Australian Chef Christine Manfield Cooking at Jaan Bai, Battambang

Australian Chef Christine Manfield Cooking at Jaan Bai, Battambang

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Australian chef Christine Manfield is cooking at Jaan Bai, Battambang, Cambodia, for a special dinner on 11 October. Established by Cambodian Children’s Trust, the stylish social enterprise restaurant was launched in 2013 with the support of Australian restaurateur John Fink and chef David Thompson.

Australian chef Christine Manfield is cooking at Jaan Bai, Battambang, Cambodia, for a special charity dinner on 11 October 2017 to raise funds for the social enterprise restaurant’s Youth Empowerment Scholarship Fund. The initiative is aimed at providing professional development for the restaurant’s young local staff to pursue hospitality careers.

One of Australia’s most celebrated chefs, Christine Manfield will be cooking a five-course Asian tasting menu in her signature style, and in the days leading up to the event will train and mentor the young cooks in the kitchen at Battambang’s Jaan Bai restaurant. We couldn’t be more excited for the kids. We’ll be there. Are you going to join us?

Australian Chef Christine Manfield Is Cooking At Jaan Bai, Battambang, Cambodia

Our regular readers may recall we went behind the scenes and into the kitchen of Jaan Bai just before its launch by Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT) in October 2013, spending time with chef David Thompson of Nahm restaurant Bangkok, and restaurateur John Fink (Quay, Bennelong, Otto, The Bridge Room, Firedoor) as they guided the development of the concept, design and menu.

CCT has since partnered with social enterprise, The Feel Good Coffee Company, which also operates the wonderful Kinyei cafe in Battambang, to operate Jaan Bai. We had coffee at Kinyei yesterday and ate lunch at Jaan Bai and they’re still highlights for eating and drinking enthusiasts visiting Battambang.

You can learn more about the work of CCT in this interview with the NGO’s co-founder Tara Winkler about orphanage tourism in Cambodia.

We used to eat at David Thompson’s Darley Street Thai and Christine Manfield’s Paramount and Paragon restaurants way back in the 1990s when we lived in Potts Point, Sydney. Terence cooked Christine’s ‘eggplant sandwich’, which featured on our dinner party menus, for many years.

I interviewed Christine by email last week about Cambodia, food and travel.

Australian Chef Christine Manfield Cooking at Jaan Bai, Battambang, Cambodia

We chatted to Christine Manfield ahead of her dinner at Jaan Bai, about her love for Cambodia, food and travel.

Q. We first ate your food at your Sydney restaurants in the Nineties. They were exciting times for Australian cuisine.

A. Those years formed the foundation for how Australian food culture and our restaurant scene has developed and progressed. It was wonderful to be part of those times and be swept along with the energy and freestyle thinking of the times, creating new boundaries – very special.

Q. How would you describe Australian cuisine and the food scene right now?

A. It’s vibrant, inventive and expansive.

Q. How did the Cambodian Children’s Trust charity dinner at Jaan Bai restaurant in Battambang come about?

A. I had dinner there last October and loved it, knew about the restaurant through David Thompson and John Fink, and offered to do a spot of training when I came back this year. It morphed into a fundraiser dinner, so it’s some on the job training with the build up to the dinner.

Q. When did you first visit Cambodia and what were your impressions?

A. 2004 to visit the Angkor temples near Siem Reap – it was mind blowing. Loved the food!

Q. Do you get back often?

A. I have been back a couple of times in between, and over the past seven or so years, Siem Reap has seen an explosion of (mass) tourism (not all of it good). It’s hard to recognise the place now. They need to ban the selfie sticks at the temples for a start.

Q. We find that visitors to the country very quickly establish a special connection to Cambodia and its people. Has it been the same for you?

A. Definitely – I find the people, their resilience and optimism so inspiring. I love its rich food culture.

Q. What do you think of Cambodian food? We think Cambodian cuisine is highly misunderstand and under-appreciated.

A. It has its own nuances and a beautiful harmony of flavours, more gentle and subtle than its immediate neighbours.

Q. Do you cook Cambodian food in Australia?

A. Sometimes. I love the noodle soups and salads in particular and we can get most of the ingredients easily in Sydney.

Q. Do you use Cambodia’s beloved fermented fish, prahok?

A. I do cook with prahok, adding it to fried rice or stir-frying with green beans and chilli. It’s an intense salty fish fix. I am using it in my menus on the Aqua Mekong in October.

Q. You cook a lot of Asian cuisines and have published an array of books, from Spice and Fire to your books on the cuisine of India, for which you seem to have a special affection.

A. I have written eight books and published twelve titles. Definitely, I travel and work in India often. Spices are the foundation of my cooking. My frame of reference is global, so cuisines from every country inform how I cook and how I interpret flavour combinations that create my own distinctive style. But my heartland is very much Asian. I have an instinctive understanding and appreciation of the cuisines of Asia.

Q. Travel inspires your cooking, as it does with a lot of chefs, doesn’t it?

A. I am a travel junkie. Travelling the world was my entree into the chef’s world. I am a curious cook, so for me it’s vital to broaden my horizons and have a global vision.

Australian Chef Christine Manfield Cooking at Jaan Bai, Battambang, Cambodia

Eat with Christine Manfield

Christine will be cooking with the Jaan Bai chefs at the restaurant in Battambang, Cambodia, on 11 October, 2017. The charity dinner commences at 7pm and tickets for the 5-course meal are just US$50 per person (wine additional by the glass or bottle).

Cook with Christine Manfield

Christine has published twelve books. These are some of our favourites:

Paramount Cooking (2000)

Christine Manfield’s Desserts (2004)

Spice: Recipes to Delight the Senses (2007)

Fire: A World of Flavour (2009)

Tasting India (2011)

A Personal Guide To India And Bhutan (2015)

Travel with Christine Manfield

Christine has been hosting culinary tours to India annually since 2000 and leads food safaris to other destinations. She calls what she does “chasing flavours all over the world”. See Christine’s website for more details about her tours:


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A travel and food writer who has experienced over 70 countries and written for The Guardian, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, National Geographic Traveller, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia, DestinAsian, TIME, CNN, The Independent, The Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, AFAR, Wanderlust, International Traveller, Get Lost, Four Seasons Magazine, Fah Thai, Sawasdee, and more, as well as authored more than 40 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, DK, Footprint, Rough Guides, Fodors, Thomas Cook, and AA Guides.

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