Banteay Chhmar is a small village and home to one of Cambodia’s ancient temples, in a much less touristy setting – I’ll share more about that in another post.
The local villagers earn a living by working the land through farming (we saw a lot of freshly harvested cassava drying in the sun), fishing and by making crafts by hand to sell to tourists.
The small village provides authentic homestay experiences – our tour group of 12 was split up and spread out over three two-storey private homes. I enjoyed a comfortable double bed with mosquito net and small fan to circulate the hot night air.
My hosts were very hospitable, even inviting us to join their candlelit birthday celebration, when we’d returned from dinner. Despite the language barrier, the young male of the household, fussed over us and proudly served us glasses of fizzy drink and spoon-fed us mouthfuls of cream-filled birthday cake!
We had a guided walk through the village where we waved at young, curious children and learnt about and visited local businesses like Soieries du Mekong where beautiful silk is woven by young women on large wooden-framed looms.
The local restaurant in the centre of the village is the place where Khmer meals are served for those who visit the area. I got to take a look inside the kitchen and say hello to the women who were cooking our food. The ladies didn’t speak English so our guide translated my need for vegetarian dishes.
I had so much wonderful food here – a clear soup with pumpkin and carrot, a stir fry with morning glory (water spinach), cabbage and oyster mushrooms but the tastiest was something I don’t even eat.
To give you a bit of background, eggs aren’t a part of my diet. I’m not super strict about it – I’ll eat a piece of cake that was made with eggs however at home I don’t cook with eggs and I don’t eat eggs on their own or in heavy egg dishes like quiches or frittatas. Because you don’t always know what to expect when you’re traveling and language barriers can be challenging, I find it’s best to be a little bit more relaxed about food when abroad.
Each meal I had was prepared especially for me as the only vegetarian in the group so while everyone else shared a few different dishes, one dish was made for me. For breakfast one day, the ladies made me a fresh yellow omelette, served with a small bowl of rice. Of course a bowl of rice alone isn’t very exciting, so I decided to give the omelette a try. As I had seen groups of chickens running around in the village, I figured that at least the eggs had come from cared for chickens.
Perhaps it was because it had been years since I had eaten eggs or maybe it was due to the eggs coming from happy free-range chickens – whatever it was, I can say with all honesty that it was the tastiest omelette I had ever eaten.
I haven’t had eggs since so the experience didn’t turn me into an egg eater but it certainly did give me an appreciation for the quality and flavour of rural organic produce.
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