Extensive mazes of alleys cut through the heart of large city blocks. Outside the doors are these clay planter-type contraptions which are used for cooking. You can place a grill on top or set a pot or wok on it. They’ll make extensive meals with one or two of these.
We have one too but it’s been sitting unused with a small healthy weed in it which needs no apparent nutrients from soil or water, because I coudn’t find an eco-friendly alternative to deforesting Cambodia (they cut the hardwoods down to make charcoal). But I recently found a great NGO, Ceres, which makes char-briquettes from biomass waste. They develop alternative fuels and stove technologies. Three kilograms of these briquettes cost 9000 Riels ($2.25).
Family members (children and women usually) take turns cooking, and meal preparations become social events in these alleys. This is also where I’ll learn a couple of new things in Cambodian cuisine. It’s fun to wander down to see what’s cooking. The neighbors are usually quite generous. They especially like to share the more interesting foods, like prahok, for a reaction. Unfortunately both Keith and I love (most) variations of this pungent dish so they don’t get much of a rise anymore.