Sunday, November 25, 2012

2012, Day 329 - Temptation

A few days ago, while sitting in a restaurant in Kep, we decided that when returned to Phnom Penh that we would take a second cooking class.  The first one was great, the instructor was excellent, and the food was incredible so, while waiting for our lunch, I called to see if we could attend the class today.  Francene missed the first one so it was definitely going to be the three of us and we thought maybe we could convince Tim to come with us.  While we were able to book the class Tim ended up with some last minute unexpected work obligations and felt that there wouldn't be enough time in the weekend to do everything and relax.  Sometimes I forget that we're not all here on vacation.

So when we finally got ourselves together the group of us stumbled out of the apartment and jumped in the tuk tuk with Sok at the helm.  First we dropped off Tim at work and then we were off to cooking class.  Our meeting point was the same as before, across the street from Phsar Som Nang Dap Pi.  That corner that we struggled to find before was blindingly obvious when you're looking for it and we found Linna waiting with a big smile.  The class took place much as before; we started with a tour of the market and plenty of tasting of local snacks, returned to the kitchen where Linna reviewed the recipes for the day, and instead of demonstrating and because there were only three of us, we jumped right into cooking under her supervision. I suspect that Francene got a little more attention from Linna than she wanted but because Linna recognize Araceli and me from a previous class she concentrated her efforts on the newcomer.  Plus she didn't have Brian to help along this time so she needed someone upon which to lavish her attention :)

Just like before we ended up with way too much food but unlike our previous class we brought storage containers to take our leftovers home.  So we plated our meals and put the rest into our not-so-little boxes and packed them away.  It was quite pleasant eating and chatting on the rooftop terrace of the cooking school.  There was a light breeze and Linna brought us cool scented towels to refresh ourselves with before eating.  When we finished eating we discovered that without the demonstration prior to instruction we were finished earlier than we thought so we called Sok for a pickup and when he arrived headed back to the apartment.

The next phase of our plan for the day was to do a little more shopping at the Russian Market, known locally as Psah Toul Tom Poung.  We all knew from experience how hot it can get inside with all the narrow walkways and low ceilings under the blazing sun so we all made our lists of what we were looking for before we arrived.  It was to be something of a planned market blitz, in and out quickly and efficiently, or as efficiently as one can be when you have to haggle.  First we did a little shopping in the stores that surrounded the market to give us time to acclimate to the heat and when we finished it was time to enter the belly of the beast.

The Russian Market has everything and I really mean that, everything!  Need a motorcycle tire?  No problem.  Paint or grout?  Got that too.  Farm fresh produce?  Easy.  A new outfit?  You can choose between casual or formal.  Hell, you can even get your hair and nails done while you wait for someone to alter the clothes you just bought.  When we entered we all agreed that we would meet outside in half an hour.  Araceli and I had a plan and when Tim and Francene got ahead of us we ducked down another row and were were off.  Our mission was to find a gift for Tim to thank him for his generosity.  In Siem Reap at one of the wood carving places we found a great crab that we wanted but the shop owner wouldn't bargain at all.  Not one little bit.  So we left it and now hoped to find it again in Phnom Penh.

Araceli and I made our way through the maze of shops.  We knew from previous experience where we could find the wood carvings and soon found a shop packed to the rafter, literally.  If you show any interest an overly attentive person will start asking you if you are looking for something in particular.  We were and inquired after large crabs.  Our luck was in, she had one in the shop was it was a bit old and abused but she assured us she had another at home that was in good condition and if we could agree on a price her sister would bring it over.  It was what we wanted so we started to haggle.  Araceli and I had agreed to a price previously so we already knew what we were willing to pay.  It took a few minutes and some stubborn determination, but in the end our goal price was met and her sister was on her way.

The two of us were prepared to renew our haggling if it wasn't as promised but in the end it proved unnecessary.  We had our crab!  Afterwards Araceli and I split up as well to do a little separate shopping as time was ticking away quickly.  I bought a few more odds and ends and as I was finishing up Araceli found me so we left together to find Tim and Francene.  As luck would have it they sent us a text message and we found them enjoying a cool drink on the shaded patio of a nearby restaurant.  It was there we planned the next phase of our market adventure.

Tim told us that the Boeung Keng Kang Market, right by the apartment, has a good reputation but he admitted that in his three years in Phnom Penh he has never been, only heard about it from his colleagues.  One of them used to shop for Cambodian made clothes from well-known designers that were not export quality at this market.  We weren't really looking for clothes though, we forgot to buy fresh fruit at the Russian Market and that was what we were really after.  So we wandered through and found a lively group of shops, wide walkways, nice produce, and good light.  I think a return trip is in order but we bought our mangosteens and walked the short distance back to Tim's apartment triumphant.

For dinner we decided to eat at a new restaurant a couple blocks from the apartment called Deco.  Not surprisingly it is in a converted Art Deco home and decorated in a new Art Deco style.  It was very nice and I was a bit worried that I didn't have anything appropriate to wear but fortunately there were other people already seated that were just as much a mess as I was and am.  Dinner was delicious; snapper fillet, grilled eggplant, mashed potatoes, spinach, and couscous salads.  It wasn't cheap for Cambodia but it was a bargain compared to what we would have paid in the United States.  None of us went hungry and we walked slowly back to the apartment afterwards.  We probably should have walked a little more to aid our digestion but I think our day of running around had taken its toll so we retreated to the air-conditioned haven that is Tim's apartment.

I suppose I should take a shower and head to bed but I am fighting the impending food coma to write about the day.  Now that it is done I suppose it is safe to submit :)

Canon 1D X, Canon 24-70/f2.8L Mark II
70mm, f4, 1/160 sec @ 8000 ISO

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