Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Eating in Cambodia


  • Please log in to reply
68 replies to this topic

#31 barritz

barritz
  • legacy participant
  • 36 posts
  • Location:New York

Posted 23 July 2006 - 02:37 PM

Speaking of critters, I've never eaten any, but I love Loung Ung's description about roasted crickets in her book First They Killed My Father. "Wrapped in green lotus leaf, the brown, glazed crickets smell of smoked wood and honey. They taste like salty burnt nuts." This book is not about food, of course. If anything, it's a lack of food. But before the Khmer Rouge hit, Loung's story starts with a description of the 1975 Phnom Penh marketplace. Here's just a small excerpt.

"Ma and Pa enjoy taking us to a noodle shop in the morning before Pa goes off to work. As usual, the place is filled with people having breakfast. The clang and clatter of spoons against the bottom of bowls, the slurping of hot tea and soup, the smell of garlic, cilantro, ginger, and beef broth in the air make my stomach rumble with hunger. Across from us, a man uses chopsticks to shovel noodles into his mouth. Next to him, a girl dips a piece of chicken into a small saucer of hoisin sauce while her mother cleans her teeth with a toothpick. Noodle soup is a traditional breakfast for Cambodians and Chinese. We usually have this, or for a special treat, French bread with iced coffee."

Edit: typo

Edited by barritz, 23 July 2006 - 02:37 PM.


#32 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 08 September 2006 - 02:54 AM

Khmer food, when it's good, has all of the herbal wonderfullness of Thai food, but without the burn of the chili. Those addicted to the heat will come away somewhat disappointed, but for me it's akin to dropping a cube of distilled ice into a good cognac, and finding the soft smells of grasses and leaves there, hidden under your noise.

I first went to Cambodia back in '97 to do the tourist thing, and came away, after a rushed couple of evenings in Penh, thinking that it was a town with a lot more to offer.

A couple of years later I lucked out and a friend of mine was posted there on official business. This made for an excellent reason to return - villa, kitchen, armed security, all the thrills. My assumptions with regards to Penh were correct, there are some wonderful gems buried therein.

At the time, the late 90's, early 0's the best of the Khmer food was (and may still be) Khmer Surin over beyond the monument as far as the expat community was concerned. Their Luklak (marinated beef, similar to Korean bulgoki) is well presented, and there’s a small dish usually used for sweets that they do a nice hor mok (fish pate) style appetizer on. The dish, with it’s little ceramic covers, is reminiscent of a Morrocan tangine.

Pon Lok on Sisowath Quay is a monstrosity of a building, but has beautiful Khmer and Chinese dishes buried in its phone book of a menu (I liked the "road frogs") - as a comment, it's been erroneously reported that the place opened in the late 90's. Mr. Pon Lok was there in Penh in ‘85 and started up with three tables on the sidewalk. It was ’93 and UNTAC when he had his chance to go big. In comparison, the FCC (Foreign Correspondents’ Club) didn’t open until 96/97 (when they got the bats out). He does have some history (and my respect for his kitchen).

Up the River there's a string of waterside venues, all with caberets and plenty of noise. Of these, Hang Neak has consistently served some wonderful meals, and is still one of the favourites of the embassy circle. (I would recommend their steamed pigs brains).

And, one of the benefits of the French, Penh has some of the best baguettes I've ever eaten. Late at night, on a corner, surrounded by beggars, there are few things as delicious as a good piece of bread stuffed with that mystery spam that the Vietnamese produce. I would put the bread in Penh well ahead of Saigon or Vientiane.

Just as I'd left in 97 thinking I was missing something, it was this Gallic connection that troubled me. So, last October, while in Thailand on other matters, I took the opportunity to return to return to Phnom Penh for a few nights, with my primary target being Comme La Maison, and their boudin noir. Ever since I'd read Steingarten's "it takes a village to kill a pig" I'd had cravings for blood sausage, and Comme La Maison had this very thing on their menu.

But I'm getting too far into details. That's for another writing.

Oh, and lest I forget, good French wine is not expensive in Penh. Wandering through the wine section of Lucky Mart will make any tax-abused Canadian shiver at the knees.

The FCC (Foreign Correspondents’ Club) isn’t so much of a place to eat, as it is to sit and take in the “colonialism” of it all. Still, if you want to see the bats come out of the Royal Museum at dusk, you need to be eating in the back.

The Boullonvillier Hotel has a good menu. Pork pate, cod “doughnuts”, a nice steak with wild mushrooms. There’s the steak tartare, but the meat is Khmer, so it might be a bit of a gastrointestinal-adventure. I had a class of Spanish Cavas to start, and then a Languedoc.

I spent one night just dining up Sisowath Quay (where I was staying). Rastaurant Taboo had a very nice version of the classic fish amok, somewhat more peanuty and oilier than I remembered from Siem Reab, and a wide selection of Belgian beers. I popped up the stairs after and took a balcony seat in Pon Lok and had ox tongue with pepper and lime, fried frogs with spices, crab with tamarind, and a blood warm chardonnay……the Asians don’t believe in cold drinks in warm weather.

Oh, and don’t be put off by dessert. The nyan bai, chi nyan, and nyma pi setr are all little secrets hidden within sweet coconut gel and banana leaves.

The Riverside is German. I took in a Swiss dish of pork strips in a sour cream sauce, and admired their list of 10-16 year single malts – Glengoyne, Talisker, Laphroig, Cordhu, Cragganmoire, Bowmere, Glennfiddich, Oban, and Glenroths, Aberlour and Lagarulen (pardon my misspellings, my notes get more atrocious as the night went on).

La Croissette had Tiger beer on tap, and a home cooked ham, as well as Le Cheeseburger (which I passed on….I was beginning to fill up).

Breakfast along the Mekong is always near perfect. A croissette stuffed with country pate, a good espresso, and a cold beer.

What I had dubbed in 1997 as The Blade Runner Café (not their name, it was something like Café 63) is now reworked as the Mondolkiri Café. The stylish linoleum has been replaced by faux sandstone, but the menu is still ardently khmer, with a good selection of items such as beef penis with traditional herb soup, boiled spicy duck, khmer fish soup, and “deep fried break with fish past” – which I never did get explained. Oh, and under “French Food” they have luklak.

