SPICEGASM.COM My travel tales and food hunting

October 28, 2010

Finally some Cambodian cuisine

Filed under: Cambodia,Food,Travel — Alex @ 12:00 am

It’s our third day here in Phnom Penh and we are digging it pretty much. The food scene is not disappointing at all especially when it comes to International cuisines. There’s no shortage of choices on food in the Riverfront area. Prices are very reasonable as well.

My friend Eddie from Malaysia who invited me to Phnom Penh will be arriving today. He is quite familiar with Phnom Penh after few years of traveling back and forth because of his business commitments. We are quite excited about the prospect of having a personal tour guide to show us around.

Upon his arrival, he brought us to the Riverfront area and will introduce us to the most famous Cambodian cuisine call Amok. Every country has a national dish and for Cambodia, Amok is the most famous one.

We ordered Fish Amok and when it arrived, I had a feeling that it will taste good by just looking at it. The presentation of the food look good and the color of the sauce is very appealing. The name Amok most likely represents the method of cooking certain meats and vegetables. I came up with this conclusion after browsing through the menu and noticed that the restaurant also has chicken, beef and vegetables cook in Amok style.

We decided to order Fish Amok as it is the most popular choice among other meats. It is cook in certain curry spices and what made it different from other curry dishes from other countries, it uses egg white to thicken the sauce. I’m not sure our Amok has coconut milk in it, and even if it has coconut milk like Thai curries, the flavor of coconut milk wasn’t that strong.

It uses fish fillet ( much to the delight of our Caucasian friend ) and I’m guessing it is fresh water fish. It is wrapped with banana leaf, most likely to give an extra fragrant to the dish. In my opinion, the taste is really good and it is really appetizing when it is served with hot fluffy rice. It kinda tasted like a certain Nyonya dish that is famous in Malaysia.

We ordered another salad dish known as Khmer Char Kdout Salad. It is a slightly stir fry chicken fillet marinated with spices like lemon grass and among others. It also has chili, cucumber, green pepper, onion, beans and lettuce. It doesn’t have the sweet and sour taste along with spiciness like Thai papaya salad. The salad does taste good but it doesn’t provide me with the “WOW” effect. This does not mean it doesn’t taste good. I will eat this anytime of the day if given the choice between fast food ( ehem…McDo ) and this chicken salad dish.

Since there are 3 of us, we ordered another beef dish. It is known as the Khmer Beef Loc Lak. It is a stir fry dish with beef fillet with special Kampot pepper sauce. I think Kampot must be an area in Cambodia famous for it’s production of pepper. I think the all of us agreed that this is our favorite dish among the 3. Most likely it is because we are meat eaters but this doesn’t mean Amok is not fit to be the famous national dish of Cambodia. What made this Beef Loc Lak even more appetizing is the dipping sauce. I’ve seen many sauces around Asia but this is the first time I’ve seen sauce being prepared this way. It is simple yet tasty. It is just a combination of pepper and salt soaked with lime juice.

I think this dipping sauce can go well with any stir fry meat dish. Or even BBQ or grilled seafoods and meats. Since the 3 of us loves spicy food, we added crushed bird’s eye chili to give it and extra taste of “OOMMPHHH”.

In my personal opinion, most of us are more familiar with Thai food. Since Cambodia is a neighboring country and the culture is pretty similar in our eyes ( clueless foreigners ), we tend to expect the taste of Cambodian cuisine just like Thai cuisine.¬† I’ve heard comments from tourist that Cambodian cuisine is the bad version of Thai food. I think this is wrong as it is totally a different cuisine of it’s own class.

I actually wanted to ask the chef or even the waitresses more about Cambodian cuisine. I decided to drop the idea as I’m not a very confident person in real life. Maybe the chef might be busy, not as friendly as we expect him to be and thousand of other reasons I could think of just to deter me from getting more information. Worst scenario is being laughed at and labeled as an Anthony Bourdain wannabe, hahahahaha. I need to grow a pair of b@@ls and get the courage to do all this. Maybe I will be more confident if my blog grows bigger in the near future.

October 27, 2010

FCC Phnom Penh

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Cambodia,Food,Travel — Alex @ 2:20 am

Pictures on Khmer War

On our second day in Phnom Penh, we woke up early ( surprisingly ) and went for our free buffet breakfast. After breakfast, I went online with my laptop as our hotel room has free wifi with awesome speed. I wanted to get more information about Phnom Penh, especially the food scene.

