It was my first night in Siem Reap-outside of my stay at the orphanage I had a few things on my agenda while in Cambodia. 1. See the famous Angkor Wat 2. Eat traditional Khmer food-and if that included species which have made it in the spectrum of most common phobias-then so be it. 3. Explore the Cambodian jungle.
Within an hour of walking around the infamous ‘pub street’, I meet some people from Boston who have joined this gastronomic pide piper in search of unusual foods. And we found it. On the menu tonight-scorpion and tarantula kabobs..ya I did.
So if I haven’t lost you at this point then let me add it was nothing special. Crunchy, dry and tasteless. That being said, there are several restaurants that take pride in the dishes they create with these various insects. But..I’m crossing that off the list and moving on.
The next morning I hop in a Tuk tuk and head to the temples of Angkor Wat. A Centuries old temple complex and largest religious monument in the world. Impressive temples, towers and causeways built of sandstone and laterite. Walls illustrated with ancient Sanskrit. A gigantic moat placed strategically around the enormous hectare.
I stop and kneel for a blessing from a buhdist monk -good luck..good health..and long life-Namaste.
What better way to finish off such an epic day than a wonderful meal. I did a little research and found a little place outside the main hub. The tuk tuk driver takes through the dusty dirt roads and there in what seems to be a residential area of Siem reap I found a little jewel- Touich- which is the nickname of chef Moun Sophors who has mastered traditional Khmer cuisine- transmitting the secrets passed down from her mother. It’s a family run buisness- everyone who works here is family.
I start with a banana flower salad with chicken, fresh tai basil, coriander and mint, peanuts and chilli all dancing together in the tangy taste of lime.
I’m confused..this looks like shredded banana but how is that possible the texture is slightly crispy. The waitress who tries her best to explain eventually asks if I would like to speak with the owner. Um yes . The chefs sister comes out holding in her hands a banana flower which she peels to reveal an abundance of baby banana which are in fact what it is I am eating.
Ok I haven’t even moved onto the second course and I’m freaking out. This is unbelievable.
Then fish amok- fish soup with coconut milk and kroeung (curry paste made from lemon grass, turmeric root, garlic and ginger. Chunks of tender fish netted in a forest of shredded slok ngor-a local herb subtly bitter in taste.
Then prahoc lign-stir fried containing traditional praohc- a Khmer fermented fish. They cut the salty fishy taste of Khmer with pork .
She advises me to add the vegetables on the side and mix it together-eat your veggies westerners-this coming from the biggest carnivore I know-not just because they are good for you but because the freshness and texture complete every culinary orchestra.
So here under a straw roof listening to, funny enough, 1930s country I give my freshly blessed buhhda belly a nice little rub.
..the bill and a tuk tuk please..
tomorrow I find a jungle.