If you’ve ever been to Cambodia, you’ll know the delight and deliciousness that is fish amok. Coconut-y, rich, and just the right amount of spice, there’s good reason it’s known as the national dish. And when one of our head local guides, Mr. Bunvath (that’s him below!), said he loved to cook this dish we knew we needed his recipe!
This recipe is for the traditional fish dish, but you could easily make a vegetarian version.
So here it is, straight from the source:
Fish Amok recipe
500 g cat fish (or choice of fish)
1 cup coconut cream
1 cup coconut milk
4-5 dried red chillies, diced and smashed into a paste
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp lemon grass stalk, sliced thinly
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp Kapi (shrimp paste)
2 kaffir limes, zest of
2 fresh red chillies
Noni (A Mok) leaves, washed and sliced in .5cm strips (optional, see below)
Bone fish and slice it a little bit thick and set aside.
Pound the lemon grass stalk and zest of kaffir lime in a mortar then add garlic and shallot continuing to pound. When it’s finely ground, add dried red chilli paste and mix well.
Remove spices from the mortar to a big bowl then pour in the coconut cream and coconut milk, saving a bit of coconut cream for garnish. Add in sliced fish, egg, salt, sugar, fish sauce, and Kapi paste. Stir well about 5-7 minutes until combined.
From here you have two options: the more traditional cooking and serving method using a fresh coconut or the less exciting (but easier) stovetop method.
For the traditional way, place sliced Noni leaves into a ripe coconut (directions for preparing coconut below) and then add mixture from the bowl. If you’re using the stovetop method add mixture from bowl to a deep saucepan.
Drizzle the remaining coconut cream on top and garnish with strips of red chillies. Steam about 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked.
How to make a coconut cup:
Peel ripe coconut, polish well, then use a knife and cut 1/4 of its top. Discard the juice and clean well.
From Bunvath: “I hope you like it and enjoy your cooking. Thank you so much that you love our fellow Cambodian people and food!”
Today, there are more than 8 million children living in orphanages worldwide, many of them with living parents. In the best cases, the children receive a roof over their heads, plenty of food and an education. However, in the worst cases they are isolated, starved and abused.
Tourists who travel to countries such as Cambodia are often approached by children who ask them to visit their orphanage before they leave. A visit might include a short dance performance by the children, with a request for a small donation to assist with the orphanage running costs. Well-meaning tourists are unfortunately creating demand for these orphanages and this exchange has resulted in an entire industry, known as orphanage tourism.
What's wrong with orphanages?
Traditionally, most children who do not have parents in Cambodia and other developing countries are cared for by extended family and community forms of alternative care. Increasingly, these traditional forms of alternative care are being replaced by NGO-run institutional facilities, which the Cambodian government database indicates increased in number by 75% over five years (2005-2010).
Institutionalised care should never be the first option for a child, as there is evidence that it is psychologically damaging. Most children in orphanages experience a deep sense of abandonment and most do not have a long-term carer. When a caring volunteer comes in to look after them showing them affection, this forms the hope of adoption and love. After several weeks or months when the volunteer leaves, the child feels that sense of abandonment all over again. After some time, many children learn to protect themselves from further pain and become unwilling to form attachments with other people.
According to research conducted by the International Child Campaign, international volunteering has increased the number of orphanages in Cambodia and other developing countries. It is estimated that more than 2 million children live in institutional care worldwide (UNICEF, 2009) many of them with parents.
Despite volunteers’ best intentions, their visits do more to harm rather than help a child. Reports into Cambodian orphanages expose dishonest business operators who take advantage of the money and time spent. Reports further show that orphanage tourism contributes to the separation of Cambodian families.
These negative impacts include:
Unnecessary separation of children from their families
Vulnerability to abuse
Normalising the access of strangers to vulnerable children
According to Tara Winkler of the Cambodian Children’s Trust, children raised in orphanages are:
10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution
40 times more likely to have a criminal record
500 times more likely to commit suicide
Orphanage tourism in action
Anyone can open an orphanage in Cambodia and fill it with children from poor families. There are very few barriers to setting up an orphanage in Cambodia. In some cases it is not unusual for these institutions to pay parents or legal guardians in return for placing their children in an orphanage. Many of these families are under the belief that orphanages are a means to provide their children with food and an education.
