Aug 14, 2016

Cambodia Travelogue: Daily Dose of Khmer Street Food (31 Jan 2015)

Tomb raiding sounded more fun than you think.

After the gruesome 26km cycling to and fro Ta Prohm, I could hardly go toilet without wincing. That being said, cycling was definitely out of questions. So we decided to spend the day on foot, exploring Phsar Chas (the Old Market) and its vicinity.

Our first stop of the day was none other than Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar, for our first meal of the day.

Khmer Pumpkin Pork @ Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar
The tanner half went for this Khmer pumpkin pork, which was rich with fiber and coconut milk, as his main course. I personally felt that it could get quite boring after awhile due to its subtlety in flavour. Perhaps a little more salt would spice things up!

Khmer Noodles with Pork @ Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar
I, on the other hand, opted for this Khmer noodles with pork. Flavour wise, I liked this better as it had a balanced profile. Texture wise, the peanuts did perform its fair share of differentiation. In case you are wondering how it tastes like, imagine it being a cold noodles doused with tangy sauce, with stir fry pork and peanut chunks at side to eat it with.

Khmer Pancake @ Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar
For sharing, we ordered this Khmer pancake. The delicately thin pancake was a strong display of awesomeness; it crumbled upon touch, mixed well with loaded minced pork and onions, and a bowl of tangy dipping sauce to go with. Needless to say, it triumphed over fried spring roll we had the other day.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = USD 8.25 (including a pint of Angkor draft beer)

With tummies filled, we continued exploring Phsar Chas. Phsar Chas is the home to plethora of souvenir stalls. Handicraft, silver, silk, and jewelries are some of the ubiquitous items sold within the confine of covered marketplace. For travellers intending to shop, you have plenty options to choose from (though not so much for us).

Stir Fry Kuey Teow @ Random Mobile Noodle Stall (USD 1)
We stumbled across this random roadside stall outside Phsar Chas, with few locals waiting patiently for their takeaway. Curious we were, we joined the bandwagon and had a packet of the piping hot stir fry kuey teow by the roadside.

Smooth and silky, their kuey teow was almost perfect. I loved that it was loaded with vegetables. The taste of fish sauce was distinct yet not overwhelming, though like most Khmer food, it lacked the savoury profile that we Malaysian are so accustomed to.

Fried Crullers @ Random Mobile Snack Stall (USD 1)
For dessert, we bought two different fried crullers from a nearby roadside stall that came with a pale green sauce. The crullers was not as fluffy but remained satisfying. The sauce was a nice addition: akin to kaya, it tasted less coconut but more sugary.

Soursop Shake @ Random Mobile Juice Stall (USD 1)
We also ordered a soursop shake to quench our thirst. Similar to our last rambutan shake, it had more ice than I liked, diluting the goodness of soursop.

We ventured outside Phsar Chas just to find ourselves in Central Market and Angkor Night Market, selling similar things like Phsar Chas. The only notable difference was the overwhelming glitter of jewelries in Angkor Night Market. It was the heaven for jewelries shoppers.

Pork Baguette @ Angkor Night Market (USD 1)

By night fall, we headed back to Phsar Chas, where it continued to brim with noises and people. For adventurous travellers, it was here you would find fried insects piling high in a mobile push truck. For pub goers, plenty of pubs awaited at Pub Street. For the less adventurous us, we stopped by and grabbed some freshly made pork baguette for snacks. How could we possibly say "No" to a crispy bun, loaded with pickled vegetables and piping hot pork skewers?


My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Noodles Stall - 2/5
    • Random Mobile Snacks Stall - 2/5
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - 2/5
    • Random Mobile Baguette Stall - 2/5
  • Price
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - 5/5
    • Random Mobile Noodles Stall - 4/5
    • Random Mobile Snacks Stall - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - 2/5
    • Random Mobile Baguette stall - 4/5
  • Food
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - 4/5
    • Random Mobile Noodles Stall - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Snacks Stall - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - 2/5
    • Random Mobile Baguette stall - 4/5
  • Verdict
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - Affordable Khmer food place with plenty of options for one to choose from. Oh, do I mention they serve cheap local draft beer too?
    • Random Mobile Noodles Stall - Simple food at its best
    • Random Mobile Snacks Stall - Interesting sauce but I still like it the Malaysian way
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - Opt for less ice if you can
    • Random Mobile Baguette stall - An easy and delicious snack on the go. 

My personal attractions verdicts for:

Phsar Chas, Central Market, Angkor Night Market - If you like shopping, these are the places you should at least pay a visit. You might just end up buying the whole market!


Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar
Street 9, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Operation Hours: N/A (They serve brunch, lunch and dinner)
Tel: +855 63 964 154
Credit Card: No

May 28, 2016

Cambodia Travelogue: A Taste of Cambodian-French Fusion Cuisine by Cuisine Wat Damnak (30 Jan 2015)

Our "tomb raiding" experience in Ta Prohm was no doubt exhausting. Despite so, it did not temper our enthusiasm to experiment with unique local fusion cuisine, particularly Cuisine Wat Damnak.

Cuisine Wat Damnak is a contemporary Cambodian-French fusion restaurant, quietly tucked in a quaint area of Wat Damnak. I love its homely setting and warm ambiance. With both al-fresco and transparent indoor conditioned dining, it caters well to both Western and Asian diners.

