Feb 16, 2016

Cambodia Travelogue: Getting Hands Dirty with Khmer Street Food & Tomb Raiding (30 Jan 2015)

Traveling definitely took a toll on us - we crashed around 10pm the day before, yet we ended up waking up around 10am. After a quick preparation, we headed out from Golden Papaya Resthouse on foot to Phsar Chas, in seek of some yummy Khmer street food.

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Spotting Grilled Bananas and Mysteriously Wrapped-Up Goodies
Along Hospital Street, we first spotted this battered wooden cart showcasing some ready grilled bananas on skewers and mysteriously wrapped-up goodies in banana leaves. We did not stop to buy.

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More Goodies Along the Same Street
Few steps ahead, we came across another stall selling similar things as the first, plus more. This time round, we stopped and bought a skewer of grilled bananas and two different wrapped-up goodies (not knowing what exactly we were buying).

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Glutinous Rice Filled with Meat
The grilled banana was rather disappointing - it was dry and tart as it was unripe and possibly not the sweeter breed. The two wrapped-up goodies did make up for the bananas though. Look at the doneness of the glutinous rice! It promised (and delivered) soft and chewy bites, along with the sweetened bananas and flavourful minced meat respectively.

Total Damage = USD 2

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Baguette Stall Right In Front of Siem Reap Provincial Hospital
As I was busy devouring the yummy glutinous rice with minced meat, we caught sight of this baguette stall, strategically located in front of the entry of Siem Reap Provincial Hospital. We just had to try it!

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Pork Baguette (USD 1)
This was our pork baguette for sharing. You probably couldn't locate the meat but I was sure that the seller put a skewer of meat into it. The whole package was heavily doused with sweet sauce (yes, Cambodian loves their food sweet) and somewhere in between each bite, my tongue would register the tenderness and juiciness of pork meat in it, contrasting strongly against the crispy yet fluffy baguette.

Total Damage = USD 1

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Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar

By the time we reached Phsar Chas, we were still hunting for more food to fill our empty bellies. This was when we chanced upon this Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar, which looked like a more affordable Khmer food establishment and seemingly well accepted by foreigners.

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Egg Rolls @ Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar
To begin with, we ordered this appertiser, egg rolls, which looked like rolled up roti telur. Looks could be deceiving - this egg rolls were too thick (Malaysian's roti telur can be better than this), however, the sauce (sweet, just like how the Cambodian likes it) did compensate for the lack of fluffiness I was hoping for.

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Stir Fry Pork with Rice @ Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar
Despite the grilled bananas, glutinous rice and baguette, tanner half went all out for a full meal with this stir fry pork with rice. The pork was cooked to perfection - it was tender, flavourful and loaded with caramelised onions. He was a happy man!

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Khmer Soup with Beef
I, on the other hand, was going easy with this Khmer soup with beef. Surprisingly, it steered away from the usual sweetness in most Khmer food. Instead, it was sour and loaded with herbs, which was a refreshing change I was looking for. That aside, the beef was slightly overcooked, presenting more resistance than I would like it to be.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = USD 8.50

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Fruit Juice-On-The-Go @ Phsar Chas (USD 1)
For dessert, we grabbed a rambutan shake from this fruit stall right opposite Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar. Compared to the avocado shake we had the day before, this was oversaturated with ice, making the shake too diluted to my liking.

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Our Mountain Bikes (USD 4/Day)
Oh well, we still had plenty to catch up for the day. Let's hop on the mountain bikes and ride 13km to Ta Prohm! You must be thinking, "Damn, you seriously rode 13km to Ta Prohm?". You bet we did, not to mention the scorching hot afternoon sun and precarious traffic in Siem Reap!

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Tall Spungs @ Entrance of Ta Prohm
To enter Ta Prohm, which is part of Angkor Archaeological Park, you need to purchase an admission pass at the main entrance on the road to Angkor Wat. 1-day, 3-day and 7-day passes are priced at USD20, USD40, and USD60 respectively. Upon payment, you will be given an Angkor Pass stating the date of entry and expiry, with your photo (taken on the spot, free of charge) on the side for verification purpose.