Friend's Restaurant is a couple of streets back from the Quay. It's a project to get kids off the street and into the kitchens (where they belong, say I!). Some interesting fusion approaches, and reworkings of some of the stall food, such as the large plump noodles to be found by the statue places across from the museum, similar to yaki udon.

As in Thailand, the clubs can have very good local snack food. The Spark, a monstrous thing of metal and glass, where everyone who’s anyone comes to to be seen and shot at, Prab Sovath, one of the most famous singers was there, as I recall. Meanwhile, I had very good frogs, and other bits of finger food.

Another old favourite I took in again was Irina’s. It had moved, but after an hour I rediscovered it. This is a Russian restaurant that has been around for a bit. They specialize in the stews of the truck stops of the open steps, and do very good casserole type dishes. They also do blinis with salmon caviar, and keep your bottle of Russian Standard vodka in the freezer for you.

And Topaz. This is the NGO expense account joint. Excellent French cuisine, wonderful cheeses, I had a perfectly executed braised veal shank. The service is impeccable, up to the point where they all want to run outside and watch the fireworks. But then, this is still Indochine.

And, let us not forget, there’s still the street. Roast small birds, sweet rice in bamboo, small fish, and cold beer Lao.

I’ll have to write in more detail later.

#33 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 25 July 2007 - 08:27 AM

Travel Advisory

In the latest issue of Bayon Pearnik (#131) there's a very distressing report of adulterated spirits in Phnom Penh under Cockroach Corner on page 9 "Bottle of What". Basically, fake whiskeys and now vodkas are being distributed, which means that the bars may not know what they're getting (or if they do realize it, they're still going to try and sell it and not take a loss).

If you're traveling in that area, check your drinks carefully, and if it smells wrong then shy away. This was a big problem in Egypt when we were living there in the 80's, and it can cause some serious damage (although at that time it was more a case of bottles being refilled with the local hooch rather than a racket this well organized).

Bayon Pearnik is generally pretty tongue in cheek about everything, but they take their drinking seriously. (Warning, you may find Bayon Pearnik offensive. I think that's their intent)

#34 BekkiM

BekkiM
  • participating member
  • 276 posts
  • Location:Denver, CO

Posted 03 April 2008 - 11:57 AM

I just returned from 4 days in Siem Riep and wanted to post a recommendation for an inexpensive lunch spot there... The Warehouse. I can't find its exact location on the map, but it's in the Pub Street area, not far from the Blue Pumpkin (where we went every day, at least once, for ice cream).

I think the meal we had there was probably the best we had in Siem Riep and it really wasn't that expensive. Maybe it's not authentically Cambodian (I have no way to judge one way or the other), but it was definitely tasty.

I had the Papaya Salad, which was tangy and refreshing (Siem Riep in March is HOT)--perfect for a hot-weather lunch. This was accompanied by the Curried Potato Wontons, which I did not get a picture of, but which we also quite good. In fact, I wish I had been able to return and have them again during our stay.
Posted Image

Another member of our party got the Beef wrapped in Scallions, which he reported was quite good. Not spicy, just good.
Posted Image

The duck with noodles was quite tasty--although I didn't get a picture of the duck itself. I'm pretty sure it came sliced on the side.
Posted Image

The Roast Pork was probably the most disappointing item we ordered--it was a little too tough for most of our tastes and not nearly as pretty as the other items.
Posted Image

Not pictured was the Khmer Fish Curry (also known, I believe, as Fish Amok) which my husband really liked--enough so that now I have to figure out how to find the ingredients here in Denver. And all of this was washed down with Angor Beer--perfect for a hot day.
Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.

#35 BekkiM

BekkiM
  • participating member
  • 276 posts
  • Location:Denver, CO

Posted 03 April 2008 - 01:37 PM

I don't have pictures, but I'd like to add the following reviews:

Khmer Kitchen (also in the Pub Street area): Eh, don't bother. It was okay, but it really wasn't memorable. There have got to be better places in Siem Riep to eat. Honestly, I can't even remember what we had, other than it was boring.

Dead Fish Tower (on the main street, just down the way from Hotel De La Paix--more on that in a minute): Cheesy, incredibly cheesy, with multi-level dining platforms and alligators. But the food wasn't bad--in fact, some of it was down-right tasty--and the atmosphere was fun for lunch. I bet it's annoying in the evening when it must do some sort of business as a bar, but for a late lunch, when it was nearly empty, the kids totally enjoyed exploring and figuring out how to get up to the highest of the (un-railed) platforms.

Day Inn (I think this is what it was called--it's across the street from the Shinta Mani hotel): Eh, don't bother. We had dinner there and it was expensive and not all that good. I had the "Beef Nine Ways" which reportedly was based on a traditional preparation for tiger; maybe it's better with tiger. It was bland and not all that attractively presented. In fact, that's a good description of all of the food.

Shinta Mani: This is where we stayed (and I can't recommend it highly enough for accomodations) and while the breakfasts were fabulous (the pastries were especially good), dinner was just okay. We only at one meal there for dinner--the traditional Khmer buffet which was offered along with an exhibit of traditional dances by local children--and it was unremarkable. Not bad, but a little pricey for what you got. The desserts were truly disgusting--but I'm not a fan of Asian desserts anyway, so my review here may not be that meaningful. We did have lunch by the pool one day and it was yummy, but very Western--no Cambodian dishes to be seen.

Hotel De La Paix: For my husband's birthday, we made reservations for the "swinging tables" at this upscale hotel. We both ordered the tasting menu on the logic that (a) it seemed the most truly Cambodian of the offerings and (b) it has always served us well at US restaraunts. It was spotty at best. They completely forgot one course and then served it lumped on the same plate as the next one, sometimes we went 45 minutes between courses, and we had to actually ask for the dessert course (although honestly I would have skipped it altogether if I could). It was very expensive for what we got and I don't recommend it.
Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.

