Archive for the 'Khmer' Category

Phnom Penh Noodle Restaurant – Los Angeles (Long Beach)

Phnom Penh Noodle Restaurant - Long Beach

Dining at Phnom Penh Noodle feels like sitting down for a meal at good friend’s home. It might have something to do with the converted house the restaurant is located in, but mostly it’s the warm service and soulful cooking that put The Astronomer and me completely at ease.

Phnom Penh Noodle Restaurant - Long Beach

The Tan family has been dishing up Cambodian-style noodles, porridge, and fried breads in this quiet building on Long Beach’s Cherry Avenue since 1985. These days, the restaurant is mostly run by the proprietors’ cheery brood, a passionate bunch poised to take over the day-to-day operations in the coming years.

Phnom Penh Noodle Restaurant - Long Beach

The Phnom Penh noodles are a must-order for first-timers and regulars alike. Each bowl is layered with springy rice noodles, tail-on shrimp, porky odds and ends, fried garlic, and fresh cilantro, and can be served ladled with scalding hot soup or “dry” with a bowl of broth on the side.

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Siem Reap – Los Angeles (Long Beach)

Siem Reap - Long Beach

Khmer cuisine hasn’t quite hit the mainstream like the food of its Southeast Asian neighbors, namely Thailand and Vietnam, but here in the heart of Long Beach’s Cambodia Town, the country’s robust cooking is celebrated on every corner. Siem Reap, a grandiose restaurant decked out with a full bar and dance floor, composes classic Khmer dishes that display as much flare as the ambiance.

Siem Reap - Long Beach

While the menu lists dozens of Thai and Chinese-American dishes, it’s Chef Huey Be’s Cambodian specialties that are really something special. The walls and windows both outside and inside the restaurant are covered with blown up images of Khmer classics to guide those new to the cuisine.

Our waitress was sweet enough to walk me through the specialties, literally, and from those I selected three dishes that sounded delightful.

Siem Reap - Long Beach

As we waited for the food to be prepared, The Astronomer and I snacked on complimentary sweetly pickled cabbage and carrots served with a side of salty peanuts.

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The Elephant Walk – Boston (Cambridge)

The Elephant Walk - Cambridge

On our final night in Boston, The Astronomer’s aunts Monique and Mary took us out to dinner at one of their favorite local restaurants, The Elephant Walk. It had been nearly three years since our bellies were treated to authentic Khmer flavors, so we were beyond excited to sit down for a meal at this highly-lauded restaurant. Rounding out our party was The Astronomer’s sister Rosalind, his cousin Sebastian, and Sebastian’s girlfriend Josie.

The Elephant Walk - Cambridge

Longteine “Nyep” de Monteiro, the founding chef of The Elephant Walk, didn’t plan on a culinary career. After fleeing to France in 1979 to escape the Khmer Rouge, she had to draw upon the fundamentals of Cambodian cuisine that her mother taught her in order to support her family.

Nyep joined her daughter Nadsa in the U.S. in 1990 and opened the original Elephant Walk one year later in Somerville, just north of Boston. The restaurant currently has three locations in Boston, Cambridge, and Waltham Center. In addition to upscale Cambodian food, The Elephant Walk’s menu also features classic French dishes.

The Elephant Walk - Cambridge

While waiting for our appetizers to arrive, we were served baguettes with softened butter. The loaves were crisp, crusty, and warm, and provided a great start to our supper.

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Meric – Siem Reap

February 9, 2008
Cuisine: Cambodian, Asian Fusion

Sivutha Boulevard
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Phone: 855 63 966 000
Website: www.hoteldelapaixangkor.com/meric.php

Course I: Pomelo and grilled pork salad

Course II: Grilled chicken and yam bean salad

Course III: Grilled beef skewer with green papaya salad

Khmer organic white rice

Course IV: Bar fish and eggplant with coconut milk soup

Course V: Stir-fried calamari with Khmer curry and peanut

Course VI: Braised beef shank with palm sugar and star anise

Course VII: Assorted Khmer sweets

Birthday “cake”

I celebrated the big 2-6 climbing on ancient temples around Angkor Wat and enjoying a luxe dinner afterwards at Meric. I would normally skip swanky joints for homelier ones, but since it was my birthday, I had to live it up. Plus, Conde Nast Traveler named Meric one of their Hot Tables in 2006:

Named after a type of pepper grown in the Kampot region of Cambodia, this slick dining room at the trendiest new property in Siem Reap, the Hôtel de la Paix, has immediately become the boom town’s best table. New Zealand native Paul Hutt, one of the most inventive chefs in Southeast Asia, moved here from the Shinta Mani Hotel, and if his menu there was brilliant, here he’s really hit his stride. Think Khmer cooking for the twenty-first century, which is to say regional dishes made with local produce and given a high-shine Pacific Rim gloss. “What I love about Cambodia is the incredible freshness of the ingredients and the subtlety of Khmer cooking, a very misunderstood Asian cuisine,” says Hutt. His menu evolves constantly; among the latest dishes were steamed maan (fermented fish) with Khmer crudités, lake krill from nearby Tonle Sap, a salad of ambarella (between a quince and a crab apple), and stir-fried frog with basil (entrées, $18–$22).

 

Our entire party of six ordered the Khmer tasting menu—a seven course Cambodian feast priced at $28. The presentation at Meric is really something special, every course was served on slabs of stone and garnished with banana leaves.

The first course was a large spoonful of pomelo and grilled pork salad. We weren’t sure whether to eat it in one bite or to make it last by using additional silverware. The salad was very similar to the pomelo salad I had in Da Nang at Buddha Bay, minus the squid. From the fried shallots to the pork slivers to the fish sauce-based dressing, the salad was more or less a Vietnamese goi.

The grilled chicken and yam bean salad came next. The yam beans, also known as jicama, created a crunchy and refreshing base. The chicken was shredded and simple, while the herbs shined through.

The grilled beef skewer with green papaya salad served with Khmer organic white rice was a crowd pleaser. The beef was marinated in lemongrass and tasted smoky from the grill. The pickled green papaya salad contrasted well with the fatty beef. The white rice was the finest jasmine I’ve eaten in all of South East Asia.

The bar fish and eggplant with coconut milk soup was lovely as well. The fish’s texture was sturdy like chicken, while the eggplants were nice and tender. The coconut milk brought about a milder and creamier curry soup.

The stir-fried calamari with Khmer curry and peanuts was probably the least memorable of the dishes due to its lack of oomph. Diced green peppers and peanuts can only take a dish so far. According to the chef, this dish isn’t purely Cambodian. While the Khmer do eat squid, it’s usually grilled and not stir-fried.

My favorite course of the evening was the braised beef shank with palm sugar and star anise. Reminiscent of Vietnamese bo kho, this rich and savory stew was brimming with moist pieces of beef and richly flavored with star anise. The yolk from the hard-boiled egg soaked up the salty broth, creating an orb of deliciousness.

For our final course, we were presented with an assortment of Khmer sweets including a banana cake, a sticky rice cake topped with custard, and a shot glass filled with sticky rice with black eyed peas and coconut milk. The cakes were served with a caramel-y palm sugar sauce that seduced me completely. My favorite combo was the banana cake dipped in the palm sugar sauce—caramel and bananas go hand in hand.

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