It is important to be wary of people asking you donate to “build an orphanage”. Hotels, guesthouses, tuk-tuk drivers and tour guides regularly promote orphanage visits (usually for commission paid by the orphanage on a per-visitor basis). When the guesthouse you are staying at, or the driver you have hired asks if you want to visit an orphanage, they are being paid to take you there.
What can we do?
The best way to support vulnerable children and their families is to support the vocational training and community based initiatives, rather than visiting orphanages and directly funding the orphanage. Inspired Adventures does not support visits to orphanages and we strongly encourage participants of our adventures to avoid them when travelling to countries such as Cambodia.
You can learn more about orphanage tourism here. You can also read about voluntourism, its effect on local communities – and the best way to volunteer abroad.
Travelling is perhaps one of life’s greatest treasures; from visiting new and breath-taking lands, to meeting different people and diving headfirst into cultures so unlike your own, to the tantalising food and overall life-changing experiences that are bound to happen when you leave behind comfort and familiarity.
Anyone who has ever travelled will have no hesitation in sharing that while travel is fun and exciting, it is equally confronting and eye-opening to discover that while we are one human race, our cultures can vary dramatically. Here at Inspired, we all are avid lovers of travel, so we’ve rounded up some of our best culture shock stories for your enjoyment!
"I really hate condoms in my food"
Biggest culture shock? “I lived in Spain for a year and probably one of the most embarrassing and funny culture shocks I experienced was getting the hang of the language. Once I tried to say, “I really hate preservatives in my food” because I thought the word preservativos meant preservatives. Turns out it actually means condoms so I said to everyone, “I really hate condoms in my food.” Oops!” – Angie
What's a helmet?
Biggest culture shock? “I was working on a sailboat in Sicily for two months and each morning I’d ride on the back of my host’s motorbike to get to the boat. He refused to let me wear a helmet and pretty much everybody in Sicily has the same motto! That was a big shock for me because literally every morning I’d fear for my life. We also had to carry all the food with us for the day so I’d just be sitting on the back holding onto huge watermelons and pasta. A very strange site but it was a lot of fun!” – Laura
Smiles not allowed
Biggest culture shock?
“As a child who grew up in developing countries like Africa and Thailand, my biggest culture shock was actually when I went to London. Everyone seemed so grumpy all the time! You couldn’t smile at people on the tube because they’d give you the dirtiest look back. London basically just has really unique etiquette rules but once you figure them out, it’s one of the best places to live.” – Charlie
A holy experience
Biggest culture shock?
“Biggest culture shock for me was visiting the famous Ganges in Varanasi and witnessing the burning bodies of the Ghats. I’d never seen a dead body before, never mind a burning one. I was both appalled and enthralled all in one. The whole religious experience was nothing short of fascinating!” – Lexi
Living on "African time"
Biggest culture shock?
“I went to Kenya to volunteer at four different schools in rural areas where I taught the kids different sports. The biggest culture shock for me was the conditions of the schools. I understood it would be basic, but I was shocked as some of them were just four walls with a roof. Also, the kid’s uniforms were torn into pieces and all in the wrong size, and 80 per cent of them didn’t have shoes! “African time” was also interesting – everything was always running late. But people didn’t get upset or anything, they knew they would eventually arrive and everything would be fine. A bit scary when you need to get to the airport though!” – Jo
So...where's the toilet?
Biggest culture shock?
“There were a few culture shocks in Cambodia but personally, the biggest one was the squat toilets! I’m a hygiene nut and have never been very confident using anything other than a western toilet so having to use squat style toilets was a big one for me. However, I overcame the fear and am now a confident squatter! #toomuchinfo ?” – Ally
As our Adventurer of the Month, Jenny has scored herself a $100 Paddy Pallin voucher! To be our next month’s winner, make sure you’re uploading your journey to social and use the hashtag #IveBeenInspired.
What inspired you to take on your first Inspired Adventure for UN Women?