FCC ( Foreign Correspondent’s Club ) caught my attention while I was surfing the net for information. I read more about FCC and to my understanding, it is a cool place to hang out and serve good food. I saw some nice pictures where people are chilling and the restaurant is facing the Tonle Sap river. So I decided to go check out more about this place later in the evening.

I took a long nap after visiting many sites regarding Phnom Penh. By the time I woke up it was already 5 pm. We missed lunch and decided to get our dinner in FCC around 6pm. We paid USD 3 for the tuk tuk ride and arrived around 6.15pm.

Going up the stair case will lead us to the famous bar and resto of FCC. The wall is full of old pictures on Khmer war. I have to admit my knowledge on this matter is very limited and most likely my information is based highly on the movie “The Killing Fields”. FCC seems to look like an old building that has a lot of history to it.

The setting of the restaurant and bar of FCC really gave me the feel that this is the place where journalist used to wine down after a hectic day working in the battle field.

The settings of FCC made me felt like a journalist. I justified the rights to feel like a journalist after convincing myself that I have a food blog. ( I am aware my blog is not really good but is still a blog! ).

We decided to sit in this nice little quiet corner. My instinct told me that I should order western cuisine instead of Cambodian food. From my previous experiences, places like FCC tend to modify local cuisine to the taste buds of majority of their patrons, which in this case are mostly foreigners.

I was satisfied with my choice of order which was a specialty of FCC. It was a big juicy steak with it’s special sauce. The almost half mash potatoes tasted really good.

Zach opted for a thin slice fire oven baked pizza. The toppings were just fresh cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. He did mention that his pizza was uberly delicious. ( Farang are easy to please, Domino’s would have made him happy. Sorry Zach, I gotta take a jab at you )

This is the fire oven in FCC where they bake pizza. It taste really different if wood is being used compared to the normal electric oven.

After our meal, we hung out at the bar to get some Angkor Beer draft. I took some pictures of patrons of FCC getting the best seat. Seats that are facing the Tonle Sap river and it is breezy and nice. Wellll….obviously, we wanted to have our meal on those seat but as you can see it is always full.

So this is our second day in Phnom Penh and we have yet to get any local Cambodian cuisine. We are determine to make that happen on our third day.

October 19, 2010

First dinner in Phnom Penh

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Cambodia,Food,Travel — Alex @ 12:00 am

After resting a bit and showered, I did a bit of research on the Internet looking for authentic Cambodian food. Most of the sites recommends restaurants that are located by the Mekong Riverfront area. Most of the sites are owned by Westerners and I’ve always skeptical about their Asian food recommendation. So I decided to just walked around a bit and try to see if there’s any stalls or restaurant that will catch my attention.

Zach and I walked towards the direction of the famous Riverfront area. We have no clue how far it is from our hotel but we just walked for a bit to get the sense of what is around our hotel area. After 15 minutes walk, we stumbled upon a Vietnamese restaurant. Since we were hungry and more familiar with Vietnamese food, I decided to just settle for Vietnamese food instead of Cambodian food. I always make it a point to eat local food whenever I’m in that particular country. I made a mental note to myself that by tomorrow I will have to taste some local cuisine.

The Vietnamese restaurant by the name of Saigon City looks pretty classy. I have no idea how much our dinner would cost us but we will just give it a try since we are hungry. We wanted to sit outside but there seems to have some small bugs on the table. It looked like dry tiny leaves but upon checking it properly, it is some sort of small bugs that I’ve never seen before. We decided to just sit in the air condition are of the restaurant.

For starter, we ordered 2 kinds of Vietnamese springroll. One is stuffed with minced pork and the other with shrimp. I’m quite familiar with this dish as it is quite mainstream.

For my main course, I ordered a chicken BBQ rice set. It comes with soup and some cucumber. The dip for the chicken is sweet chili sauce. I enjoyed the food very much but some what I’m disappointed with myself for not being a little bit more adventurous. I played safe and ordered food that I’m familiar with. I should be eating authentic Cambodian food instead of Vietnamese food. At least I’m not eating KFC or Mcdo. Oh well, is only my first night in Cambodia and I vowed to find some good Cambodian food for my next meal. So for 2 Vietnamese Chicken BBQ set meal, minced pork spring roll, prawn spring roll and 2 bottles of mineral water, the meal cost us USD12.