#36 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 03 April 2008 - 02:44 PM

Thanks for the food recs! This is very timely, indeed! May I ask where you stayed? I think I'm going there in December (or Malaysia, I haven't decided, yet), and am looking for recs. I think you should do a travelogue!! Hint...hint...

Did you go to Phnom Penh, too? I'm thinking of trying to go to both.

#37 BekkiM

BekkiM
  • participating member
  • 276 posts
  • Location:Denver, CO

Posted 03 April 2008 - 03:43 PM

We stayed at the Shinta Mani (web site) and I highly, highly recommend it. It's off the main drag, so it's quiet. It's small, so it's charming. The rooms were lovely (and the beds were very comfortable--not a small feat given that Asian beds are typically much harder and firmer than Western ones), with a separate sitting area and a nice bathroom. It has a lovely pool and a "spa" of sorts (our friend and her daughters got massages and pedicures and enjoyed the experience). The food, especially at breakfast, was quite good. And I think it was reasonably priced (though I'm sure there are better deals in Siem Riep if you want to go cheaper).

Also, we really liked the concept of the hotel's social mission--it has an attached hospitality school so many of the staff are students learning a trade in quickly-growing Siem Riep. And, as part of your stay, guests are encouraged to contribute to a local program. We opted to raise funds to build a house for a local Khmer family; the kids raised half and the parents threw in the other half. For $1200, they build a concrete house no bigger than your typical American office cubicle for a widow and her young daughter--and while we were there we got to meet her and see the house. It was a humbling--and incredibly enriching--experience.

Posted Image
The yellow building is the house that was built (that's her daughter in the doorway); the small structure behind it is her original home. At the time this was taken, she had not moved in to the new house because she couldn't afford to pay the monk to bless it--of course, once we learned that, we donated that amount immediately.

We did not make it to Phnom Pehn on this trip--we only had four days for Cambodia, then proceeded on to Bangkok and then to Phuket--but I'd love to go sometime.
Feast then thy heart, for what the heart has had, the hand of no heir shall ever hold.

#38 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 12 May 2008 - 06:58 AM

Thanks for this, Bekki!

Any shots of the market? Is it still there in the middle of SR?

Any comments on the bar scene? Who has pride of place in this day and age?

It's been far too long since I was last in Siem Reab.

I need more vacation time.
:biggrin:

Peter

#39 nakji

nakji
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,659 posts
  • Location:Shanghai

Posted 12 May 2008 - 10:45 AM

I was in Siem Reap last May, and I remember how hot it was...even our hotel pool was too hot to go into. We had to get all of our wat viewing done by 9 am! We stayed at La Noria, which was lovely, quiet, and French. The bungalows had these fabulous traditional Khmer bathing urns that were so refreshing in the heat.

I thought the Thai food at Dead Fish was tasty as well - I was there in the evening, and it wasn't nearly as tacky as it seemed to want to be.

Prasantrin, if you're going, and plan to be in Phnom Penh as well, I strongly recommend the cooking class we took there. It was really hands-on, and the food was sublime. I have all the pictures on my hard drive here somewhere, and meant to do a write up on it here, but got sidetracked somehow......

Peter, the bar scene then was exactly how I like my bars scenes...affordable. :biggrin: All I remember from my last night there was convincing a couple of young Korean girls to ditch their boyfriends (who were frowning grumpily at a table and wearing ridiculous straw hats) by sending them a round of B-52's. We then took over the dance floor and made the DJ play "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun". I cannot remember how I got back to the hotel, but I suspect my husband was somehow involved.

#40 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 12 May 2008 - 03:07 PM

La Noria is a bit more within my limited budget, but Shinta Mani looks like a good place to get info! My mother is trying to think of ideas to help people on "the farm", so we're going to visit the Ponheary Ly Foundation, and Shinta Mani looks like another good place to get ideas.

We'll be in Cambodia from the 21st to the 28th, so I think we'll have time to go to Phnom Penh, but not much. I love cooking classes, but after doing the Chiang Mai one several years ago, I've been wary of doing any others.

I'm in the hotel planning/fun things to do planning stage. Once I'm done with that, I'll get on to food! I still have 7 months, but I like to plan. :smile:

#41 Julian Teoh

Julian Teoh
  • participating member
  • 183 posts
  • Location:Singapore

Posted 16 November 2008 - 07:12 PM

<deleted post>

Edited by Julian Teoh, 16 November 2008 - 09:04 PM.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink

#42 nakji

nakji
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,659 posts
  • Location:Shanghai

Posted 16 November 2008 - 07:24 PM

Blue Pumpkin wasn't worth writing home about, just some wizened muffins and dry cookies for the people who travel to SEA and want to eat Western food. The ice cream was good in the heat, though.

Happy Herbs pizza - it won't be the best pizza you've ever eaten, put don't plan any ambitious projects for the next day, if you know what I mean. Whatever you do, don't get "extra happy".

I liked Dead Fish tower, but I thought the focus there was Thai - I could be remembering wrong.

#43 Piglit

Piglit
  • participating member
  • 32 posts

Posted 16 November 2008 - 09:08 PM

I'm planning a bit of a foodie holiday to Siem Reap (and yes, I have heard the warning that food in Siem Reap pales in comparison to the obvious tourist attraction there, and that's it's not really a mekka for foodies..... but the legend of Angkor is too tempting).

So, that said, does anyone have any recent food recommendations for Siem Reap which are not already captured in this thread?

Khmer Cuisine: I've heard very mixed reviews of Khmer Kitchen, Ivys, Madame Butterflies, Red Piano, Day Inn, Shinta Mani, etc, though I do still plan to visit Khmer Kitchen to see what the fuss is about and Restaurant Tatoo (if it's still open).

Thai Cuisine: Deadfish Tower - again, heard mixed reviews and suspect it would be less kitch for lunch when it's a bit quieter and less bar-like


Something different: I think Happy Herbs Pizza with the maryjane between the cheese and tomato might be worth a try. Also the Old Street markets with the spider and bug kebabs. And FCC for the ambience, Butterly Cafe for the obvious butterflies (very much alive, not on kebabs)!

