Friends-International is an award winning NGO working to get children and teens in some of South-East Asia’s poorest urban areas off the streets by educating and training them. One of their most successful training programs has produced two outstanding restaurants in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, the upscale Romdeng and the casual Friends. Both restaurants train and employ former street children, where they learn everything from cooking to waiting tables to running a restaurant. They are run by the NGO’s Cambodian branch, Mith Samlanh Friends.
The organization’s second cookbook, From Spiders to Water Lilies. Creative Cambodian Cooking With Friends, won two awards at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris. It won “Best Asian Cuisine Book” and made it into the top five in the category “Fund Raising and Charity Cookbook”.
The cookbook is also available in a German edition, and features forty delicious renditions of creative new interpretations of classic Khmer food. It provides an excellent introduction to Khmer cooking, which is unjustly still very much unknown outside of Cambodia.
There is, of course, Cambodia’s national dish, Fish Amok, as well as mouth watering salads, soups and curries, grilled and steamed dishes, and sensational desserts. The colorful names of the dishes alone hint at their intense flavor, and will have you salivate. Take, for example, the Banana Flower Salad with Grilled Cambodian Bacon, Limes, and Sweet Chili Sauce. Or the Fried River Fish with Lemongrass, Onions, and Baby Eggplant. The desserts are equally fantastic, and inspired by staples of Cambodian cuisine, such as rice, coconut milk, palm sugar, and fresh tropical fruit. Modern interpretations of traditional Asian ingredients result in light and creative dishes with complex flavors, as is illustrated by Pineapple and Chili in Coconut Jelly with Kaffir Lime Syrup.
The cookbook also features an excellent overview of the most common ingredients found in Khmer cooking, as well as plenty of inspiring color photographs showcasing both the recipes and Friends-International’s hospitality staff and trainees at Romdeng in Phnom Penh. All proceeds from the book go towards the training program.
#74 Street 174, Phnom Penh
Friends. The Restaurant
House #215, Street 13, Phnom Penh