11E street 278, Phnom Pen, Cambodia
Before travelling to Cambodia I had thought that the food there would be much similar to Thailand, but I had also heard people saying how their gastronomy is so rich and varied, with tastes and flavors which much differ from its neighboring countries. I was so curious about this that I immediately booked a class to learn how to cook Cambodian cuisine at La Table Khmere.
It was a steamy hot afternoon in Phnom Pen. My class was at 3pm at renowned restaurant La Table Khmere, located not so far from the hotel where I was staying, so I made my way there on foot. Tucked away in a side street, the 278, and not far from the Independence Monument, the place was easy to find. The entrance is well marked and the minimalistic and stylish ambience with art-deco furnishing and green/grey tones gave me an immediate good impression.
I was warmly welcomed by a smiling team of young, uniformed staff with a perfect English and great manners. Miss Saree and Miss Sokrai introduced themselves as my cooking teachers for the day. The two provided me with a signature black apron and took me to the impressive kitchen right at the rear of the restaurant area, behind a glass wall. The air-conditioned lab room specially designed for the cooking classes was spacious, and the long stainless steel central countertop was well organized and had 13 cooking stations. I was directed to mine, which was well-organized and complete of a stove, all sort of pans and cooking utensils, and I was soon ready to start my Cambodian culinary experience.
The three course menu of Khmer dishes we were going to produce from scratch included a starter of Mango salad, Amok as a main dish and a Bananas in coconut milk as a dessert. It sounded yummy even before we started cooking, but, would I be able to achieve goodness? Saree and Sokrai were more than confident that, under their supervision, I would.
To fully understand and appreciate most cuisines of the world, it is imperative to become familiar with the various raw ingredients in their natural state, and this is more than true in the case of Khmer cuisine. I was given a full set of ingredients cleaned in purifying water from the sinks at the far end of the room, and was prompted to follow Saree way of preparing them, copying her chopping and mixing methods: a real hands-on experience! All the while, Sokrai gave me explanation on the ingredients we were using, on the way we were preparing them and why, correcting me and laughing at every mistake I made – not many I must say, but I am a messy cook and this entertained them a lot, especially when, upon attempting to divide the egg yolk from the red, most of the yolk went straight to the floor!
Pounding all the Amok ingredients in a mortar was a particularly tiring yet constructive experience, one that makes learners realize what kind of long preparation there is behind a common inexpensive dish we can easily order at any Cambodian restaurant in town, something we usually take for granted.
It took me a good two hours to get the three dishes done; I enjoyed so much the class, the relaxed, clean and friendly environment and the fact that the class was taught in a fun way. I must point out that, like in most teaching/learning experiences, the teachers did make the difference with their great spirit and good English!
I was dismissed with a Pass, I sat at one of the restaurant tables and waited to be served dinner at La Table Khmere. I loved all the three dishes I was served, they were tasty and yummy indeed, and at the end I insisted on congratulating the chef personally…
LA TABLE KHMERE’S COOKING CLASS
Classes take place daily at 9am (3hours 30mins, price US$ 20) and 3pm (3hours, price US$ 19), and the maximum of participants is 13. The classes include a visit to the local market (this for the morning classes only), refreshments, all cooking ingredients, hands-on preparation of the daily dishes with instruction by their cooking class team, and the final enjoyment of your freshly prepared dishes. Nothing is needed, all will be provided. Bookings can be made either directly with their waiter/waitresses or by using their ‘about us‘ form at www.la-table-khmere.com La table khmere also offers private cooking classes upon request. The rate depends on the number of participants and the dishes chosen.
LA TABLE KHMERE’S RESTAURANT
If cooking is not for you, La Table Khmere invites you to taste the flavor of traditional Khmer specialties and fusion cuisine in a stylish ambiance and atmosphere. You can choose from their à-la-carte menu with a wide range of Khmer dishes and house specialties freshly prepared and cooked to order. Their daily special lunch menu includes a soft drink or a draft beer: read about it on the board! Their Khmer Set Menu is recommended if you want to make the most of your dining experience: it comprises of a little of everything, a delightful opportunity to savor as many of their chef’s specialties in one sitting.