Trying the local food is a highlight to travel, which is why a cooking class in Siem Reap is a must whilst you are in the ancient city.
Whilst in Siem Reap, we headed to Paper Tiger (previously known as Le Tigre de Papier) – one of the best cooking courses and restaurants. You can choose which meal you want to cook, head to a local market and get cooking. Classes start at 10am, 1pm and 5pm in English with the 5pm course also catering to french speaking tourists. Each course lasts for 3 hours plus the time to eat your dishes.
In the first hour, we were taken to the Psar Chaa Old Market to discover the fruits, spices and vegetables available for our meals. Visiting the local market is one of the most intersting things to do in Siem Reap besides the temples, so we would highly recommend visiting, even if you are not on in class.
As someone who had (until recently) been a vegetarian, I admit I was a tad squirmy walking through the market – in fairness, a fish did jump off a plate towards me! Anyway, we walked around with the cooking staff who explained the different ingredients and shared interesting facts along the way. There was a stall that sold nearly every part of the pig, bringing light to Calum’s random saying (he is full of these) “You can eat everything but the squeal”. The pig brains were an interesting item for sale but looked far too human!
We then headed back to the kitchen and were talked through how to prepare our own individual starters and mains. Calum and I had chosen some fresh spring rolls for a starter and the lady was so surprised to see that Calum was amazing at cutting up veg and crushing stuff in the mortar and me…not so much. She did actually tell me off when I explained that Calum does the cooking at home.
Next, Calum had a Chicken and Cashew stir fry that he managed to cut and cook in like 10 minutes (note to self: choose trickier meals during a cooking class). I chose the Khmer Lasagna – intrigued by the Cambodian take on a favourite dish of mine. It was an interesting take, using egg plant instead of Lasagne sheets but still having a load of cheese on top before popping it into the Stone Bake Oven to give it the crispy, gooey texture. Amazing! For dessert, the staff asked if we wanted to make either a Mango Sticky Rice or a sweet Pumpkin thing (not entirely sure on the actual name I do apologise). Anyway, the people we were with chose the Pumpkin and if I am honest, it wasn’t quite to my liking but hey, when in Cambodia…
Once you have made all the dishes, you are taken down to a table in the restaurant and served each dish. We were with a few different couples and a solo traveller so it was nice to get to know and make friends with other travellers in the area.
This place is great value for money, with the 3 hour course only costing $14 plus drinks with your meal. The staff are incredibly professional and taught the techniques of cutting and cooking as well as how to prepare the Khmer meals.
A great experience, even for those (like me) who can’t cook!
Have you ever tried to cook and Cambodian style meals? What’s your favourite dish? Let us know in the comments below.