French: I haven't heard anything good about Hotel de la Paiz. Blue Pumpkin seems to be 'the place' for sweet treats and other provincial bakery items. Viroth's Restaurant has been recommended for some nice French fare. Has anyone been?

Does anyone have more to share from recent trips?

#44 mediakzar

mediakzar
  • participating member
  • 7 posts

Posted 17 November 2008 - 07:14 AM

We were only in Siem Reap for 3-nights but ended up liking Khmer Kitchen so much that we ate there twice. As others have pointed out, it’s tucked away in a nameless alley behind the market but every tuk-tuk driver knows it so it shouldn’t be hard to find. Not only was the food really good, I think our total bill was something like $8USD (including beverages) for the two of us.

The place has a huge menu but our favorite dish was Fish A-Mok (a rather mild curry that can be ordered with shrimp, pork, chicken, beef or vegetables.)

The other night we were there we ate at Chivit Thai. We had read some glowing reviews of it before we went and it was good but not great. Dining is in a very pretty patio and garden setting and the service was very good.

There is a line of restaurants out at the Angkor Wat temple complex. We ended up having lunch out there on two days and found the food to be a little more expensive than in town but still not outrageous in price and the quality to be surprisingly good. One funny experience we had at one place there was a person at our table ordering “Mango Chicken”. When it arrived at the table, there wasn’t any mango but there was a small side of tomatoes. Our friend told the waiter that it was missing the mango and he brought her out another small bowl of tomatoes.

In Phnom Penh, we really enjoyed Frizz Restaurant located very close to the FCC on Sisowath Quay. Basic Khmer food in a simple but nice setting on the waterfront.

Speaking of the FCC, the food was not the draw but the ambiance in the 2nd floor restaurant/bar overlooking the waterfront was worth the overpriced lunch we had there.

Be sure to order coconut water to drink at least once.

The local drink of choice is Angkor Beer but Tiger Beer from Vietnam is also widely available.




I'm planning a bit of a foodie holiday to Siem Reap (and yes, I have heard the warning that food in Siem Reap pales in comparison to the obvious tourist attraction there, and that's it's not really a mekka for foodies..... but the legend of Angkor is too tempting).

So, that said, does anyone have any recent food recommendations for Siem Reap which are not already captured in this thread?

Khmer Cuisine: I've heard very mixed reviews of Khmer Kitchen, Ivys, Madame Butterflies, Red Piano, Day Inn, Shinta Mani, etc, though I do still plan to visit Khmer Kitchen to see what the fuss is about and Restaurant Tatoo (if it's still open). 

Thai Cuisine: Deadfish Tower - again, heard mixed reviews and suspect it would be less kitch for lunch when it's a bit quieter and less bar-like


Something different: I think Happy Herbs Pizza with the maryjane between the cheese and tomato might be worth a try.  Also the Old Street markets with the spider and bug kebabs.  And FCC for the ambience, Butterly Cafe for the obvious butterflies (very much alive, not on kebabs)!

French: I haven't heard anything good about Hotel de la PaizBlue Pumpkin seems to be 'the place' for sweet treats and other provincial bakery items.  Viroth's Restaurant has been recommended for some nice French fare.  Has anyone been?

Does anyone have more to share from recent trips?

View Post



#45 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 17 November 2008 - 07:29 AM

For the FCC, I second that the food isn't a great draw (or wasn't, it's been a few years since I've been back).

But it can be worth sitting in the back (the dining area) ordering some appetizers, and watching the bats come swarming out of the Museum at sundown.

Then go for dinner somewhere else.

Hey, can anyone say if Topaz is still about? I enjoyed my meal there. It was across from the concrete Vietnamese statue they keep trying to burn down.

#46 Piglit

Piglit
  • participating member
  • 32 posts

Posted 29 November 2008 - 06:24 AM

Hey - can anyone comment on L'Angelo at Le Meridien, Siem Reap?

#47 Piglit

Piglit
  • participating member
  • 32 posts

Posted 28 December 2008 - 07:15 PM

Ok, so having arrived home from an *amazing* escape to Cambodia, I can recommend it as a truly breathtaking place to visit, both from a food and non-food perspective. Siem Reap is an especially stunning place, and thanks to all your comments in these forums, we had a set of stunning meals. Not one I can complain about. A few of the highlights:

- Amok http://www.canbypubl...s/amok-page.htm
This is an extraordinarily popular Khmer restaurant on ‘The Passage’ (Pub Street alley)….a very crowded and touristy street in Siem Reap. Whilst it is bigger than most restaurants nearby, with a pleasant sidewalk location, and includes a wonderful clean bathroom and upstairs balcony, it is still quite cramped. It has a photo menu which makes it easy to choose from a wide selection of traditional Cambodian dishes including its namesake the classic Khmer dish Amok. This is what we chose, alongside a local salad, which was sweet, sour, and crunch all rolled into one mouthful. Amok (the dish) itself is a rich Cambodian coconut curry which is traditionally served with fish and steamed in a banana leaf, however Amok (the restaurant) serve a tasting platter of fish, beef, shrimp, vegetable and pork. Price-wise it is not cheap comparaitvely, as it cost us ~$18US total (for two people) for two mains only.

- Neary Kitchen http://www.canbypubl...s/nearypage.htm
So, this is where our fabulous tuktuk driver user to be the chef. Our tuktuk driver, Soyean was lovely, so we were keen to eat where he used to work. Having not heard about this in any other food forums, we were not expecting much, but we were blown away and would vote this food-wise the best yet! Ambience was not as charming as Sugar Palm or Viroths (reviewed below), but still a kzillion times better than most other khmer food haunts around Siem Reap. We ordered steamed serpent fish (local fish in deliciously wholesome soup) and Prahok Ling (fermented fish pork). These servings were so big, that it made it difficult to finish both, yet the damage to our wallets including drinks was only $10US total (for two people).

It's authentic Khmer cuisine served in a relaxed, open-air setting. At first it may look like a tourist trap, with large long tables able to sit 20+ people. But, rest assured, these will soon fill up with large local families piling out of their minivans to enjoy a night out with all their cousins/aunts/grandparents, etc. The menu is extensive, yet doesn't describe the dishes, which made it difficult to choose something which sounded edible..... but the recommendations from our host made for a perfect combination. Homely, tasty, heavenly.


