A great way to take advantage of the wide variety of produce in Cambodia is to make a salad. Our chef instructor introduced us to banana blossom salad (nyom trayong jek neung Moan, in Khmer), with which I was completely unfamiliar. I had no idea that the flowers that hold the bananas were edible, or that they could be so tasty. But then again, that's the point in going to a cooking class -- to learn cool stuff like that!
The salad is not difficult to make and is visually quite attractive. It's also fragrant from the fresh herbs. We used mint and basil. This salad would also work well without the chicken, so it is vegetarian-friendly.
Recipe (from Cambodia Cooking Class, Khmer Recipes
1 banana flower
2 tbs of mixed herbs (mint, basil, fishwort, cilantro)
150 g chicken breast, cut into pieces
1 chili pepper, julienned
juice of 1 lime
1 chili pepper
1 bird chilli
juice of 2 limes
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs palm sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of water
You could roast or poach the chicken. We did the latter. After it cooled, we pulled it into pieces.
Remove the leaves of the herbs (sweet basil, cilantro, fishwort and mint) from the stems. Cut large leaves into smaller pieces.
This salad uses only the young (inner)parts of the banana flower, so take of the pink-purple outer layer first.
Next, cut the young flower leaves into very thin slices. To prevent them from darkening, immediately soak them in water with a generous squeeze of lime juice.
For the dressing, cut chili pepper, bird chili and garlic. Put them into a mortar and grind a little, but not to a paste. Put the ground peppers and garlic in the water and add shallots, fish sauce, lime juice, salt and palm sugar to taste.
Put the banana flower leaves in a bowl, together with the chicken, herbs, chili and the dressing and mix well.
Arrange on a plate. Our chef instructor showed us how to use chop sticks to twist the salad into a a circle to make it look pretty. I tried!