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Category: Cambodia

RFFMT – Running Amok in Siem Reap

Amok is the national dish of Cambodia – it is a yellow curry and can be made with chicken, fish or seafood.  I ate ’em all.  And they were all delicious! It is also served a variety of ways – often it comes wrapped in a banana leaf:

Amok  - Lotus Blanc
Amok – Lotus Blanc

 Or a coconut: 

Chicken Amok Siem Reap
Chicken Amok Siem Reap

Or sometimes, rather boringly on a plate!  Boo…

Chicken Amok 3
Chicken Amok 3

When we were in Siem Reap, I did a cooking class and learned to cook it! Here’s what I made in the class:

My PhotoFy_09_14_21_07

And Here’s one I made when I got home:

Home Made  Seafood Amok
Home Made Seafood Amok


But first…Siem Reap is a pretty town with sights ranging from the traditional:

Monks  - Siem Reap
Monks – Siem Reap


Market - Siem Reap
Market – Siem Reap

To the distinctly more modern:

Pub Street  - Siem Reap
Pub Street – Siem Reap

I couldn’t resist putting in this photo, it looks like Mark’s been photobombed by a pineapple! 

Siem Reap - Cocktails
Siem Reap – Cocktails

 There is also a bustling market for souvenirs and some lovely gift shops.  But dominating tourism in Siem Reap is it’s proximity to Angkor Wat, which is Unesco Heritage listed and the largest temple complex in the world.  The tourism system is very well organised, you can buy a one, three or seven day temple pass so can spend as  much time as you want exploring the area.

Cambodia Souvenirs
Cambodia Souvenirs

 We did a one day pass which was possibly a mistake.  By the end of the day, we were utterly exhausted!  I felt a bit sorry for our guide actually, he kept valiantly trying to explain the history to us but, by late afternoon, most of our group were beyond listening. And there were monkeys…

Monkeys - Angkor Wat

 And not just any monkeys…baby monkeys!!!!  Otherwise known as the cutest things in the world!

Monkeys - Angkor Wat2
Monkeys – Angkor Wat2

  I am a five year old.

Seriously though, the temples were pretty amazing…

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom was stunning and probably my favourite out of all of them. 

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom2
Angkor Thom2

 And you could rub noses with Buddha…

Rubbing Noses
Rubbing Noses

 Told you I was a 5 year old!

Ta Prohm

Then on to Ta Prohm which is the tree temple.  And pretty spectacular in itself:

Ta Prohm1
Ta Prohm1
Ta Prohm2
Ta Prohm2

  And then there was the big one, the one they all come to see.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

  You can get pretty high a completely natural way:

Angkor Wat2
Angkor Wat2

 But whoo…those stairs are steep!  I’m really, really scared of heights..the going up was fine.  The coming down on these very steep, but also very narrow steps, when it had just started to rain so everything was a little bit more slippery than it should have been?  Completely terrifying.  One of the most nerve wracking things I have ever done….

Steps Angkor Wat
Steps Angkor Wat

 What was not terrifying but totally amazing was the cooking school at The Temple I attended the next day.  And just whilst we’re on this.  The cooking school at the Temple?  $US10.  Best bang for buck cooking school EVER.  Did I mention before that the default currency in Cambodia is the US dollar?  You only ever get proper Cambodian money as small change. It’s really weird….

Anyway, for your $10 you get to make three things.  You have seen my Amok.  I also chose to make a Green Mango Salad which was super delicious:

Green Mango Salad
Green Mango Salad



















The third thing was a dessert but it wasn’t very nice.  Hence no photos. 

Making Amok

There was a funny moment though.  When they laid out the ingredients for the amok, I looked at them and thought.  “Wow, carrots must be expensive here.  But what’s the point of that one teeny, tiny piece.  What the hell good is that going to do?”

