The World On A Plate


Lotus stem stir fry, Siam Reap to Battambang, Cambodia


Water lotus stem - looks like chicken. Isn't.

Enjoyed this as a culmination of an amazing trip from Siam Reap (or thereabouts) to Battambang via waterways populated by boat people. This is an incredible place to visit – like another world really, with kids who swim more than they walk, and take boats rather than cars (OK, its Cambodia, mopeds).

The whole river is built up with huts on stilts, but they’re right out into the water (river a mile wide in places) rather than on the coast-line. The result is loads of boat people, but also brilliantly entrepreneurial shop-boats – like house boats stuffed with everything from noodles to washing up powder – which motor about selling things to the general populace.

I was crammed in with a mixture of backpackers and locals, plus one idiot with a giant camera who had a go at me for spending a ten minute portion of the four hour journey reading a book (Fear and Loathing in Las Vega – brilliant. It later came in handy as a backrest against the chicken wire during the hideous two hour truck ride over mud ruts in which we all had to get out at one point and right our toppled vehicle).

Conversation went something like this:

Camera idiot: I’d have thought you would want to spend every second looking at the scenery.

Me: Yes but I have more time to appreciate than you because I’m not judging how much other people are enjoying it.

Camera idiot: Maybe you just don’t understand what you’re seeing.

Also, don’t get me started on people who spend their whole time in beautiful settings snap snap snap. It feels to me like an acquisitive thing. I can’t just enjoy it now. I have to isolate it from its context and run back to my western nest with it to make it mine mine mine! But then, as you can see I’m no photographer, so I’m probably missing something.

Floating shop - you can't see the water underneath, but it's there...

But I digress. We moored up at a slightly larger floating shack which turned out to be the river’s answer to a street food stall. The best thing was that rather than cook up chicken, the stir fry dish of choice was made with lotus stems, presumably pulled from the nearby waterways. Lotus actually have quite a meaty/mushroomy flavour, as well as having a kind of salty crunch all of their own. They were so tasty I tried to find them in other places, but alas I found no landlubbers to serve them.

Boat connection between Siam Reap and Battambang (boat only runs in high tide season). Lotus stem stir fry approx $1.50

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