Battambang, Cambodia: Learning to make Fish Amok + where to eat and drink
It was a hot morning when we rolled up to Smokin’ Pot, a little worse for wear from the night before (more on that below), with a single mission in mind: learn to make fish amok. We’d seen the dish on nearly every restaurant menu since arriving in Cambodia and fell madly for it at first bite.
So there we were, at the capable hands of Vannak Robie, ready to immerse ourselves in Khmer cooking with his restaurant’s daily cooking class. First up, we needed ingredients. Away from the central area of Battambang, we tucked into a little local market to pick up a pile of fresh ingredients. And I mean fresh. Produce looks to have been picked that morning. Fish, still writhing, are killed and descaled in front of you. Coconut is husked, drained and shredded fresh onsite. What a delight.
With supplies in hand, it was over to Vannak’s beautiful outdoor kitchen in the countryside to cook up three dishes. Curry Chicken and Vegetables along with Ginger Fish were outstanding and a treat to make, but that Fish Amok – it’s our new love.
Making Fish Amok
- First, the curry paste. Ours saw chopped lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, galangal and garlic tossed into a heavy mortar for a thorough pounding
- Then, that freshly shredded coconut was put into cheese cloth and squeezed oh so tightly to extract the freshest coconut milk I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying
- Mix a bit of fish sauce and palm sugar into the fresh coconut milk before tossing in a big scoop of curry paste, chopped river fish and straw mushrooms
- Make yourself a little banana leaf bowl by folding up the sides and securing with a tooth pick
- Pour in your already delicious smelling mix and set in a steamer for 30 minutes or more
- Serve with rice and devour
The experience was nothing short of wonderful, topped off by the chance to pick and eat papaya straight from the trees on the property. If you find yourself in Battambang, make sure to stop by Smokin’ Pot and sign up for a class. Find Smokin' Pot at the corner of Rd No 1.5 and Street 121, Krong Battambang, Cambodia.
Eating and Drinking in Battambang
Battambang might be Cambodia’s second biggest city, but you’d be hard pressed to believe it walking through the part of town we found ourselves in. Roads are still unpaved in many areas, small restaurants dot the streets everywhere and animals roam as free as the children on scooters. It’s a bit quaint, a bit chaotic and it’s not hard to see why the expat community seems to have no plans of leaving any time soon.
If you’re hanging around for a couple days, make sure to get off the beaten track to learn about the local food and drink. Any tuktuk driver will offer a tour that’s well worth taking: through the countryside, you’ll learn about bamboo sticky rice, handmade rice paper rolls and rice wine, infused with any number of things, including grilled cobra.
When in town, there’s no shortage of options so follow your stomach and enjoy. Our favourite picks included:
Rd No 1.5, Near Psar Nath, Battambang, Cambodia
When the country you’re in has an affinity for 3 in 1 coffee – a powdered mix of coffee, whitener and sugar – finding a well-made cup is a treat for two Canadians who can’t shake the habit. Stop in here for a great cup and to support the café’s social missions.
Chinese Noodle and Dumplings
Rd No 2 between St119 and 121, Battambang, Cambodia
As the name would suggest, heaping piles of Chinese style noodles and dumplings – fried or steamed – are served up at this no fuss little restaurant. It’s cheap, easy and a great way to fuel up for a day biking through the beautiful country side.
Corner of Pub St and St 121, Battambang, Cambodia
The source of our great night and rough morning, Madison Corner is owned by a Frenchman who seems to import pastis and expats in disproportionate quantities. The former, an anise-flavoured spirit, is served for next to nothing during happy hour. The latter, will welcome you to the table and keep you out far too late. Both were very much enjoyed.