Monday, June 6, 2011

Learning to Cook Khmer Cuisine, Part 2: Vegetarian Spring Rolls and Dipping Sauce

Large bottles of icy water greeted us upon arrival at our open air classroom. As we recovered from the heat of the marketplace, our chef instructor, Heng, oriented us about the way the day would proceed. The two couples had opted for the half-day class (and would learn to prepare two dishes), while Belinda --the other Aussie-- and I had both signed up for the full-day class. She and I would cook four Khmer dishes, including dessert. We all received Cambodia Cooking Class' Khmer Recipes, which featured the dishes we made in class. The recipes are taken from that cookbook.

The first dish we learned to make was Khmer fried vegetarian spring rolls with sweet and sour dipping sauce, known in Khmer as Chaio Yor.

For 25 spring rolls
Spring Rolls
2 cups taro root (shredded)
2 cups carrot (shredded)
25 spring roll shells (rice paper)
1 tbs peanuts
1 beaten egg
3 cups cooking oil
salt, sugar, pepper to taste

Dipping Sauce
4 cloves garlic
1 shallot
1 fresh red pepper
1 fresh hot chili
2 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs peanuts(crushed)

One of the students shredded the tarot root while another did the same with the carrot. The tarot root was put in a large mixing bowl and salt was added. The salt, in conjunction with the kneading, helps to pull the starch from the tarot root.

It was amazing how the texture of the tarot changed after all the kneading.

Then we mixed the tarot root, carrots and peanuts together. We seasoned the mixture with mixture with sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Next it was time to shape the mixture into mini sausages that would then be rolled in the rice paper.

The trickiest part came next, as we had to make sure we kept the edges of the rice paper even.

Our chef instructor demonstrated first.

After rolling the mixture in the rice paper, we sealed the spring rolls by dipping the outer edges in beaten egg.

This is how the spring rolls should look before they go into the oil.

While the oil heated, we prepared the simple yet flavorful dipping sauce from staple ingredients.

After crushing the garlic in a mortar (which we used throughout the class), we added all the other ingredients and mixed them.

We heated the oil and added the spring rolls.

The oil must be hot enough to make the spring rolls crisp on the outside, yet cooked on the inside. It took about 10 minutes or so.

The spring rolls looked lovely after they finished cooking!

The only thing left was to dip the spring roll into the sauce and eat. The spring rolls were crisp, with the dipping sauce providing just the right flavoring and heat. They were a lovely first course.

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