- Sugar Palm http://www.asialifec...&article_id=154
We had the restaurant to ourselves from noon until 3pm..... apparently no one else was interested in eating lunch there that day! But, then again, I'm told this is
the place where F&B managers from nearby five star hotels come to feast, so maybe they dine afterhours. This place serves old-fashioned, flavorful, and hearty Khmer food, in a beautiful surrounding of a double story colonial style house, with an airy balcony. It's owned by a New Zealand couple (or so the lovely NZ guy we were speaking to at lunchtime claimed).

Bruce (the NZ guy claiming to own the place) recommended to us some tasty dishes, whilst we enjoyed the warm and inviting ambience of his restaurant. This time, we ate with a non-pork eating couple, so we needed to substitute the traditional khmer grilled eggplant pork dish, to beef, and Sugar Palm were more than happy to oblige. The food has a good kick to it, all the meat is tender, and our dishes were lip-smacking good. By the time we ate this meal, some of us had already eaten two different buffet breakfasts, and numerous snacks at the temples, but still, our plates ended up spotless! Not a morsel of sauce even left. Main meals were $5 - $10US (so expensive for Siem Reap standards, but well worth it. This is a classy joint, exuding old world charm, but manages not to be snooty)


- Viroths http://www.viroth-hotel.com/
Funky outdoor ambience with "almost" Western style service (our first waiter was brand new, hence the reason for the almost). We order amoks, fermented fish paste pork, and Khmer salad. Dining with a non fish eater and a non beef eater meant we didn't fully explore all the menu options available, but nor did we need to, as we were very content. The menu is a mix of Cambodian and European foods. Price was ~$15US per person, for starters, mains, and drinks. You can also BYO here, which is good if you've bought up in duty free. The food was probably the least tasty out of all the places I'm reviewing here, but the ambience was contemporary, chic, and easygoing. Great for a night chatting with friends.

- Blue Pumpkin: http://www.tbpumpkin.com/
This was almost going to be our worst experience, given out of the five of us who went there for icecream (their speciality), only one enjoyed it. The problem was, we ordered from the "ice cream menu", rather than just looking at the ice-creams on display and ordering a few scoops. Their ice-cream menu is filled with awful concoctions, such as banana splits trifles doused in peanut sauce, and sickly sweet, rum infused, meringue dotted masterpieces. However, just choosing a few flavours from their wonderful ice-cream selection would have been enough (we found out as we walked out of the place passing an array of yummy sounding varieties...). They also sell pastries, which make for a nice breakfast on the way to see a sunrise over Angkor Wat. They resemble French pastries in look only (they taste like an Asian breadtop style sweet treats), however are still delicious for those craving a sugar high after temple trekking.

Additionally, if you’re after a good tuktuk driver in Siem Reap, I can highly recommend Kim Soyean – a humble, reliable, and ever-smiling local Cambodian who spends his days ferrying tourists between temples and learning to speak English. He’s the ex-chef from Neary Khmer. His brother, Kim Soryar, runs a small local travel business (can arrange drivers, tuktuk, guides, accommodation, etc), and his mother in law runs a guesthouse. I’m confident that Kim Soryar could arrange a wonderful escape for anyone lucky enough to visit their beautiful country: kimsoryar@yahoo.com: +855-1222-1883 or +85516625514 (yes, shameless plug I know, but these guys are so humble and earning less than $10US per day, growning up throughout the Pol Pot genocide era in Cambodia, I thought it’s the least I could do for them. They really made our holiday amazing :cool: ).

Edited by Piglit, 28 December 2008 - 08:39 PM.


#48 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 27 February 2009 - 04:24 AM

Peter’s catching up, so I must move quickly!

Day 1—Siem Reap

After a long stopover in Singapore, we flew out to SR early morning December 21. We just as early in SR, and went straight to our little guest house, L’Auberge Mont Royal. It’s a nice little place, owned by a Cambodian man who managed to get out of Cambodia in the early ‘70s, and he settled in Montreal (hence the name of the inn). He only recently opened the inn, and was just back for a short visit (his children live in Cambodia and his eldest son normally runs the inn). Although our room wasn’t available, they let us have breakfast! Lucky us, because we were starving! They had wonderful baguettes and croissants, and a choice of pancakes, eggs (scrambled, fried, or omelette), or a fruit plate.

Our first day was more or less a blur. We were quite tired from our overnighter at Changi Airport, and the only thing I remember about food, other than our breakfast, was that we had dinner at our inn. We chose Cambodian dishes—some kind of lemongrass-flavoured soup, fried fish which I think was Trey bom poung, and something else I can’t remember. The fish was overcooked, but the flavour was fine. I really should take notes like Peter does, but I’m too lazy! No pictures, anyway, because it was too dark. So, moving along to. . .

Day 2
I have a few more food-related pictures of this day. We started out the morning with our usual breakfast, and then we set out to Angkor Wat. My mother always has to have a hand in something. . .
Posted Image

I can’t remember what we did for lunch, but for dinner we went to Sala Bai. This was the smallest of the three hospitality schools in Siem Reap. It’s run by a French organization that has been operating in Cambodia (or near Cambodia—they were helping Cambodian refugees in Thailand) since 1984, and since 1992, they have continued their work in Cambodia by focussing on education. Sala Bai is their hospitality school which opened in Siem Reap in 1992. It is completely free to students, and it relies mostly on funding from French government and private donors (the other two hospitality schools being Paul Dubrule and Shinta Mani which opened in 2002 and 2004, respectively). All three schools do wonderful work helping severely disadvantaged youths improve their lives, and I would recommend staying at one of them if you can. We wanted to stay at Sala Bai, but the manager feared the stairs would be too difficult for my mother to manage.

Anyway, the restaurant was just down the street from our inn, so it was easy to get to. It’s a nice little place, but the area is most definitely underdeveloped. They’re doing a lot of construction in Siem Reap, and the conditions of the roads are somewhat less than ideal. But the restaurant itself is kind of nice. Dark woods, simple decor. What’s not to like?