So many factors led me to taking on my first Inspired Adventure with UN Women but the key inspiration is my mum. Over 35 years ago, she left Vietnam along with her family in search for a better life. It takes a lot of bravery to do what they did, not knowing where they’d end up, facing dangers I can’t begin to comprehend. We are so lucky to have our family all here in Australia, but so many are not so lucky. I’m inspired to help those who stayed, who are a part of the country’s story and culture and, where I can, I’d like help their communities grow and increase their quality of life. This adventure will be nothing like her journey, I know I’ll be safe, happy and well fed, but this ride is in homage to mum’s story.
What made you decide to cycle for UN Women?
Last year I made a resolution to give back more. I looked up volunteering programs overseas because the idea of seeing the world while helping a community grow really appealed to me. UN Women is a great cause and one of the best things about this adventure is the bang for buck. For 12 days of our time, we’ve contributed over $100,000 to projects in Vietnam and Cambodia. Our funds go directly to projects that empower women in Vietnam and Cambodia. We’ve been getting project updates from UN Women and can see our funds already making a difference.
What do you think is so exciting about being able to take on an adventure as well as give to a cause you care about?
I feel like that this adventure has purpose, riding for a cause, travelling to a foreign country, camaraderie with the team … we could be just raising the funds. But there is something more engaging – more personal – by combining both the travel and contributing to a truly worthy cause. I’m so excited about visiting the project sites, meeting those making a difference directly to their communities and travelling with like-minded people.
"There is something more engaging – more personal – by combining both travel and contributing to a truly worthy cause."
What are your total funds raised for UN Women so far? Are there any key fundraising ideas that have contributed to the bulk of your success?
So far I’ve raised just over $6,000, about half of this was raised through fundraising events and the other half from donations from my network of family, friends and colleagues. I organised a high tea in October at the Burbury Hotel here in Canberra where we raised $1,500. It required a lot of work in the background, but I had so much support from the loves in my life and local businesses as well.
What have been some of the highlights of your fundraising experience so far?
Definitely the highlight is seeing donations come through from people you don’t expect. People who I met years back and hardly see, uni student friends and family, people who I have just met … seeing their names give me the biggest smile. It is a nice feeling to know that other people believe in the cause and that your support network is wider than you think.
What have been your biggest challenges in taking on an Inspired Adventure? How did you overcome this?
I think the biggest challenge was organising the fundraising events. I love organising events, shindigs and parties, but you can only stretch yourself so far. The events were very successful and fun, and I’m really lucky that I had the support of family, friends and work colleagues. My work colleagues literally just picked up an existing event they were organising and decided that all the funds went to my ride.
"This adventure will be nothing like [my mum's] journey. I know I’ll be safe, happy and well fed, but this ride is in homage to [her] story."
Have you noticed any changes or transformation in your life since taking on your first adventure?
Besides the physical changes I’ve noticed from training (oh my thighs!), I have found myself giving more to other causes, even if it’s just $10 here or there. I’m also thoroughly enjoying learning more about UN Women. The more I learn, the more I want dive in headfirst and help.
What advice would you offer to other people looking to complete a challenge like this?
Ask for help. It’s not unreasonable to fundraise the travel costs. Selling chocolates is a slow way of making a little bit of money. Remember there is a support vehicle driving behind you the whole way so just do it!
Become our Adventurer of the Month to win a $100 Paddy Pallin voucher
Take a picture whilst on your adventure or when you’re training and use the hashtag #IveBeenInspired and your adventure hashtag. The most exciting use of the hashtag, with an adventure, and fitness focus will be our Adventurer of the Month – it’s that easy!
There’s something utterly special about Vietnam and Cambodia and on this amazing adventure, you will cycle from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia, open to the changing landscapes and colourful culture of the Mekong Delta.
You’ll explore the majesty and mysticism of the Angkor Temple Complex in Siem Reap and marvel at the magnificent spires of Angkor Wat. Explore historic Ho Chi Minh City on foot with an experienced guide and wander the bustling streets of Phnom Penh.