Ingredients - Amok
Ingredients – Amok


















That my friends, is not carrot.  It is turmeric.  Which I had only ever seen as a bright yellow powder before, hence my confusion. IT is also what gives the Amok it’s traditional yellow colour.  If you can’t find fresh turmeric, you can use the powdered version.  However I managed to find some in my local asian market so it is available.  It looks a bit like ginger but is bright orange! It is also super good for you!

My PhotoFy_09_14_21_47

 One thing to be aware of with either the powdered or the fresh version…book a manicure for the day after you make your amok.  Otherwise your fingers will look like you smoke a pack a day for the foreseeable future! 

2014-09-14_09-40-19I”m off to have mine now!

Have a fabulous week everyone!


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PS.  They didn’t really give us a recipe for the Amok in the class.  My version below is heavily adapted from the one at

RFFMT – Seafood Amok

RFFMT – Seafood Amok


  • 2 dried red chillies soaked in boiling water, drained, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh turmeric (can use powdered if not available)
  • 2 tablespoons grated galangal (can use ginger if not available)
  • 2 lemongrass stems (inner core only), grated
  • 2 eschalots, chopped
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 1/4 cup (65g) grated palm sugar
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 400g skinless blue-eye or other firm fleshed white fish, cut into 3-4cm pieces
  • 12 green prawns
  • 2 banana leaves
  • 1 long red chilli, thinly sliced
  • Rice or Naan Bread to serve


  • Combine the chilli, garlic, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, eschalot, lime zest, shrimp paste, palm sugar, half the kaffir lime leaves and 2 teaspoons salt in a mortar and pestle or small food processor and pound or whiz until a fine paste.
  • Transfer paste to a frypan over medium heat and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool slightly. Add the seafood and toss to combine.
  • Cut each banana leaf into two 25cm x 15cm rectangles. Carefully wave both sides of each leaf over a medium-high flame, then set aside (the heat from the flame will soften the leaves, making them more pliable). Lay each banana leaf out, divide the seafood among the leaves and fold in the ends, securing with toothpicks to form 4 small trays. Top with remaining marinade and sprinkle with remaining kaffir lime leaves and half the sliced chilli. Place in a steamer over medium-high heat and cook for 15 minutes or until the fish is tender and cooked through.
  • Place the seafood parcels on serving plates. Remove toothpicks and scatter with remaining sliced chilli. Serve with rice (traditional) or naan bread (because it's my favourite).




Holiday in Cambodia: Phnom Pehn: The Worst and Best of Human Nature

Before this holiday I knew very little about Cambodia.  

I had vaguely heard of Pol Pot  and a film called the Killing Fields. I knew some bad stuff had happened there.  And that was about it.

That was about to change.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Whilst in Phnom Pehn,  we spent a morning at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  This is a former school that became a prison (S21) during the Pol Pot Regime.  It is estimated that 20,000 people were imprisoned here.  Seven survived. 

In case you didn’t quite catch that, let me reiterate.


Not seven thousand.

Not seven hundred.


Out of  20,000.

Here they are:

Survivors of Tuol Sleng
Survivors of Tuol Sleng

And this was only one of the many, many prisons in the country.  All up about a quarter of the population was killed during Pol Pot’s regime. That these were largely the educated people – doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists and bureaucrats only made rebuilding the country even harder afterwards.  How do you even start to rebuild an infrastructure when all of the people who would normally be in charge of that type of thing are dead?

In the museum there are rooms and rooms of photos of the people who were murdered.  Many of the officials from the Khmer Rouge died here. But who really gives a shit if those murdering arseholes turned on each other?  Live by the sword, die by the sword. 

Whoo, look at me getting all Biblical on the Khmer Rouge.

And if you have a defunct political party you would like me to trashtalk, you know where to find me.  

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Back to Tuol Sleng.  What was depressing was…well, pretty much all of it.

But what was truly distressing were the photos of the hundreds of children who were executed.

Jeez….Some of them don’t look old enough to be potty trained let alone be plotting the downfall of the government.  

