After lunch we had a bit of a chat amongst the four remaining, 2 Australian Lasses, a Dutch lass and myself. It was interesting to compare our Journey’s and experiences, but as we had all done or were doing the North SE Asia circuit, we all agreed that the Asian peoples are warm and friendly and are ever helpful. The one thing not to do was to weigh them against Western standards, ours are too exact and too involved with personal gain.
After our break we started on the next course, this was a salad, a banana bud salad. I had seen these massive flower buds in the markets and street fruit vendors.
You shall require
1 banana flower bud
1 cooked chicken breast (fried, steamed or poached)
Fresh herbs, mint, coriander, basil, water spinach (morning glory or similar)
1 chilli sliced into julienne
1 shallot sliced julienne
Juice of 1 lime
Pick the herb leaves from the stems cutting the larger leaves into small pieces
Peal the outer leaves (dark purple) from the inner white, you will have to remove the little bananas that grow in between each layer. (Sorn called these baby bananas)
You will then reach the soft centre of the bud, take a few of these roll into a cigar and slice very finly into strips, place immediately into a bowl with water and the juice of 1 lime (this will stop them turning black). After 5 minutes remove, dry and set aside.
For the dressing
1 chilli (the larger sort,  not so hot)
1 birds eye chilli
Juice of two limes
3 cloves of garlic
2 shallots finely diced
1 tbsp. good quality fish sauce (you get what you pay for)
1 tbsp. palm sugar (brown will do if none at hand)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup of mineral water (this is out in Asia, tap water will suffice back home)
Slice the chilli, birds eye, garlic, put them in a mortar and grind lightly (not to a paste)
Mix these together with the water add shallots, fish sauce, lime juice, salt and palm sugar (adjust the various ingredients to your own taste).
Place the sliced banana buds in a bowl, mix in the herbs, julienne chilli, with the finely shredded chicken, add the dressing and mix arrange on a plate.
This can be a starter or part of a meal, or a snack on its own, very tasty very refreshing. The chicken can be exchanged for dried shrimp, fresh shrimp, dried pork shredded in fact just about anything goes.
The Banana flower bud

While doing this Sorn had set on sweet sticky rice, this was rice cooked in water  (1 to 1 water/rice)
Wash rice, put into boiling water, return to the boiling water, stirring so that it doesn’t stick (but it will), remove a little of the water, turn down the heat and cook for 10 minutes.
Boil ½ cup of coconut per person add 4 tbsp. of palm sugar, keep stirring, add a ½ tbsp. of butter and a little water and mix until smooth.
Slice the Mangos and arrange an a plate, make a topping out of palm sugar syrup and grated coconut and sesame seeds.
Put the rice in the middle of the mango slices and top with the coconut caramel, sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Nobody said it was for those who are watching the pounds and the waistline, but it does taste fantastic.
This is a quick easy dessert, go on spoil yourself.

The meal finished, the course complete we went back to Fizz and I had a beer and we got out recipe pamphlets.

I then headed into town, it was still early so passing the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace (well if they didn’t want to meet me, then I would just ignore them) and around the corner to the museum, I decided to spend an hour in there, very, very, good with loads of things robbed from the temples of Angkor (you want to know where the missing Buddha’s and the heads from the gods, just have a look in here.
I then walked along the waterside and had a pint at the restaurant across the road from the FCC, that evening I had a light meal.  I got a Tuk-tuk back to my hotel, this one (mine had gone astray) offered me his services for the next day to take me to the airport, $7 it was a gift.

Packed and early to bed ready for the 10 O’clock flight to HCMC and TET, another new year in another country, that will be the third since leaving home back in October.

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