Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cambodian Recipe - Taro Chips

When we were at the Elephant Bar at the Raffles Hotel, they served taro chips, which turned out to be a classy spin on chips and salsa, and far better than any bar food that I had ever tried. It is quite simple to make these tasty (and healthy) little treats.

Ingredients:

One large taro
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt

Preparation:

  1. Peel the taro. A carrot peeler works great, but if you do not have one just use a paring knife.
  2. Thinly slice the taro, then cut into strips.
  3. Soak the taro in water to remove excess starch.
  4. Generously spread olive oil on a baking sheet and place the taro on the sheet, careful no to overlap. Can also line with aluminum foil.
  5. Sprinkle with salt.
  6. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes on each side at 350 degrees.
  7. These can be eaten on their own or served with chutney, sweet chili sauce, or even on their own.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Night Events

Phnom Penh, the capital city, is the wealthiest and most populous city in Cambodia. It is also the commercial, political and cultural hub of Cambodia and is home to more than one million of Cambodia's population of over 13 million people.

The majority of the shops and services in the central market of Phnom Penh close down pretty early. But there is a strip near the Tonle River where many tourists visit. It is a pretty happening spot with several restaurants and bars.


Raffles Hotel

For a more upscale night out own the town, visit the Raffles Hotel. It is an absolutely breathtaking establishment with a posh lounge frequented by the upscale travelers.

In addition to the beautiful hotel and bar, they also often have a buffet-style barbeque dinner on their lawn. Unfortunately, we didn't make the buffet, but the food looked (and smelled) delicious!

Don’t miss the famous Elephant Bar, where you can enjoy Femme Fatale, the cocktail named in honour of Jacqueline Kennedy; the Airavata, a cocktail of secret ingredients; or the Million Dollar Cocktail, which gained notoriety in Somerset Maugham's tale, The Letter.


Sipping a Singapore Sling... my fave!

You can sit and sip your drinks in a swanky bar, while smoking the finest cigars. For a few dollars your tuk-tuk driver will wait outside and socialize with the other drivers while you relax. Initially, I felt horrible leaving him to wait on us. However, I quickly came to realize he was very happy to have the job and an opportunity to make money.

So indulge and enjoy! But you might want to change out of your backpacker’s clothes before going. We just happened to the Elephant Bar after reading about it in our guide book, and did feel a little out of place with our hiking shoes on. However, that awkward feeling quickly disappeared after a couple fabulous drinks!



We lost track... I think it is the Airavata! Served with taro chips, delish!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Day Events – Choeung Ek Genocide Center

The Choeung Ek Genocide Center is located about 17 km south of Phnom Penh, and is the site of a former orchard and Chinese graveyard which is the best-known of the sites known as the Killing Fields.


Killing Field Memorial

Here, the Khmer Rouge regime executed about 17,000 people between 1975 and 1979. Mass graves containing 8,895 bodies were discovered at Choeung Ek after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime.


Human bones displayed on a chopping block

Many of the dead were former inmates in the Tuol Sleng prison. Today, Choeung Ek is a memorial, marked by a Buddhist stupa that is filled with skulls of the victims.


Only a few of the mass number of skulls located in the Memorial

It was a very somber but educational experience. At first, I was not exactly excited about going, and even when I was there it felt strange staring at piles of human skulls and peering into pits that were used to throw human; however, in the end, I am glad that I had the experience because it helped me to better understand the culture and history of Cambodia.


A sign of life and hope

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Day Events – Russian Market

Commonly known as the Russian Market, this paradise of stalls and booths is any shoppers dream come true. From silk scarves and bags, to cosmetics, to intricate handicrafts and sculptures, the Russian Market has it all.


Entrance to the Russian Market

In the center of the market is the “food court” with a variety of freshly cooked culinary delights. We opted for the waffles, made fresh over firey hot coals, certainly the best waffles I have ever eaten. I often crave these. The batter was just a bit sweet, and served with dragon fruit, this is the perfect meal for any time of day, and at only 12 cents for two waffles, you can’t go wrong.


The most delightful waffles ever!

Just remember where you entered because it is certainly easy to get lost in here! This market twists and winds. There are rows of sort, but every hawker squeezes in to peddle their goods. An elderly woman was selling raw silk scarves and hand-made silk purses and pencil cases. Take you pick for $1. The head scarf and blue shirt I was wearing in the pictures at the Royal Palace both came from this market.


Digging for a bargain

The market was so crowded that the food vendors would often carry trays of food on their head to deliver it to customers, since a tray in their hand would easily be knocked over in the crowd.


The food court of the market... see the woman with the tray on her head!

You will also find rows of actual sewing machines set up and running quickly as local seamstresses hurriedly work to complete orders for custom made suits and dresses. Unlike Thailand, the seamstresses had suits on display and catered mostly to women. They were very delicate designs and patterns.


The sewing stalls... I am smiling, they are not. Looks like hard work!

The hands of the seamstresses sewed with great precision and accuracy. I had never seen a cleaner seam. However, since we had been burned with our Thailand suit experience, we didn’t opt for a suit here. You can also buy uncut fabric to take home with you for upholstery, curtains, or even clothing.


Looking a little lost in all that fabric

You can also find a great variety of travel books for Asia. Most are the Lonely Planet, and I think they have just been reprinted (likely without permission) but are legible and colorful. These sell for about $3 and were our saving grace during the trip. They provide lots of great information and are helpful when you need to point our a destination to your cabbie.

The handicrafts include everything from stone sculptures to chopsticks to wall d├ęcor. I wish I could have bought more because the quality here was far superior to that found in Thailand. The prices were a bit higher, but it was worth it. This is definitely a place to visit on your trip!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Day Events – National Museum

The National Museum, Phnom Penh is Cambodia's largest and was built in 1917–20 by the French colonial authorities then in control of Cambodia, in a traditional Khmer style, with French influence. It is an absolutely beautiful burnt red building with huge columns. It encompasses an indoor - outdoor style that is very welcoming.


Entrance to the National Museum

The National Museum is located at Street 178 & Street 13, next to the Royal Palace, every cabbie knows how to get there. The admission costs is only $3.00 and the museum is open from 8:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m., everyday. You will likely find people selling books and refreshments on the corner outside the museum. You are not allowed to bring in the drinks, but the books are a good bargain and cover Cambodian tourist and culture.


Outer paths and gardens

There are over 5000 objects are on display including Angkorian era statues, lingas and other artifacts, most notably the legendary statue of the ‘Leper King.’ Though the emphasis is on Angkorian artifacts, there is also a variety of pieces from later periods, including a special exhibition of post-Angkorian Buddha figures.


One room of the Museum

Most of this is an open air museum with plenty of natural light to help you examine the treasures. There is a particularly nice area dedicated to Buddhist offerings, surrounded by small stones with word such as “peace” and “love” written with stones. Museum employees hand out flowers so everyone can give something to Buddha. It is a very beautiful and spiritual shrine.


Buddha shrine

There are also beautiful statues adorning the walking paths, and beautiful koi ponds as well. This is a very beautiful and serene place to spend an afternoon.


Beautiful exterior display