A healthy diet is a key ingredient to a balanced life and at Song Saa, guests can learn how to cook a sumptuous Cambodian feast under the guidance of an expert chef.
Chef Bun Seng steps out of a rustic hut nestled under the shade of Song Saa Private Island’s tropical rainforest and into the resort’s organic garden. He walks through neat rows of beds spilling over with tufts of green in search of the day’s ingredients.
“A healthy diet and eating well is an important part of life,” says Seng as he plucks fresh lemongrass and hot basil from the Chef’s Garden. “Organic and locally-sourced food forms an important part of our menu, and I create recipes around these ingredients.”
Having worked as Song Saa’s executive sous chef for three years, Seng plays a key role in ensuring the island’s guests are fed a wholesome diet. “Sustainability is very important here, so we grow a lot of ingredients on the island and try and source the rest from local communities in the area.”
In the garden, a range of herbs, spices, and vegetables sprout from the ground: holy basil, bird’s eye chili, mint, coriander, lemongrass, aloe vera, turmeric and moringa. The list goes on. Elsewhere across the island, jackfruit, papaya, coconuts and pods of tamarind hang from trees – all ingredients used in the food and drinks served at the island’s restaurants and bars
Other ingredients, such as cashew nuts, pork, crab and seafood, are bought from carefully selected farmers and fishermen across Koh Rong archipelago and Kampong Saom on the mainland. This helps support local communities while minimising carbon footprint.
With his foraging mission complete, Seng returns to his make-shift kitchen and adds the ingredients to a table filled with a colourful array of fresh ingredients. Calling on his almost decade of experience in the kitchen, Seng is keen to share his passion and hosts tailor-made cooking classes for island guests.
“It’s a great way to learn about local ingredients and Cambodian food,” says Seng as he starts preparing the simple yet flavoursome dish of wok fried chicken with hot basil. “Cooking is also a fun experience, and learning some local recipes is the best souvenir to take home.”
Seng starts by finely chopping garlic, shallots, chili, lemongrass and galangal. As he guides his students, he explains the origin of each ingredient before tossing them in a sizzling wok. Next, he cleans and dices the chicken and adds it to the pan.
The sweet scent of basil fills the air as Seng effortlessly adds hot basil, seasoning, stock, long beans and long chili to the mix. Minutes later, well-plated dishes of the iconic recipe are served al fresco at a table that sits under the dappled shade of gently wafting palms.
“Guests love the experience,” says Song Saa Private Island general manager, Donald Wong. “There is something truly special about being able to recreate and also share those memories we’ve invested in with friends and family when we get back home.”