As far as I can remember, we only had a choice of two set meals—two courses (appetiser or dessert plus the main course), or three courses (all of the above). We ordered the three course dinner.

Our first course was soup. It was sort of like tom yum goong, but without the heat.
Posted Image

Our first coconut! After we drank all the juice, we had them crack them open so we could eat the meat! We were feeling very smart, because most of the farangs around us just drank the juice and didn’t realize they could eat the meat, too. The meat’s the best part!
Posted Image

For our main we had some kind of beef massaman-like dish. The name was very similar to massaman, as well, but I can't remember it now (no notes, remember. . . ). I thought it was good albeit a bit too sweet (like massaman for farangs). My mother didn't like it--she had a lot of tough bits of meat in hers. It was quite dark by the time we had our main (and dessert), so the pictures didn't turn out.

Dessert was sangkaya fak thong, but again, not called that. Sorry, I mostly remember Thai names for things, and the food is very similar, so the Thai stuck in my head more than the Khmer.

Service was a bit rough, but it wasn't any worse than anywhere else, and at least at Salabai they have the excuse that they're still in training. I don't know that the food was good enough for me to want to return, but I'd return just to support the program.

Edited by prasantrin, 27 February 2009 - 04:37 AM.


#49 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 27 February 2009 - 05:27 AM

Day 3

More temples. Is there anything else to do in Siem Reap? I think it’s impossible not to feel awestruck by the temples. That being said, it’s difficult to cram so many temples into just a few days, and after the first few, they start to lose their lustre—not because they’re any less stunning, but simply because they begin to blend together. It’s much like temple-hopping in Kyoto if anyone is familiar with that experience. Were I to go back to SR, I would try to space out my visits more. We only did about half the temples most people do, mostly because we (my mother, especially) were just too tuckered to try to fit in any more.

Banteay Srei was one of the last temples we visited, and it was probably our favourite. Both my mother and I have a love for fine things (we don’t look it, but we really do!), and the carvings at Banteay Srei were far and away the most refined of all the temples.
Posted Image

On the way back from Banteay Srei, we stopped by several roadside stands that had baskets and other woven things. We were really trying to be good since we still had about 2 weeks left of travels (and shopping), but we overdid it somewhat with the baskets. And then we saw this
Posted Image

I thought it was some kind of homemade alcoholic beverage, but the stall-keeper pointed to these things
Posted Image

Anyone know what they are? I assume they’re from palm trees because what I thought was alcohol turned out to be palm sugar sap being cooked down. On the far left, there are some long green cylinders. They’re palm sugar tablets wrapped in palm leaves. She gave us a bit to try, and we ended up buying 5 or 6 of them. Cambodian palm sugar is tasty! I’ve been eating little bits as candy, but I still have some left. I wonder what I could make with them. Any ideas?

Our next stop was Ta Prohm. I was a little disappointed with this temple. Yes, the trees are magnificent, but when I first read about it, I read that this temple in particular was going to be left untouched to help preserve the romanticism surrounding Angkor Wat and all the other temples. Perhaps that was true several years ago, but it’s not longer so. They’re doing quite a bit of work there, and not just restoration, but they’re building little things here and there—a deck for picture-taking, bridges, etc. etc. It sort of reminded me of Disneyland. No, not that bad, but I just didn’t get a good vibe from the place. Ahem. . .
Posted Image

Nevertheless, we loved this tree
Posted Image

Dinner that night was at our inn again. We had to catch an early bus to Phnom Penh the next day, so we wanted to stick close to home.

I had some kind of pork with garlic. Very thinly sliced, and very tasty, but terribly dry.
Posted Image

My mother had fried chicken wrapped in some kind of leaves. I thought it would be chicken fried and then wrapped in leaves, but it was chicken wrapped in leaves and then fried. Interesting idea! I didn’t care for it—flavourless (it was almost all breast—they must be catering to farangs) and again, terribly dry. My mother says most SE Asian meats are cooked till very dry, possibly to help off-set any dicey food safety conditions (did I mention her theory before?).
Posted Image

#50 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 27 February 2009 - 08:32 AM

Day 3

Banteay Srei was one of the last temples we visited, and it was probably our favourite.  Both my mother and I have a love for fine things (we don’t look it, but we really do!), and the carvings at Banteay Srei were far and away the most refined of all the temples. 
Posted Image

View Post


I really liked Banteay Srei, too. The detailing there, and the smaller size puts it on much more of a human level.

I'm curious, how long did it take to get there now? I remember it being a bad road and taking most of a day to get there and back.

I think you should take your time with this piece, and really draw the best bits out slowly. :biggrin:

P.S. - The celebration of the first coconut is always an event to be enjoyed.

#51 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 27 February 2009 - 11:20 AM

I can’t remember what we did for lunch, but for dinner we went to Sala Bai.  This was the smallest of the three hospitality schools in Siem Reap.  It’s run by a French organization that has been operating in Cambodia (or near Cambodia—they were helping Cambodian refugees in Thailand) since 1984, and since 1992, they have continued their work in Cambodia by focussing on education.  Sala Bai is their hospitality school which opened in Siem Reap in 1992.  It is completely free to students, and it relies mostly on funding from French government and private donors (the other two hospitality schools being Paul Dubrule and Shinta Mani which opened in 2002 and 2004, respectively).  All three schools do wonderful work helping severely disadvantaged youths improve their lives, and I would recommend staying at one of them if you can.  We wanted to stay at Sala Bai, but the manager feared the stairs would be too difficult for my mother to manage.   

View Post


As a bit of coincidence, when I was in Vancouver I found something I'd been looking for - a Cambodian cookbook.

Cambodian Cooking by Joannes Riviere, photos by Maja Smend. This is "A humanitarian project in collaboration with Act for Cambodia". Joannes was he chef at Sala Bai, in charge of the training courses before moving to Meric at the Hotel de la Paix in Siem Reab.

The recipes are workable, the photos excellent, and it is for a good cause.



Peter’s catching up, so I must move quickly!

