Friday, 9 July 2010

Chef Pants and the magic pizza

Despite an early start yesterday we decided against visiting the Angkor Wat site due to exhaustion from our long journey the previous day; instead we plumped for cooking school. We wandered in to town and had an ice coffee whilst watching the locals zip around on mopeds and then pottered about the market for a bit - wonderful bustling and smelt great from all the spices and herbs on sale. All the sales women perch squatting in the middle of the tables with their wares before them (including chickens displayed feet upwards towards the customers and live fish slapping out their death throes at the sales women's feet, awaiting a customer and the inevitable chop of a big machete knife- almost trod on one great monk fish making a desperate bid for freedom along the floor)

A few mellow jars were consumed whilst chatting to a Singaporean girl and her American boyfriend before we made our way to Le Tigre de Papier restaurant for our lesson in Khymer cooking. A nice lady named Chenny asked us to pick a started each and a main course each which we were then to cook. Simon picked fresh shrimp spring rolls and Fish Amok and I plumped for spicy mango salad and scallop Amok. She then lead us back through the food market this time explaining what every thing was and getting us to taste a variety of fresh herbs, fruits and vegs before taking back to the restaurant and up some narrow steps into an open sided thatched roofed turret atop the building.

The turret kitchen was spotlessly clean and a bowl of lime infused water was all set out for washing our hands before we were donned in chef's hats and aprons and set to chopping. She was very sweet and enjoyed our calling "Yes Chef" after she demo'd how to slice lemon grass, fresh sweet basil, tumeric, garlic, shallots, chilli etc. We also made a fab coconut custard which is steamed in a sweet green pumpkin for an hour. It was really really good fun and we learned heaps of techniques - cooking with out oil, the use of flavours and building each one into the dish separately , making the pastes. She also had us make little banana leaf bowls to serve the yellow curry in and sharon fruit roses to garnish the plate. One we finished we sat down in the restaurant and enjoyed obviously the finest meal ever (coz we made it!!)

After this we were full and tired and hot and came back to the hotel for a shower and rest. We wandered back out about 6.30pm for cocktails at the Foreign Correspondents' Club (The "F"- as we foreign correspondents call it!) Very civilized. To be honest I wasn't much in the mood for drinking a lot and took it easy. After the sublime surroundings of the F we went to the ridiculous ambiance of the Dead Fish Tower- a bar/restaurant with wooden platforms and steps towering ever higher,real crocs in pools and Apsara dancing (trad Khmer stuff for people with double jointed fingers)

By this time, feeling hungry again but not fancying any more Khymer cuisine, Chef Pants suggested pizza. Apparently back in the day the Khymer people innocently used marijuana as a herb in cooking and they still do this only now you cannot buy it openly in the markets. With the onset of tourism they have hit on the idea of making pizzas "happy" as (what we thought) a gimmicky option when ordering. Neither us were interested in this and ordered standard pizzas (telling the waiter "No thanks we're happy enough" when he grinningly offered to make it a happy pizza)
Well it was a small but actually very tasty pizza - Si had a beer with it and I a coke (as I say I wanted to stay sane knowing today may well be Angkor Wat day)

Hmmmmmmmm- the little sod went and happied our pizza regardless! Of course we didn't know this til we were back at the guest house enjoying a quiet (beer for Si, small Bailey's for me) Suddenly we were feeling pretty surreal and giggling at the silliest stuff. Slowly realizing why this may be, we decided to make a quiet exit bedwards. As I stood gingerly up from the table I became aware I was standing n something squishy and so carefully squinted all the way down at my foot. Whether it was the pizza which made my processing skills so slow but it took me a seemingly ages and slow dawning realization that it was a living thing struggling under my foot... The triple lutz, back axle and a semi quaver met with a standing ovation from all the audience except the French on the next table (who unfortunately were the only audience) All the staff came running in and it turned out the hijinks was caused by a little yellow frog! Suddenly a policeman appeared from nowhere and collared the beasty - I pleaded for it's life but could hardly speak for a sudden urge to instead beseech the French "You lot don't eat it!"It was all a bit nighmarish given the pizza induced high we were on and we made a sharp exit. Once in bed the blasted pizza really kicked in and at one point we were thinking of trying to score some gnocchi to bring us down.

Anyway a very paranoid night ensued and we have had a late start today. Off for some lunch now (needless to say NOT italian!!) then to Angkor for sunset this evening and to buy our three day pass around the temples. Love and Pizza Man - Caio for now xxx

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