Sue from Imaginative Traveller HQ recently visited Cambodia on our Real Food Adventure, experiencing some of the country’s most inspiring sights and getting to grips with its distinct and historic cuisine, from fish amok to Khmer curry to bahn chao. Check out what Sue got up to below.
On our first day we briefly explored Phnom Penh by cyclo, were blessed by a monk before setting off for S21 Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields which was quite harrowing. We then drove down to Kampot which is a quieter riverside town and tried some local food in the evening.
The following morning we headed to the market for breakfast, Cambodian style (noodles, soups, pancakes, tripe etc).
We were then whisked away, first to a salt farm and then the largest pepper farm in Cambodia where we tried numerous different peppers - favourite amongst the group was the salted kampot pepper.
After that we went to the fish market and tried squid on skewers and sticky rice in bamboo leaves before having a lunch of crabs, clams, squid, fish soup.
On Saturday evening we went on a sunset river cruise from Kampot out to the rural countryside.
On Easter morning we got up very early to see the fishing boats return to port with their catch.
Then we went to the market in Kampot for breakfast and another market in Phnom Penh for lunch... noodle soup with beef or pork, bahn chao (the yellow pancake filled with veg), pigs’ ears, sticky rice with coconut and spring rolls were some of the things we chose.
In the late afternoon we met up with a chef who took us back to the market to explain the produce to us. He took us to his kitchen where we each had to prepare our own fish amok and mango salad. Several struggled in the heat (40°C outside plus the heat of the kitchen), but we all made it to the end and massively enjoyed what we had produced... delicious! We even made the bowls out of banana leaf to steam the fish in :D
So, today is Monday and we’ve got a long drive up to Battambang. En route, we stopped at a silversmiths and woodcarvers where everything is made by disabled people. An hour or so further down the road we stopped to see clay pots being made. The pictures are actually of small clay ovens used in the majority of villager’s houses.
This is our tour leader. His dad taught him how to work with silver.
We arrived in Battambang and, after the long journey, ran for a cooling swim in the hotel pool only for a thunderstorm to start within a few minutes! But the storm passed as quickly as it began so we hopped in some tuk tuks to the bamboo train.
We travelled for about 10 minutes before hopping off for a stroll in the countryside, during which time the trains were taken off, allowing another one to pass, turned around and prepared for the return trip.
We got back into our tuk tuks and went for dinner on the terrace of a local’s house. We started with battered aubergine with a pepper dip, rice with chicken & ginger (very spicy – more like ginger with chicken :D) followed by some traditional DIY cooking. We were given a table burner with a mount and moat pan. Broth was poured into the moat and we were given butter to coat the mound. We then put vegetables into the broth to cook whilst we grilled slices of beef, pork and chicken on the mound.
The next morning we went for a 23km cycle ride around Battambang, stopping to see how banana chips are made and fermented fish sauce is produced (very smelly)...
In the afternoon we drove to Banteay Chhmar (little city) which is an area up in the north west of Cambodia, near the Thai border. We were sleeping in home-stays so went to meet our hosts before exploring the village and learning about their lives. We finished the walk in the 12th century temple grounds where a table was laid for us for dinner. As the sun set behind the temple, we feasted on chicken and kefir lime soup, rice, pumpkin and egg followed by fresh fruit and all washed down by a well-earned cold beer.
We explored the temple at Bantaey Chhar before heading for Siem Reap.
Insect and innards tasting in Siem Reap this evening. We ate a selection of frogspawn, crickets, chicken bums, foetus eggs, chicken gizzards, liver and heart and some Mekong eel.
It's our last full day today and we rose early, leaving the hotel at 4.30am to get prime position for sunrise over Angkor Wat. We arrived in complete darkness but as each minute passed more and more of the temples became visible.
Oh, and by the way, there were no bad tummies after the insects and innards eaten the night before!
A few Angkor Wat pics from last day.
And for our final farewell dinner we went to Marum which is a TREE restaurant (TREE is a global alliance of training restaurants offering its partners in the NGO world access to established high quality standards of practice in the field of social enterprise and extensive support in implementing those. All profits from TREE restaurants are invested in the students who train there and the social programs which support them on their journey to becoming a skilled, productive and happy young person with a more secure future).
Whilst we laughed at some of the stories from our trip, we enjoyed some great food. This was the perfectly apt way to end our Cambodian food adventure.
GROUP TOUR from £735 for 9 days