View Post


"Catching up?" Hon, I'm done. :cool:

#52 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:29 AM

I'm curious, how long did it take to get there now?  I remember it being a bad road and taking most of a day to get there and back.


It's difficult for me to remember (no notes, remember :sad:), but I don't think it took more than 30 minutes to drive out there. Maybe 40, but I think more like 30. It most definitely wasn't most of a day for the trip,

P.S. - The celebration of the first coconut is always an event to be enjoyed.

View Post


Agreed! The first, second, third, fourth. . . .

#53 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:31 AM

Peter kicked my little patooty, but I must still complete my task. I'm leaving for another trip in two weeks, after all!

Day 4—when we booked our tickets to SR from Singapore last May, Jetstar didn’t tell us they were going to add a stopover in Phnom Penh on the way back. That sucked, because we had to do Singapore—SR—PP—SR—Singapore, with the intra-Cambodia legs by bus. We could have just gone Singapore—SR—PP—Singapore! Just goes to show you, the early bird doesn’t always get the worm.

But the bus trip was certainly an experience. On our deluxe bus (we only travel first class, after all :rolleyes:), we got a little snack and some water. Fortunately, our water was “disinfected”.
Posted Image

We got a big kick out of that, and my mother kept saying, “Oh, it’s even been dis-in-feast.” But then I said, “No! It’s been dis-in-fee-ceed. Get it? They took the feces out! Ahahahahahaha!” If looks could have killed, my mother would have committed infanticide. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was so disgusted that she couldn’t drink that water after that. You may remember from the Malaysian portion of our trip that she comes from a long line of germaphobic hypochondriacs, and she won’t even eat street food much less drink disin-feced water! Her trip to the nasty bus toilet didn’t help matters, either. . . :wacko:

We didn’t arrive in PP till mid-afternoon, and I think we had just enough time to do a tour of the Royal Palace compound. Not so interesting for us, but we thought we should go. Then dinner was at our “boutique hotel”. I’m not really sure what makes Villa Langka, a boutique hotel, since the rooms were quite sparse, the hot water wasn’t hot (in fact, it stopped completely for several hours one day), and I could actually twist the water faucet to a complete 180 (could have probably made it go 360, but the taps were in the way). But the rooms were clean, the staff was friendly, and the food was mostly good! The chef was the owner of the hotel—a Frenchman who had moved to Cambodia. The restaurant is by the pool, and they do accept reservations from people not staying there (I think), so if you happen to be in the vicinity of the Royal Palace (it’s quite close) and are hungry, I’d recommend stopping by if you don’t have other plans.

The next day was Christmas! And what says Christmas more than a genocide museum! Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a place no one really wants to visit, but everyone should. It and the Killing Fields (which we did not visit) were the only reasons I wanted to go to Phnom Penh—not because I enjoy the macabre, but because I believe it’s important to confront all that we are capable of doing to one another. It’s probably best not to say more, but could someone tell me what this little boy did to deserve to be at that prison?
Posted Image

After our visit to the prison, we needed something lighter, so to market we went! Central Market, also known as Psah Thmay, has everything you could possibly want. Need a new pair of shoes? A fake Rolex? Silver handicrafts? How about that ubiquitous Cambodian snack, clams? These were teeny tiny clams, like asari that are used in miso soup sometimes. All over, we would see carts or trays full of these little clams, which as I understand it are uncooked, but tossed with flavourings (chile, garlic, etc.) and left to dry. People buy a bagful and just suck away. We didn’t try any (I’m sure you’re not surprised). Raw clams sitting in the mid-day heat of Phnom Penh? Don’t think so. Posted Image

The market is fairly large, and they have tropical fruits galore! We wanted to buy mangosteen, but they were rather expensive because they were out-of-season, and there was no guarantee that they were ripe.
Posted Image

Somewhere in the women’s underwear section, I found a little tiny cart where they were selling these weird little pickled fruits. At first I thought they were pickled cherries, but they weren’t. I tried one and didn’t care for it, but I could see how it could become an addictive snack along the lines of li huing mi (dried salty plums—salty sweet and sour all in one little dried fruit).
Posted Image

One thing I found odd was that meat and fruit were often sold at the same stall within close proximity to each other. Sometimes the raw meat would be hanging right above the fruit, and the fruit wasn’t always of a peel-able variety. Cambodians must have very good stomach bacteria to fight off all that possible food poisoning.
Posted Image

Chicos! My mother loves chicos (also called sopadilla), and she got very excited when she saw them. She even deigned to taste a little unwashed sopadilla cut with the vendor’s unwashed knife! I was very proud of her. And then she even bought some! I think she ended up with about 10 of them.
Posted Image

More fruit and meat. I wanted the mangos.
Posted Image

Are these what I think they are?
Posted Image

Kidneys?
Posted Image

Brains, very prettily displayed on some kind of leaf—no wonder my mother wouldn’t use the banana leaf at The Banana Leaf Apolo!
Posted Image

Lunch for someone! I don’t know what it was, but it sure did look good (not that you can tell from the blurry picture). We didn’t try any, though (again, not a surprise).
Posted Image

Edited by prasantrin, 06 March 2009 - 08:32 AM.


#54 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 06 March 2009 - 08:46 AM

Day 4 Part 2
We spent quite some time at the market, and only came out with a big bag of chicos, but we got lost a lot (it’s not as big or confusing as a market like Chatuchak in Bangkok, but it’s big enough to get lost--at least for us to get lost, but we aren't so good with directions). By the time we left, we were hungry! Lack of planning, and being plain tuckered out meant. . . back to the hotel for lunch!

We decided to eat indoors this time. Look at my mother. Why is she so happy?
Posted Image

She’s got her chico! She couldn’t even wait to open one—as soon as we sat down, she started munching on them.
Posted Image

Her lunch was loc lac. It was like Thai beef salad, but not spicy. And I don’t remember any toasted ground rice in there, either. It was quite salty because they used rock salt—pretty, but unnecessary.
Posted Image

I had chicken with kampot peppers. With pasta.
Posted Image

It turned out to be stuffed! It was OK. Chicken breast is never high on my list of things to eat, but the kampot peppers really packed a punch! I love Cambodian peppercorns!
Posted Image

We went out again that afternoon, but I can’t remember where we went. Oh well, not so important. For our Christmas dinner, we went to Comme a la Maison, just a short walk from our hotel.

