Cambodian food is not a famous as the cuisine of its Vietnamese or Thai neighbors. Perhpas because Cambodian food is a bit homier and simpler, definitely quieter than its flashier, spicier neighbors. However, when we were in Cambodia we never had a bad meal – we definitely had a few wonderful meals. Between the fresh-baked baguette and the fresh papaya salad, we found that Khmer cuisine could be just as delicious as Thai food.
A Fresh Lunch near Angkor Wat
We ate most nights at the simple restaurant connected to our hotel, and in the day at stalls in and around town. We truthfully never had a bad meal, and appreciated the Khmer attention to how all components combined to make the complete dish. One of our favorite dishes was Lok Lak, a dish of beef cubes cooked in butter (French influenced) and served with a citrus sauce. We also grew to appreciate the green papaya salad, which was extremely refreshing in the heat. Another key to our meals were the amazing assortment of fruits: Lychees, starfruits, mangosteens and the like.
In this interesting blog post by Phonomenon, reasons why many travelers don’t appreciate Khmer food are explored. One common pitfall is not enjoying the different elements of the meal as they come together as a whole. The harmony of the different components of Khmer cuisine was definitely something that stood out to us.
Doner – a middle eastern dish of meat carved from a spit (similar to gyros and shewarma) – is completely global. We know Doner has a huge presence around the world from Germany to São Paulo, but we didn’t know quite how far Doner reached. It is definitely a hit in Cambodia. Check out this Doner cart we saw in downtown Siem Reap:
It’s Bastille Day today – and that means ETW is going to be featuring some French food. But this year how about something a bit different in terms of Gallic cuisine? When we were in Cambodia a few weeks ago we were struck by the sheer amount a baguettes for sale. Yeah, French baguettes piled precariously high on nearly every food cart! Cambodia, along with Vietnam, was part of French Indochina until the 1950s, and the French seem to have left behind a culinary legacy – at least in terms of omnipresent baguettes.
L and M head to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Cambodia.
601 N Dale St
We take every opportunity we can to eat cuisine that is not available in Chicago – and one cuisine that is not available at all in Illinois is Cambodian. The twin cities has a high Hmong immigrant population, many of whom were most recently from Cambodia. Kolap is a bit off the beaten track, in a nondescript storefront. The room was simply decorated and at 1pm on on a Sunday, was buzzing with a huge party in full swing – a Hmong family of 20+ digging into an elaborate lunch.
Though the restaurant itself was stark white and simple we noticed a disco ball and some pretty serious speakers. Perhaps Kolap turns into a dance club after hours? We were also struck by the interesting array of pan-Asian sauces on the table, as seen below.
Though the menu does in fact include some pretty esoteric dishes like pig intestines, stomach and ears (Pak Lou – $8.50) and Octopus with green peppers ($10.50), we started out slow. L ordered the chicken Lot Chaa ($7.50), a typical Cambodian dish. Lot Chaa (seen below) reminded L somewhat of the Thai dish Pad See Eiw, but with small fat rice noodles. M ordered Chicken with Green Peppers (Cha Kroueng Sach-Mouen, $8.50). However, this dish was lost in translation. M was thinking of green bell peppers, when in reality the dish came chock-a-block with spicy green Thai chilies. Even the normally heat-resistant M was breathing fire. K ordered the classic standby Pad Thai ($8.50), which was a nice rendition with a huge portion. The Cambodian rendition of this Thai dish packed an extra green pepper punch, though. The menu at Kolap is truly huge, and we are sad we won’t be able to sample some more options, but for anyone in MSP who is a Thai food fan, Kolap is a great introduction to Cambodian.