Kroya | Khmer-inspired fine-dining
Kroya, the signature restaurant housed inside the exquisite Shinta Mani Angkor, oozes personality. As with the rest of the luxury boutique hotel, flamboyant designer and architect Bill Bensley has created a space of high drama. The monochrome colour scheme breaks the design rule books, mixing loud stripes with checks and angular patterns, punctuating these with splashes of bright orange and green. An ornate floor plan of Angkor Wat is painted on the ceiling just in case you find your dining companion’s conversational skills somewhat lacking.
The food is Khmer-inspired fine-dining. If that leaves you scratching your head as to what it might mean, then the tasting menu’s amuse bouche will give a sense of what is to come. Here, perfect rings of compressed watermelon and mango are served with sun-dried fish flakes. Light, sweet and bursts of saltiness from the fish. It’s a daring and promising start.
The dishes are innovative yet the chefs are careful not to stray too far from the Khmer heritage that the flavours are unrecognisable. The clever use of traditional ingredients certainly helps. There’s the wild pomelo, local spinach in the fish soup and – one of my favourite vegetables – morning glory. The stand-out course for me was the pepper steak; the meat so light and juicy that it seemed to melt in my mouth. The tasting menu ended with a beautifully presented selection of Khmer desserts, with the black rice ice cream being so good that I was left wanting more. Yes, even after a six-course meal.
Hands-on cooking class
Keen to learn how to make some of the Khmer dishes I had eaten during my time in Cambodia, I returned to Shinta Mani Angkor for a cooking class with Chef Mey from the Kroya team. Before we started cooking, we headed to the market to buy some of the ingredients for the course. Chef Mey gave me tips on what to look out for when picking the produce and how to determine which were ripe and ready to use. I love the hustle and bustle of local markets, and it was great to see that this market had a special section for organic products.
Back at the hotel, a beautiful bench of fresh ingredients awaited. It was quite a sight to behold. On the menu was a green mango and prawn salad, fish amok (a traditional Cambodian dish), beef soup and a glutinous rice dessert filled with palm sugar and coconut.
The one-to-one setup was fantastic, giving me plenty of hands-on experience of each step of the cooking process. I needed a fair bit of guidance to perfect the art of making a banana leaf basket. We would later use these baskets to hold the fish amok in the steamer. I had a huge feeling of accomplishment when my banana leaf basket had neat corners and the right proportions as the chef’s.
I love Southeast Asian cooking but I often resort to buying ready-made pastes. Seeing how simple it was to make my own pastes and being shown how to marry the flavours made me confident that I could replicate the dishes once I was back home.
This cooking class is a must for food lovers and cooking enthusiasts. I picked up plenty of tips and learnt new skills, and it was a delicious lunch – that I cooked myself.
Shinta Mani Angkor Spa
Siem Reap came at the end of my three-week trip around Asia with a three- and five-year-old in tow. To say that I was in need of some pampering was an understatement.
The massage at the spa was heavenly. I had the signature treatment – a full-body massage that is inspired by the Khmer healing ritual. The style is a bit firmer than what I am used to but it was exactly what my body needed. The blend of oils was divine. The massage was so relaxing that I nodded off before I could ask my masseuse about the oils.
I especially enjoyed the end of the massage when the masseuse enveloped me in a warm towel. I felt all snug and relaxed, and quite happy to stay there for longer. Top top it all of, my masseuse served a delicious rice-pancake roll and refreshing tea once the massage was over. Food and relaxation – what more could I ask for?