After meeting at the restaurant we piled into tuk-tuks again and headed off to a market near the riverside, where our class instructor pointed out the different herbs, spices, fruit, vegetables and meats and told us their names and what kind of dishes they were used in. Between chatting, taking photos, warily eyeing the live fish and crabs and the general hustle and bustle, I missed a lot of what he said so can't relay very much of use.. However I did discover that turmeric looks like a cross between a carrot and a ginger root. Also, I discovered what galangal looks like. Ya, that's about it. Everything was very fresh and the meat was unaccompanied by the usual smells gained by hanging in a hot, close space for hours on end. In fact, as I mentioned the crabs and fish were still alive!
After our market tour we carried on to the cooking school. First up were deep fried spring rolls with taro and carrot and a delicious peanut dipping sauce.
After salting and squeezing the liquid out of the taro, a feat requiring a fair bit of exertion, we rolled it with the carrot into cylindrical shapes before rolling it in the dough and then deep frying. The rather sedate flavours of the taro and carrot were perfectly contemplated by the nutty, spicy dipping sauce. Sitting around a table sharing a meal with predominantly strangers means politeness levels are pretty high and after we'd all tucked into our rolls, one lone roll lay on the plate for about 10 minutes before compassion overtook me and I offered to put it out of it's misery.
Next was the fish amok, which I might add is an exceptionally tasty dish. I've tried it at a few restaurants (the best of which was found in Siem Reap) but had never attempted to make it myself.
It's a rather complicated affair involving pounding lemongrass, lime rind, ginger, garlic, turmeric, chilies and shallots in a pestle and mortar, adding red curry paste and then coconut milk and fish. We pinned banana leaves into a bowl and then cooked the whole mixture in a double boiler.
Once it's cooked you can garnish it with julienne peppers and coconut milk and enjoy with rice.
It really was delicious and an added bonus of the day was getting to hang out with some of my colleagues, such lovely people, and making a new friend.