After dinner we decided to go to the Riverfront area where there are a lot of pubs and bars to check out the night life scene. We asked the waiter in the Vietnamese restaurant whether it is walking distance. He said is better for us to take the tuk-tuk. It will cost us around USD2 for the both of us. The ride along the Sisowath Road was pretty cool and we saw a lot of hotels, bars and restaurant along the way. All the hip establishment is facing the Mekong River and it looked like a beach from far. This is the biggest river I’ve seen all my life. We asked the tuk-tuk driver to stop when I saw a lot of people in Mekong River Restaurant. Most of the customers are tourists and I’ve always enjoyed chilling in places like these. You get to mingle with other tourists and share tales. I also always make it as a practice to drink local beers whenever I’m visiting a country. Angkor beer is the beer of choice for many and we decided to give it a try. We were so happy when the waiter told us the price for a mug is at USD0.60. I do not consider myself an alcoholic as there are times where I do not drink for a month. But on occasions like these, I can sometimes drink up to 20 mugs.

Everybody is so relax here as they are tourist on holidays. There’s the normal big screen tv showing football matches.

The Star of Cambodia – not Zach but Angkor Beer

After many years of drinking beer, I still can’t really tell the difference between a good or a bad beer. There’s a trick to make all beer turn good. Just drink 5 mugs or glasses really fast and most of the time, the beer will taste really good and everyone suddenly is your brother or sister. In fairness, Angkor Beer does taste really good. So with USD0.60 for a good beer, I bet you can imagine how many beers that we gulped that night as part time alcoholics.

October 18, 2010

Phnom Penh here I come

Filed under: Cambodia,Hotel,Travel — Alex @ 12:00 am

I’ve been invited to visit Phnom Penh a few times by a very good friend. He is running a maid agency in Malaysia and he occasionally visits Phnom Penh to get his maids to be supplied to his customers in Malaysia. Since I’m in Bangkok and the duration of the flight is only one hour, might as well accept his invitation.

Zach and I decided to go 2 days earlier than my friend’s arrival. With so many information that one can get from the Internet, as long one is adventurous and willing to do some reading and research, visiting a new country will some how reduce our chances of getting conned by locals who prey on tourist. My friend, Eddie from Malaysia suggested that we stay in his favorite hotel. The name of the hotel is Cara hotel. I’m not very particular when it comes to lodging. I just need a bed to sleep and as long as it is clean, I’m all right with it.

Our room in Cara Hotel, Phnom Penh

The flight with Air Asia was on time and just within an hour we touch down in Phnom Penh International airport. Since I’m from the ASEAN country, I do not need a visa. Zach on other hand got to pay USD25 for his visa on arrival. The process was a breeze and no trouble with the immigration or whatsoever. We went out from the airport and saw many taxis offering to take us to our hotel. It cost us USD9 for the 30 minutes ride to our hotel. One thing very interesting about Cambodia is that the currency being used for daily transactions is the good ole US Dollars. Even they have their own currency which is known as Cambodian Riel, but the value is really low.

We did bring some US Dollars with us as we were informed by Eddie that the kingdom of Cambodia uses the US Dollars. I still have no idea how it would be like when I want to purchase some small items like cigarettes. Will I pay in USD and they give me back my change in Riel?

During the ride from airport to our hotel, I was observing the Cambodian lifestyle at a glance. There’s quite a lot of cars and surprisingly there are a lot of luxury cars like Toyata Lexus 4 wheel drive. I did not see any high rise building and definitely Phnom Penh is under developed compared to other Asian countries. I think I can call myself a season traveler but the feeling of excitement of visiting a new country¬† never dies. I’m eager to see what Phnom Penh gotta offer. I always believe that every country no matter how under developed has many positive and good things to offer. Upon arriving our hotel, I just gave the taxi driver a USD 10 note, with one dollar extra as a tip. He seem to be grateful with the small tip.

We book our room via the Internet and the room cost us USD44 a night. Breakfast are included in our double bed room. I was surprised to see that the bed are big compared to the normal double bed rooms offered in most hotels. We were welcome by the friendly staffs of hotel Cara. We got our key and went straight to our room to settle down. The time was 6.00 pm Cambodia time.

Hotel Balcony

Our room even has a balcony. So far everything is smooth and we loved our room very much. It can’t go wrong as it was suggested by Eddie and he stayed here many times. Another good thing is, the room comes with free wifi connection. The download speed is decent but the upload speed is surprising very high.

This is a picture taken from the balcony. This is how downtown Phnom Penh looks like. The petrol station has a mini mart and we frequent there a lot whenever we need to buy mineral water, cigarettes, snacks and most importantly, to withdraw money from the ATM that dispense US Dollars.

This is the view right opposite of hotel Cara. It has some old buildings and it looks like an old church.

More pictures around our hotel area

So far everything seems to be ok and we can’t wait to go walk around over area and look for some good food. For my next post would be our first night adventure in Phnom Penh.

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