Cambodian Cooking School

It took me years to figure out this one out. But now I’m hooked.

While traveling, I like to take cooking classes.

Food. Culture. Local interaction. Cooking classes are the perfect souvenir.

I did one last year at Le Tigre de Papier Cooking School in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

It was my last day there, and I was catching a flight out that night. I had hours to kill and wanted to spend it engaging more than just browsing shops or getting a foot massage. (I often feel out of sorts on travel days, not knowing how to spend the time)

This cooking class was a steal. It cost the equivalent of about $12 US for 3 hours of instruction and the meal. The best part of it was that we each chose 2 dishes we wanted to make.

I had eaten at the restaurant a few nights before, so I chose two dishes that I LOVED and could imagine preparing for myself at home. Papaya salad and Khmer canneloni (The last one doesn’t sound authentic, does it? Bear with me. I will explain)

The class started with a walk-through of a local market. You gotta love those “fresh” sights and smells…

Then we retreated to the cooking school located on the top level of the restaurant, overlooking the busy streets. There we chopped, shredded, minced, pounded, ground, sliced, fried, and doused.

As mentioned, I fell in love with the Khmer canneloni. It was a casserole of green curry made with rice paper noodles. Heavenly, but I had to prepare the homemade curry myself by grinding the chilis and spices together forever.

Each time, I thought I was done, the chef shook her head and ordered, “More!”

One of the benefits of taking cooking classes abroad is that you learn about the different vegetables and spices used in the dishes. Most can be bought in your own country at an ethnic grocery store. It’s also great to watch locals prepare dishes with their “special touch.” Knowing how ridiculously easy some dishes are, I will never order them in a restaurant again.

The classes are offered in both French and English, and it’s fun to chat with other participants. I met 6 year old Tollie from England, who actually cooked!

At the end of the class, you share your creations. There’s no photo of the canneloni (ate it too fast), but here’s some of our feast.

Can’t make it to Siem Reap for the cooking class? I just discovered Le Tigre De Papier’s online cooking tutorials. In the mood for a little Cambodian tonight?

Have you ever taken cooking classes abroad? How was your experience?

13 thoughts on “Cambodian Cooking School

  1. What a great experience! I never would have thought to do something like this but I seriously want to now. I hope there is something like this in Indonesia.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Amy,
      I did one in Thailand too, which was amazingly insightful about ingredients and spices! I would love love love to do one in India!

  2. Cooking classes in India are a must for any visitor there! They have great local food, and well, I love anything with spice in it, so India which is the home of spice, it was perfect for me!
    Unfortunately, recreating the experience with the food at home didn’t turn out to be quite as expected. We couldn’t get some of the ingredients, but in the end it turned out to be delicious. Still, it wasn’t quite the same.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Ashley,
      Ingredients can be a problem… I know that with trying to make a few Thai dishes, but we do the best we can! Plus, I think locals just have a special finesse we don’t share that goes into their food…

  3. I’ve thought about taking a cooking class while traveling before, but I never have taken one. I figure that I could learn how to cook those dishes when I get home. The trouble is that I never take up those dishes. I think I should just go for it next time I travel. It looks like you had fun.

    • maryrichardson

      Go for it, Steve! And you don’t have to worry about being the only male. There were men in classes I did in Thailand and Cambodia.

  4. I absolutely love the pic of you yielding that huge knife! 🙂 What a brilliant idea and something I never got around to doing while traveling (but would love to!) So sorry to be MIA last week – was traveling but without internet, and sloowly catching up!

    Hope you have a wonderful week ahead, Mary!

  5. Chriss

    Already planning on doing the cooking class in Cambodia, do you have any recommendations for Bangkok classes? Thanks for your info.

    • maryrichardson

      Dear Chriss,
      Hope you enjoy it! I did a cooking class in Chiang Mai, but not Bangkok. But my favorite cafe there does offer a cooking class I’d love to take. It’s called May Kaidee. You can find it recommended in Frommer’s.

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