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Sneaking Around Ta Prohm
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"Help, I Am Stucked!" @ Ta Prohm
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Oh Look, That's The "Exit" @ Ta Prohm
By the time we arrived at Ta Prohm, we were exhausted. It was an enormous relief to be under the shade of tall spungs. Better still, hide in the dark ruins, unmolested by the glorious sun, and enjoy the chilly air!

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Devatas @ Ta Prohm
All over the ground of Ta Prohm, you will find countless stone carvings of standing minor female deities named Devatas. Alongside with Apsaras, the divine nymphs or celestial dancing girls, Devatas is one of the dominating motives in the whole Angkor Archaeological Park.

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The Tallest Spung in Ta Prohm
Traversing across the ruins of Ta Prohm, I couldn't help to feel disappointment by the state of condition it was in, though it was intentionally so.

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Thick Crawling Limbs of the Tallest White Tree @ Ta Prohm
Despite all adversities, the spungs rose tall and proud, supported by its thick crawling limbs across the ruined structures of Ta Prohm.

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Stacking Stone by Stone @ Ta Prohm
Sometimes, we couldn't help but amazed at the workmanship of Khmer architecture. Stone by stone, it was stacked in such angle that it supported each other's weight to form the shapes the architect so desired. Their intelligence was formidable.

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Goodbye Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm was a living evidence of the timeless perpetuation of the power of nature. It reminds us that nature will continually evolve through adversities and perpetuate through time while we lay peacefully under the embrace of nature as and when such times come.

What do you say to some "tomb raiding"?


IN SUMMARY,

My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Random Mobile Snacks Stall - 1/5
    • Random Mobile Baguette stall - 2/5
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - 3/5
  • Price
    • Random Mobile Snacks Stall - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Baguette stall - 5/5
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - 5/5 
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - 5/5
  • Food
    • Random Mobile Snacks Stall - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Baguette stall - 4/5
    • Nai Khmer Restaurant and Bar - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - 2/5
  • Verdict
    • Random Mobile Snacks Stall - Do try their wrapped-up goodies. It was really good and filling
    • Random Mobile Baguette stall - An easy snack on the go. Double up if you need to for the portion was quite small
    • 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 Juice Stall - Nah, don't try rambutan shake (or maybe any shake).

My personal attractions verdicts for:

Ta Prohm - If you have a tour guide and chauffeur, visiting Ta Prohm should be an easy task on your itinerary. Being there made me reflect on how minuscule I am in the whole wide world. Let's just say Ta Prohm is a place for self enlightenment.


DINING INFO:

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

Jan 11, 2016

Cambodia Travelogue: First Day in the Land of Khmer Food (29 Jan 2015)

As it is the brand new of 2016, it is only fitting to kick start my Cambodia travelogue before it becomes a trip happened "2 years ago".

Why Cambodia?
It was partially due to the frequency of Angkor Wat popping up in my daily conversation at work, and my personal urge to visit Angkor Wat before this UNESCO world heritage site disappeared from this world.
So we landed in Siem Reap on 29 Jan 2015, excited to explore what Cambodia had in store for us.

Our first venture in Siem Reap was none other than a taste of Khmer Food at Khmer Kitchen Restaurant in Phsar Chas (Old Market).

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Khmer Dumpling with Sauce @ Khmer Kitchen Restaurant (USD 2.50) 
To start off our first Khmer meal, we ordered Khmer dumplings as appetiser. Akin to Chinese dumplings, the difference being the ingredients used (usage of rice flour was prevalent) and thickness of skin. Both were loaded with vegetables, i.e. chives/spring onions and onions. Personally, I liked the one with onions for its balance in texture and flavour. Another was outright bland and you know, grassy.

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Amok @ Khmer Kitchen Restaurant (USD 4)
Before long, one of our main courses, Amok, was served. Being the major national culinary tradition in Cambodia, we just had to try. Cooked with coconut cream, spicy paste, long beans, onion, green leaves, egg white and pork, this Amok was fragrant and delicious. However, do bear in mind that it was consistently coconuty rich and flavourful that at one point, you will say, "I have had enough". I personally thought it was due to the lack of spiciness to provide the necessary contrast.

