Saturday, 23 January 2010

Siem Reap

Very impressive! A very skilled acrobat will do anything for a bit of cash as he risks his life, minute by minute, by jumping through a ferocious hoop of sharp knives and a flame of fire! It was in this street that we also met Douk, a victim of a land mine. Here there is a massive problem from unexploded mines, and this man had lost both his forearms. As he approached us, he put out his right arm to shake hands, which we did. We chatted for a short while about his horrific injuries, and of course it made us realise that there is far more to Cambodian history than the ancient Khmer Kingdom. Next week we will be witnessing first-hand just exactly what this means.

Having been lost in the rabbit warrens of the night markets here, we appreciate very much that the Cambodians are very skilled in what they do, and are also very practical! Last night, Simon bought two 'kramas', which are essentially large patterned cloths that slightly resemble tea towels with their checkered colours. Cambodians are very proud of these and some may even say that it marks their national identity. They can be used in a variety of ways such as scarves, headscarves and a type of visor that may shield against the dust of a busy city. In more specific terms of being skilled, it may be easier not to tell you what we mean but to show you in the fantastic picture above.

It was absolutely necessary to taste the unusual fruits of Cambodia. We stumbled across a quiet market stall where we saw some unusual fruits that included the mangosteens (above) and the Rambutans (below). The flesh of the mangosteens, once peeled, was jelly-like and resembled garlic cloves with its whiteness and shape. The taste, however, was very different and could be described as a complex vanilla flavour! The Rambutan also contained a flesh of similar texture, but was much sweeter and succulent.

The day started off with a stunning, spicy noodle-soup and a baguette. Don't forget that the French influence still lingers on in some quarters! The coffee here is frankly fantastic. Remember the coffee roasting ceremony in the streets of Sihanoukville last week? Well today it was time to try the real thing. Angkor coffee is rich, intense and very, very smokey. Great!
Cambodia is also famed for producing the best peppercorns in the world, from Kampot. Rick Stein thinks so anyway, and based on the stir-fried chicken with onions and black pepper we had at our favourite haunt last night, he's bang-on right.
During the afternoon we sampled Khmer spring rolls and a revelation of a soup made from pumpkin and coconut. the background taste was of Amok, a typically Khmer flavouring. Last year we raved about the lassis in India; this year the big taste sensation on the drinks front is coconut shakes. The recipe will follow, but basically, think slush-puppy with a deep, rich and intense coconut flavour!

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