Le Tigre de Papier

Sep 10, 2010 1 Comment by

A while back when we were visiting Thailand we decided that from then on we would make a point of doing a cooking class whenever possible while traveling.  I’m actually surprised we remembered that conversation considering the amount of booze that was consumed on that full moon party weekend.  Since then, we’ve done a couple classes here in Singapore that we really enjoyed, but Le Tigre was our first official ‘travel and learn to cook’ experience.  I have to say, we weren’t disappointed.

If I said to you “I’m going out for Cambodian!” I’m pretty sure your mind would be blank, save one burning question:  What do Cambodians eat?  Trust me, you’re not alone.  I figured rice was a safe assumption, but beyond that I had no clue.  Turns out some of the dishes we cooked at Le Tigre we right up our taste-bud alley, loosely combining Thai and Vietnamese cuisines into one mega-delicious hybrid.  Makes sense considering the geography I suppose.

We actually arrived a bit late to the class thanks to a rather lethargic and uncommonly safe-driving Touk Touk driver.  This was unfortunate as part of the class was a brief tour through the neighbouring markets to check out the local fresh food and to get some explanation of what you’re looking at.  Luckily, the staff was nice enough to send us with someone to quickly show us around and answer any questions.  These markets are not Safeway, Coles, Fair Price, or your local Farmers Market.  Wow.  This is a whole different topic, but let just impress upon you how chaotic, smelly, loud, and just awesome these markets are.  You can watch fish be smashed to death then cut up, eels sliced while you wait, random vats of unknown mixtures churned, local people sleeping amongst the vegetables, and countless locals haggling with the sellers.  I wish I had more time to ask questions, but mostly I was lost for words given the scenery.

So, after the market tour we were led through a couple of alleyways to a different restaurant where we ascended three stories up narrow stairs to a covered rooftop open-air kitchen.  Sounds a bit sketchy, but it was a really cool place to cook.  There was all sorts of stainless steel bench space and a very unique and interesting view of the town.  There were already two others who had started their cooking class, but we were welcomed and encouraged to quickly gear up and begin cooking.

What to cook…   Well, while briefly in the restaurant before our tour we were given the menu and asked what we want to cook.  Cool!  Anything from the menu, one appetiser and one main per person.  It’s great to have so much choice, and we finally settled on the following:  Banana flower salad and spicy shrimp salad for the appetisers, and Khmer Chicken with Bok Choy and Somior Machou Khroung with Rice for the mains.  Yes, I’ll explain.  No, I don’t know what the name of the 2nd main means, other than maybe ‘Damn Delicious beef soup concoction”.

The instructor for the class was really pleasant and super patient.  She wandered around from person to person as we were cooking to give us instructions, step by step.  They weren’t the hardest dishes in the world, but had a lot of ingredients and prep work involved.  There were a couple of interesting ingredients that we hadn’t cooked with before like hot basil, banana flower, and fresh turmeric.  I was actually quite surprised to find turmeric as a common ingredient in Cambodian food as I had always associated it with Indian food in the powdered form.  Yay for enlightenment!

Our ingredients came all nicely sorted along with a host of clingfilm wrapped kitchen utensils.  I actually think this cooking class may be single-handedly supporting the clingfilm industry as they wrapped absolutely every utensil after being washed.  Spoons, veggie shredder, cutting board, knives, and serving spoons were all subject to this bizarre plastic mummification.  I’m sure they had a reason, but strange nonetheless.

We minced the shallots, chopped the coriander, sliced the banana flower, and plucked the basil.  Once that was all done it was time for a good pounding… with mortar and pestle.  Yes, back to the basics here folks.  I really like making food by this method and often do so at home for things like guacamole and curry paste, so I was right at home here.  I pounded the crap out of the turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, limeleaf, and red onion until it was a yellowy fragrant paste.  This was the basic flavouring of the beef soup I was making, along with vegetable stock.  It really is amazing the difference that pounding fresh ingredients together can make, as opposed to buying pre-made pastes.  I highly recommend giving it a whirl, even if you use a food processor instead of the old fashioned mortar and pestle.

One thing I really enjoyed about this class was that the instructor didn’t simply tell us what to chop up and how to combine it.  She went the extra mile to include some tips on presentation and cutting techniques.  I learned an interesting way to slice snake beans, make a tomato flower, turn carrots into ninja stars, and use slivered peppers for garnish.  Having a great interest in not just eating but cooking as well, this made the class top notch for us.  Sure my tomato flower didn’t turn out all that beautiful, but damn my soup was sexy.

Spicy Shrimp Salad

Super fresh and crunchy, this salad finishes with a spicy kick.  Cucumber, carrot, basil leaves, shallots, and chilis made the bulk of this salad, topped with succulent poached shrimp.  Everything is tossed together with a spicy dressing made with vegetable stock, coriander root, shallot, garlic, fish sauce, lime, and chili.  You really can’t beat this for a fresh, healthy, satisfying summer salad.

Banana Flower Salad
Very similar to the Spicy Shrimp Salad, but minus the shrimp and add julienned banana flower.  The banana flower has to be soaked for a bit in water to avoid browning, and then gets tossed along with the rest to make yet another tasty and healthy dish.  The banana flower has a very unique crunch texture to it that leaves you feeling like you ate something substatial.

Khmer Chicken
Smash turmeric, garlic, shallot, lime leaf, lemongrass, and galangal into a paste a rub in on chicken.  How could this possibly go wrong?  This dish is full of all kinds of win.  Fry the chicken until cooked, and then toss in some veg stock to collect the leftover flavour from the drippings.  Reduce the stock, cook the bok choy quickly in it, and slather it all on top of the chicken.  The intense flavours from the smashed paste make this chicken taste like a whole new white meat.

Somior Machou Khroung
Like the Khmer Chicken, this beef soup starts with frying the meat in a delicious Khmer curry paste.  Add some vegetable stock, morning glory, saw leaf herb, lime juice, fish sauce, chicken powder, sugar, and a splash of coconut milk and you have a delicious Khmer (Cambodian) soup.  Again, the intense aromatic flavours are absolutely amazing.

Le Tigre de Papier
Siem Reap, Cambodia


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One Response to “Le Tigre de Papier”

  1. Alaine says:

    Yum, it all looks so good!

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