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Enemies of the State?

 Tuol Sleng is a blood chilling place where the dark marks on the floors and walls are blood stains and the reminders of man’s brutality are everywhere.  I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo of this because it was just too horrible but there was a board of children where their prison ID’s were pinned into the skin of their chests or necks

Murdering arsehole doesn’t even begin to describe the people who did that.

There is a name for them.

Which I will not repeat because I’m a lady.

(That breath of air you just felt?  That was my mother breathing the hugest sigh of relief ever).

But you know exactly the word I mean.

Visiting Tuol Sleng also made me feel kind of stupid.  Why didn’t I know about this?  I studied history dammit! Let alone being alive, albeit a very young child whilst this was happening. It actually made me really angry.  We spent a whole semester in History class learning about the Dutch guilds of the 17th century.  And despite that being a truly fascinating subject (said no one ever) it may have been slightly more important to learn about the stuff that was happening on our doorstep.  Then again, that we did nothing to help the Cambodian people as a quarter of their population was decimated may have had something to do with that.

Rules S21
Rules S21

The people who actually saved the Cambodians were the Vietnamese.  Short version, Pol Pot tried to do his crazy arse genocide thing on a couple of Vietnamese villages.  He too, obviously, was not au fait with recent history.  Because here’s one thing I do know.  If you go into Vietnam and try to push your agenda onto them, the Vietnamese will not only kick your arse but they will also hand your testicles back to you on a platter.  And if you don;t believe me, ask France.  Or America.  Snapping Pol Pot’s nuts was a walk in the park for them. Seriously, it took all of about ten days for the Vietnamese Army to invade Cambodia, take control of Phnom Pehn and send Pol Pot back into the jungle crying for his mummy. 

After Tuol Sleng, our Tuk Tuk driver asked if we wanted to head out to the killing fields.  This is apparently a thing.  We politely declined.  There is only so much horror and unremitting cruelty I can cope with on any one day.   

So after an experience like that, how do you shake the feeling that humanity is not only doomed but deserves to be?

A visit to the Lotus Blanc Restaurant.

Lotus BlancThe Lotus Blanc is an initiative by a French NGO called Pour un Sourire d’Enfant” (For the Smile of a Child) and is a venture similar to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen.  Except without the shitty attitudes and sense of entitlement. PSE trains disadvantaged Cambodian kids in hospitality skills in order to give them a career and a life off the streets.

This was truly the best meal we had in PP.  Not just for the food, which we will get to.  But for the sheer joy of the young people who were working there.  From the wait staff to the cooks, you have never seen a team of people so proud of what they are doing and so delighted to be  sharing it with you.  This place was an absolute delight from the moment we walked in to the moment we left.  It was truly a magical evening.

Lyheang lead the team who looked after us and did a fabulous job!!!  

Lyseang - Lotus Blanc
Lyseang – Lotus Blanc

 Here is our entree which was a prawn (Shrimp) salad.  Just the right blend of chilli and lime to make it truly delicious and you can almost taste the crispy freshness of the vegetables!

Prawn Salad  Lotus Blanc
Prawn Salad Lotus Blanc

 I had a traditional Amok for my main.  Needless to say delicious!  Amok Lotus Blanc


Normally we don’t have dessert.   But Lyheang convinced me that the Crepes Suzette would be a good idea.  He was right.

It was flamed at the table:

Crepes Suzette 1
Crepes Suzette 1

 And looked and tasted divine!

Crepes Suzette 2
Crepes Suzette 2

 That this place exists gives me hope.  

If you ever happen to go to Cambodia, please make this a must on your list, it really is worth it.

And it is a powerful antidote to the evil.  

 You can learn more about some of the things I have spoken about by clicking the links below:

About Pol Pot and The Khmer Rouge

About PSE

Have a great week!

Signature 1 Vintage Valentine Quick as Wink2








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