Simplicity was prevalent in Cuisine Wat Damnak - 2 tasting menus every week, 5-course or 6-course at USD24 and USD28 respectively. It sure made our decisions easier - 6-course for both tasting menus please!

Our fine dining evening was ushered by this seemingly familiar amuse-bouche. Though it was not experimental like most, its simplicity was unparalleled; it was the living testimony of harmonious coexistent of crisp and tenderness.

Crispy Beef Tongue Salad with Rose Apple, Cucumber, Sweet Peanut and Tamarind Dressing
Before long, the first appertiser followed. This was the revolution of classic satay, sans the stick, cons exquisite organ belonging to a cow. I must admit that beef tongue was not really my kind of meat but the overall combination was not overwhelming. Thanks to the clever play of natural sweetness from rose apple, the nutty aroma of peanut, and the citrusy twist from tamarind, this crispy beef tongue was the best organ I have ever had in my life.

Fresh Coconut Tree Heart Salad with Lemon Basil, Tonle Sap Puffer Fish and Spicy Pounded Coconut
In case you didn't notice, Cuisine Wat Damnak sources mainly from nearby farms and foraged wild from Siem Reap province. Hence, we had Tonle Sap puffer fish and coconut tree heart gracing our dining plates. While this might not be as challenging as the crispy beef tongue salad, this coconut tree heart salad was intriguing at its own way: who would have thought of eating the coconut tree heart with fried fish? More so with its combination of coconut, lemon basil and chilies.

Black Sticky Rice Porridge with Duck, Mushrooms, Sesame and Chrysanthemum Shoots
By then we were so pleased with our appetisers that we couldn't wait to explore the next adventure our main would deliver: black sticky rice porridge wth duck, mushrooms, sesame and chrystanthemum shoots. I loved how blended was the flavour of duck in black sticky rice porridge. I loved how the texture of thinly shredded duck meat paired with dense sticky rice and fresh chrysanthemum shoots. It had definitely escalated my gastronomy experience to the next level.

Grilled Pahar with Minced Pork and Holy Basil in Turmeric Leaf, Herbs and Local Crudites
Another main presented us with another fish species (I think) we had yet to discover until now, i.e Pahar. Unusual as it seemed, Cuisine Wat Damnak combined both fish and pork into a single dish that was so blended that I could hardly differentiate both. You might think it was predictable but that strong fragrant holy basil and turmeric leaf did lend a hand in proving you wrong.

Slow Cooked Pork Ribs Curry with Pumpkin, Peanuts and Deep Fried Shallots
We just had to have more and guess what, we had 2 more mains to go! This pork ribs curry was probably the least twisted dish in this post. The addition of pumpkin not only thicken the curry, it sweetened it. Oh, and that additional crunch from those crushed peanuts to go with the sweet tender pork ribs. Yes, I would definitely want some rice now!

Mekong Langoustine Spicy Sour Soup with Starfruit, Water Lily Stem and Rice Paddy Herb
Contrastingly, this second main was accompanied by usual flair of mystery. Bombarded with more ingredients unheard of, it anchored itself well with the usage of langoustine so fresh that it felt like it just died. The usage of starfruit added slight tartness to the dish, though easily ignored in the presence of spicy sour soup.

Stir Fried Boneless Frog Legs with Angkor Stout Reduction, Lotus Roots, Stems and Seeds
By now, we were rather full with satisfaction but we were not done. Though I am not a big fan of frogs, I was sold by the Angkor Stout reduction. Fermentation of grains and reduction method of cooking are a strong combination that promised only to bring out the best in our four legged jumpy friend. As expected, its chewy texture gave in to the warm embrace of Angkor Stout reduction. Paired with crunchy lotus roots, stems and seeds, it was a dish that makes any non frog eaters to go head over toe for it!

Pan Roasted Sanday Fish with Cambodian Giant Eggplant, Caramelised Palm Sugar, Fresh Peppercorn and Green Mango
Gracing our dinner plate was yet another fish unknown to us, along with clever combination of palm sugar and green mango. The usage of Cambodian giant eggplant was aptly so: what was better than a soft bed that absorbed all the healthy fat oozing from Sanday fish and the sweet spicy sauce?

Coconut Caramelised Baguette with White Chocolate Light Ganache and Fresh Turmeric Braised Pineapple
To end the night with sweet note, Cuisine Wat Damnak whipped out another unusual combo. Yes, I sure loved the coconut aroma with crumbly crispy baguette but better still, it was soaked with pineapple sweetened naturally by the braising and accentuated with white chocolate ganache. What about the turmeric? Nah, you would probably not noticed it at all.

Steamed Dark Chocolate Cake with Passion Fruit Mousse and Rice Praline
Though this was not as exciting as its another half, it was a well executed dolci on its own. The cake was soft and moist; the mousse was light and refreshing; the rice praline was a nice touch of texture.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = USD78 (6-course for two and a bottle of white)

A meal as good as this will never be complete without a glass of wine


My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance - 5/5
  • Price - 5/5
  • Food - 5/5
  • Verdict - I would surely come again! (Psst, menu is changed weekly so you can practically go every week!)


Cuisine Wat Damnak
Address: Wat Damnak village, Sala Kamreuk Commune, Siem Reap, Cambodia (Between Psa Dey Hoy market and Angkor High School)
Operation Hours: 6.30pm - 9.30pm (Tues - Sat)
Tel: +855 (0)77 347 762
Credit Card: Yes

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