My mother ordered an appetizer plate. What’s on it? I can’t remember at all.
Posted Image

For her main she had. . . Duck? Chicken? Quail? Something with grapes, anyway.
Posted Image

I had butternut squash pasta. I expected pasta made with butternut squash, but it was butternut squash cut like pasta. I don’t remember caring for my main too much. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t interesting to me.
Posted Image

For dessert, my mother had the coffee roll cake.
Posted Image

And I had the strawberry roll cake. Loved the little plastic Christmas tree on it. It was actually really good—very moist cake, the icing wasn’t cloying at all. I wanted more.
Posted Image

I also met the cutest guy here. He even sat on my lap for a short time. I don’t have a picture, but it really happened! OK, he wasn’t even a year old, but for some reason he took a liking to me, and his parents let me hold him while they ate their dinner (we were already done). That’s one thing I like about SE Asia (in comparison to the US and Canada)—raising children is really the responsibility of the community, and parents are not so “How dare you touch/talk to my child!” But that’s another topic. . .

The next morning we were headed back to SR, again on our luxury bus. Just a few more days and I'm done!

Edited by prasantrin, 06 March 2009 - 08:48 AM.


#55 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 06 March 2009 - 09:11 AM

The next day was Christmas!  And what says Christmas more than a genocide museum! 

View Post


That's my girl!

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a place no one really wants to visit, but everyone should.  It and the Killing Fields (which we did not visit) were the only reasons I wanted to go to Phnom Penh—not because I enjoy the macabre, but because I believe it’s important to confront all that we are capable of doing to one another.  It’s probably best not to say more, but could someone tell me what this little boy did to deserve to be at that prison?

View Post

They don't go into enough detail when going through these, but Tuol Sleng was important in that the victims here were KR as well. This was the upshot of the ideological split between the pro-Viet cadres and the real hardliners, who were bred "under the bombs" (so to speak) and in the cafes of Paris.

What I found particularly creepy about Tuol Sleng (as opposed to Chong Mek) are the photos. There's one they point out, where you can see the finger that crept in to tickle them, so they would smile for the camera.

When Yoonhi was here last, an older woman came bay, and went over the map. It was a map of Cambodia, with human skulls and bones. She had wandered through the country, collecting bones from all over the country, with that as her mission after her family was slaughtered.

The government took the map down a few years back, I understand.

Are these what I think they are?
Posted Image

View Post


Yes. Yes, they are.

There's another interesting word, too. Psah. "Psah" comes from "bazaar". Cambodia is an important source of Oudh for the Arabs (it's a rot found in woods, and used as incense), and has been on the trading route for this reason for a long, long time.

Rona, I've got to go back soon. Your pictures are making me miss the place again.

#56 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 06 March 2009 - 09:14 AM

We decided to eat indoors this time.  Look at my mother.  Why is she so happy?
Posted Image

View Post


It's good to have a happy mom!

I have to ask, what was Sisowath Quay like? I'd heard it was ripped up and new infrastructure was being put in. Was it a mess, or did you get a chance for an espresso by the Maekhong?

#57 nakji

nakji
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 3,659 posts
  • Location:Shanghai

Posted 06 March 2009 - 04:00 PM

Posted Image


I think that's a lotus leaf.

#58 Domestic Goddess

Domestic Goddess
  • participating member
  • 1,738 posts
  • Location:South Korea, orig. from Philippines

Posted 06 March 2009 - 10:37 PM

I would also say that is a lotus leaf. My mouth is salivating at all those brains, I miss brain omelet (Tortang Utak in Filipino) that my grandmother would fix for lunch. It was always so garlicky and creamy. I could eat a plateful.
Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

#59 Peter Green

Peter Green
  • participating member
  • 1,990 posts
  • Location:Middle East/Bangkok

Posted 07 March 2009 - 07:51 AM

The second order of brains I ever ate was in Penh at what was then Restaurant 88. I remember it being soft, meltingly soft, as opposed to the fried things I'd had with Yoonhi at the William Tell in Vancouver way back when.

Hang Neak, across the Tonle and up along the banks of the Mekong always did really nice brains, steamed with fragrant herbs. And Ton Lok, on Sisowat Quay, was another good place (along with the "road frogs"). This is a dish that does well with the subdued flavours that the Khmer and the Chinese can bring to the table.

Now I want to go back and watch Sean of the Dead again.

#60 prasantrin

prasantrin
  • legacy participant
  • 5,468 posts

Posted 19 March 2009 - 06:20 AM

I must take advantage of Peter's lull in posting to finish up my trip!

The bus ride back to SR was much better than the ride over. The bus was in slightly worse shape, I thought, but we had a much better rest stop! This rest stop not only had a restaurant, but also a little market!

I was a bit confused about these things.
Posted Image

Up close, they look like spiders, don't they?
Posted Image

That's because they are! The woman lifted up her basket to show me the live ones. I'm not a terribly adventurous eater in that I don't seek out weird food, but I'll try pretty much everything at least once. These, however, would never ever ever touch my lips. Ever since Kelly Reimer put a dead spider in my hair in the 4th grade, I've been very afraid of them. Especially dead ones!
Posted Image

More bugs. I might have tried these had someone else bought them and offered me one.
Posted Image

Yum! Cooked poultry sitting out in the mid-day heat!
Posted Image

With their innards, too!
Posted Image

I think these were mostly dried fruits and nuts.
Posted Image

And lots of dried fish. My mother wanted to buy some, but I put my foot down. The air conditioning wasn't working too well--imagine how stinky the bus would have been!
Posted Image

That evening we ended up at Le Tigre de Papier for dinner. My mother had amok--I think this was chicken. Sorry for the dark pictures. She said it was "ok". I had pizza. :blush:
Posted Image
Posted Image

We found out most of the staff (or all the staff) at Le Tigre de Papier was from SalaBai, so it's good to know the graduates are being employed!