I'm currently in Phnom Penh for a few days and thought I'd do a food report from time to time. In case you think I am already dining on fabulous Cambodia food, I must tell you that I arrived just last night after having a marginal meal on the plane (some kind of fish cake that I didn't enjoy). Today's breakfast was an omelette and bacon which are never really quite the same when cooked in Asia. I had lunch in an office where I was working, and they ordered in some pretty decent thin crust pizza! They also had some very decent Vietnamese coffee on the brew -- must be the only office in Cambodia that doesn't serve Nescafe instant. I hear that the Cambodian coffee industry may be reviving, and I will see if I can find some to check it out. I'm about to go out for dinner this evening, and will try to give a better report tomorrow. Unfortunately on this visit I will not be able to give much detail on any sights as I will be working pretty much flat out. I can report that my usual 2.5-star hotel has been renovated, and the air con no longer sounds like a buzz saw, although the renos start up at 8 a.m. with drilling and sawing. Fortunately, I am up by then!
Don't think I'd do street food in Cambodia. Still pretty grim here -- Very easy to get quite sick here if not very careful, and even then.... Really too bad that most government officials here seem to look after lining their pockets instead of making serious improvements. Foreign donor money has done some -- i.e. improving the Phnom Penh water supply considerably, but I really can't say that I see terribly much improvement over the past decade of almost-annual visits. Certainly not in the lives of ordinary Cambodians.MEF wrote:Not a great food beginning; still, I feel sure you will hit the streets and markets and find the real thing!
Last evening I felt very tired (jet lag and just plain tiredness from a very long working day), so went to the excellent little French cafe a few steps around the corner from my hotel, "Comme a la Maison" -- on of the specials was a pork sausage and lentil stew. Doesn't sound like much but Wow! The pork sausage was home made. I had a side order of ratatouille and some red wine to wash all down. Expensive for Cambodia -- a grand total of $13.50 US -- but worth every penny in this very well run place where you can eat anything safely.
Today my modest hotel for lunch -- Cambodian food. Stir-fried fish with copious quantities of shredded ginger and onions. Simple but generous portion and wonderful flavour. Served with steamed rice. $3.00 US.
This evening I will try one of two fairly good Thai-Khmer restaurants near my hotel and will report.
Dinner Thursday evening at the Khmer Surin Restaurant http://travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-2 ... nom_penh-i was a bit disappointing. Have had good Cambodian/Thai meals there many times before. A rather flat tasting meal of "long eggplant" with fish. Because I'm dining alone, I have to content myself with one-dish meals, which is a bit limiting. But I enjoyed reading the Phnom Penh Post .http://www.phnompenhpost.com/
2. Dinner Friday evening at the Foreign Correspondent's Club http://www.fcccambodia.com/. The FCCstill has good art and photo exhibits, hosts panels on political issues where local and expat experts talk about current events. And the food is excellent -- a menu of local and foreign food. I had the red snapper on a bed of risotto and clams (superb!) and read the weekend edition of the Cambodia Daily http://www.cambodiadaily.com/. Apparently, the garment industry is relatively okay here -- I think we in the West can wear clothes "Made in Cambodia" with good conscience. http://www.us.ilo.org/regions/asiapac/c ... fall03.cfm. So I am more encouraged today about evidence of some progress here in Cambodia through activity of Unions, the International Labour Organization, and the US textile agreement of 1999 (prior to the regime of George the Second). A lot depends on whether garment factories stay here after the expiration of the agreement at the end of 2004 http://www.camnet.com.kh/cambodia.daily ... _order.htm. Some say the garment factories will stay and some say not. Lots of jobs lost if they go because the garment industry is one of the largest employers here. Wages are low here, but there are unions and collective agreements at a majority of garment factories.
3. Lunch at a French restaurant called Atmosphere today with a long-time expat who has lived here for many years and thus seen a lot. The food is excellent there. Not in the tourist restaurant guide, and probably just as well, as it is quite small. My friend pointed out that there have been improvements. She pointed out that while it took a year to form a government after the 2003 election, at least there was no major violence as there was after the 1998 election. And there is no more insurgency in the countryside since 1998. So I guess that has to be counted as progress!
You will be noticing not much Cambodia food in the menu. This is just by chance. I will go to the Amok Cafe either this evening or tomorrow.
There is little evidence of Christmas here, of course! There is an international music festival on here, though, and I will attend some of the events -- local Cambodian musicians as well as some expats. http://www.camnet.com.kh/cambodia.daily ... _order.htm
I keep thinking about that lentil and sausage dish you had at "Comme a la Maison". I guess there is still plenty of evidence of the French influence. Is French still spoken as well? And do you get the sense that the French cookery has a slight Cambodian flare?
I remember having a great dish of puy lentils and duck sausage when we were in France. What kind of lentils did you have? Brown? Yellow?
Interesting story about the kite festival in the PhnomPen Post:
http://www.phnompenhpost.com/TXT/curren ... s/kite.htm
Hello llizard, there is French colonial architecture, baguettes and some French influence in the cooking. Some of the well-educated older people speak French (who survived the Pol Pot regime or have returned from refuge in France, including such notables as Norodom Sihanouk (the king father), the new king Norodom Sihamoni, and the head of two of the opposition political parties and a number of other notables).llizard wrote:...I keep thinking about that lentil and sausage dish you had at "Comme a la Maison". I guess there is still plenty of evidence of the French influence. Is French still spoken as well? And do you get the sense that the French cookery has a slight Cambodian flare?
I remember having a great dish of puy lentils and duck sausage when we were in France. What kind of lentils did you have? Brown? Yellow?...
But younger people speak English. The foreign influence is more international now.
Regarding the French food -- I don't think it has a particularly Cambodian flare because most of the French restaurants are run by French ex pats who train local staff. Oh, yes... the lentils were brown. The French and other foreign food here is really excellent. A lot of Cambodian food is similar to Thai food, but not as spicy.
Last evening I was taken out to a Cambodian restaurant on the Mekong River by Cambodian colleagues. No idea of the name of the restaurant. The restaurants all tend to look the same on this side of the river. Some have loud Cambodian singers, but ours was quiet (except for the loud singing from the next restaurant up or down the river). Need to select carefully when going to restaurants "across the bridge on the river." I'd avoid this one if I could! The only decent thing was the prahok, and so far it appears to have been safe to eat (judging by the state of my wellbeing today, if you know what I mean). But I regret to report that my bowl of tom yam gung (a Cambodian version of Thai shrimp soup with a Thai name) had a drowned fly floating in it. Didn't want to say anything because of Cambodian hosts who would have been completely mortified. They were all nervous enough with a foreigner present. I hope the fly was thoroughly cooked. I was successful in my attempt not to eat the fly and I hope successful in appearing to enjoy the soup.
This evening I was taken to a wonderful Chinese food in Phnom Penh's "Chinatown" which doesn't look like any China town we have in North America. The "Peking Canteen", near Central Market. A tiny hole in the wall, but very busy, clean and really fantastic food! Had duck, potstickers, spicy eggplant. Shared with Cambodian and expat colleagues. Terrific.