We convinced the ladies at Women’s Resource Center (WRC) to go out to dinner with us. Most of them aren’t keen on Western food so we opted for an inexpensive Khmer BBQ joint on Road 60.
We sat at a long dark wooden table with heavy matching chairs. There were ten WRC staff, the three of us, plus a few kids. The waiters set up portable concrete pots filled with hot coals along the middle of the table and placed round, metal saucepan-like grills on top.
We filled up our plastic baskets with ingredients from the tables in the centre of the opened-aired venue, sheltered by a mere high tin roof. They were all sorts of meats and fish to choose from, as well as noodles, vegetables and tofu. And, of course, there was plenty of chilli.
Some of the ladies surprised me with gifts. There were giggles and shared memories, and an overall buzz of chatter from the table. To say the least, we had an absolute ball!
How does Khmer BBQ work?
Basically, the idea is that you share the portable BBQs to grill the meat in the centre and boil the noddles, tofu and vegetables around the sides. You can use chopsticks or thongs to flip and stir the ingredients. You need to consistently add water to the grill-pot otherwise things begin to stick and burn. Once it’s cooked, you fill your little bowl and eat!
The small plastic bins under the table are for your rubbish. The Khmer like to drop their rubbish on the floor (this could be tissues, scraps or cans, etc.) – hence the bins.
You can go back as many times as you want to fill up your little plastic basket with ingredients and eat as much as you want. Beverages are usually at an addition cost.
The whole process is a load of collaborative fun.
Note: Khmer BBQ is very popular with the locals so there are plenty of places to choose from. The further away you are from Pub Street and the centre of town, the more authentic they get.
Image: The staff at Women’s Resource Center enjoying a Khmer BBQ with us in Siem Reap, Cambodia.