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Khmer Curry @ Khmer Kitchen Restaurant (USD 4)
Another main course, Khmer curry, was served alongside with Amok. Cooked with coconut cream, spicy paste, chilies, potatoes, yam, pumpkin, carrot and pork, this Khmer curry was a delightful addition. Loaded with different types of vegetables, the natural sweetness was a welcoming contrast to Amok. Though its richness was nothing close to Amok, I would have chosen this Khmer curry over Amok, and yes, I could surely help myself to the whole curry.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = USD 11.50 (+ Angkor draft beer for USD 1)

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Fruit Juice On-the-Go @ Phsar Chas (USD1)
Following the conclusion of our first Khmer meal, we walked around Phsar Chas (Old Market) and stumbled across many of these USD1 mobile fruit juice stalls. Out of curiosity, we went to check on this particular stall.

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Avocado Shake @ Phsar Chas (USD 1)
To our amazement, they had avocados! Knowing how luxurious avocado is priced, ordering an avocado shake was almost a no brainer. Even at USD 1, this stall did not skimp on the avocado. I was utterly satisfied.

Total Damage = USD 1 (for sharing)

Due to the hot weather in Siem Reap, we did not linger long. Instead, we took a comfortable nap in double room in Golden Papaya Guesthouse, which is located c. 800m from Khmer Kitchen Restaurant.

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7-Meat Degustation BBQ Set @ Cambodian BBQ Restaurant (USD 19.50/2 pax)
After 5 hours nap, it was time for our second meal at Cambodian BBQ Restaurant. Our primary reason of selecting Cambodian BBQ Restaurant was none other than this 7-meat degustation BBQ set, made up of crocodile meat, shark meat, espadon meat, beef, pork, chicken and squid.

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Complimentary (and Refillable) Noodles, Rice and Vegetables @ Cambodian BBQ Restaurant
To go with our meats, we were provided with complimentary noodles, rice and vegetables, which were refillable upon request.

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Sizzling Action @ Cambodian BBQ Restaurant
If I had a choice, I would gladly replace shark in the degustation set, for it was closely resembled to fish, though more resistant and saltier. Shark aside, our BBQ dinner was decent but not mind blowing. I particularly liked the design of their grill for it allowed the soup to be flavoured by juices flowing out from the meats. 

Total Damage for 2 Pax = USD 22

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Mobile Pancake Stall @ Phsar Chas (Old Market)
After our meal at Cambodian BBQ Restaurant, we saw this pancake stall and we were totally sold. Who could resist the combo of banana and chocolate?

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Banana Nutella Pancake @ Phsar Chas (USD 1)
For USD 1, we had gotten ourselves a piece of roti canai/prata with gooey spread of nutella and slices of semi-cooked banana. Despite the tongue scorching heat, we devoured this lovely dessert before we were even out of Phsar Chas. Was it worth the calories? You bet so!

Total Damage = USD 1 (for sharing)

IN SUMMARY, my personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance
    • Khmer Kitchen Restaurant - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - 2/5
    • Cambodian BBQ Restaurant - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Pancake Stall - 2/5
  • Price
    • Khmer Kitchen Restaurant - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - 5/5
    • Cambodian BBQ Restaurant - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Pancake Stall - 5/5
  • Food
    • Khmer Kitchen Restaurant - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - 5/5
    • Cambodian BBQ Restaurant - 3/5
    • Random Mobile Pancake Stall - 5/5
  • Verdict
    • Khmer Kitchen Restaurant - A good introduction to Khmer food, though not the best in flavour.
    • Random Mobile Juice Stall - Give me another one, please?
    • Cambodian BBQ Restaurant - Interesting but not so interesting
    • Random Mobile Pancake Stall - Heavenly good, must try!

DINING INFO:

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant
Street 11, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Operation Hours: 11am - 11pm
Tel: +855 63 964 154
Credit Cards: No

Cambodian BBQ Restaurant
Pub Street (The Passage), Siem Reap, Cambodia
Operation Hours: 10am - 12am
Tel: +855 63 966 052, +855 78 845 938
Credit Cards: Yes

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