Day 1, Ho Chi Minh City
The adventure-of-a-lifetime begins today as we board our international flight to Vietnam. We arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the late afternoon and later gather for a trip briefing before a group welcome dinner.
Day 2, Ho Chi Minh City tour
Today we embark on a guided tour of Ho Chi Minh City. We visit the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Central Post Office. From here it’s only a short stroll along Dong Khoi Street to the Opera House. Next, we visit the Reunification Palace, once a symbol of the South Vietnamese Government. We will explore the palace’s War Room, the Banquet Hall and the Presidential Office, before continuing to the War Remnants Museum. We then head to Cholon, the city’s Chinatown, and Thien Hau Pagoda, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea. We head out onto the bustling city streets for a cyclo tour to Binh Tay market.
Day 3, Ho Chi Minh City – Vinh Long – Can Tho
Today we bid farewell to Ho Chi Minh City as we embark on our first day of cycling. First we cycle to the quieter town of Cai Be. We enjoy lunch together in a French colonial-style villa then board a boat for a leisurely trip to Vinh Long. From Vinh Long, we transfer by private vehicle to Can Tho.
Cycling distance: 40km
Day 4, Can Tho – Ha Tien
This morning, after breakfast, we transfer by private vehicle to Tri Ton. From here, we set off cycling alongside the Vinh Te canal through scenic, peaceful countryside to Ha Tien.
Cycling distance: 50km
Day 5, Ha Tien – Kampong Trach (Cambodia) – Kep
This morning we transfer to the Vietnam–Cambodia border and prepare to cross into Cambodia. Once across, it’s back on our bikes, cycling through the Cambodian countryside and local villages to Kep, via Kampong Trach. This sleepy beachside village is famous for its incredible ocean vistas and fresh seafood.
Cycling distance: 35km
Day 6, Kep – Phnom Penh
Today, we set off cycling from our hotel, stopping in the small town of Ta Keo Province for lunch. In the afternoon, we transfer to Phnom Penh and share our first meal in the county’s capital city.
Cycling distance: 76km
Day 7, Phnom Penh
Today we have a free day to discover the delights of Phnom Penh, the bustling, vibrant capital of Cambodia. Perhaps explore the Royal Palace, the National Museum or Wat Phnom, an impressive Buddhist temple standing 27 metres tall. In the evening, stop in at the thriving Central Market before settling in at one of the city’s many restaurants.
Day 8, Phnom Penh – Battambang
Today, we leave Cambodia’s capital and cycle north to Udong, at the foot of the Phnom Udong Mountain. This town, once the capital of the Khmer Empire, serves as a monumental necropolis for some of the past kings of Cambodia. Here, we have the opportunity to explore many temples and three large stupas in which the ashes of former kings are interred. In the afternoon we transfer to Battambang where we spend the night.
Cycling distance: 80km
Day 9, Battambang – Siem Reap
Today we rest our legs with a private transfer to Siem Reap. Take the time to watch the Cambodian countryside come to life from your bus window, while allowing your body to recuperate. Upon arrival in Siem Reap, we have the afternoon free at leisure to explore or relax.
Day 10, Siem Reap: Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat
This morning, we set off towards the South Gate of Angkor Thom, part of the Angkor Temple Complex. A World Heritage-listed site, Angkor is some 400 square kilometres of crumbling stone temples draped in jungle vines. We explore the Bayon—the centrepiece of this ancient complex, then visit the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Terrace of Elephants and Terrace of Leper Kings, as well as Ta Prohm Temple. After lunch in the complex, we discover Angkor Wat. In the afternoon, we cycle back to Siem Reap.
Cycling distance: 35km
Day 11, Siem Reap: Banteay Srey, Landmine Museum and Banteay Samre
Today, after breakfast, we cycle to the temple of Banteay Srey, ‘Citadel of the Woman’, home to some of the most exquisite stone carvings in the Angkor Temple Complex. In the afternoon, we return to Siem Reap. Tonight is free at leisure to celebrate a successful adventure together.
Cycling distance: 80km
Day 12, Depart Cambodia
This morning we are free to explore the tree-lined boulevards and incredible architecture of Siem Reap before transferring to the airport for our flight home.