Ten years ago I worked at Lynn Community Health Center just north of Boston where I cared for a fairly sizable Cambodia immigrant population. On occasion the staff would order from a local restaurant. I remember fondly the spring rolls which were wrapped in delicate rice paper and filled with fresh carrots, mint and glass noodles. I knew then the food was wonderful but I was unprepared for the diversity and fantastic creativity of the Siem Reap dining scene.
Our first meal was a quick light lunch at the Le Meridian after we checked in while waiting for our room to be cleaned. Sydney had changed for a brief moment from begging for “Chicken Rice” to “Noodles”. We ordered an Indonesian style noodle dish and got this wonderful presentation with satays and a fried egg as well.
One evening we went to Sugar Palm which is located in a beautiful house with a large open air balcony and wooden floors. This restaurant serves fairly traditional Cambodian food.
Fish Amok which could be claimed as Cambodia’s national dish is curried codfish seasoned with coconut milk , paprika, ginger garlic and chills. At Sugar Palm it was presented baked like a soufflé.
Our waiter suggested a roasted aubergine dish. The vegetable underneath the crust had a rich savory flavor. I am not always the biggest fan of eggplant but I really enjoyed this presentation.
A must try is the Blue Pumpkin which feels very modern and has wonderful fusion food. Our favorite dish was the Fish Amok Ravioli. Unfortunately we devoured the food before we took photos, but I do have a great one of Sydney who approved of the homemade ice cream.
After a long day of touring we relaxed across the river at the Butterflies Garden Restaurant. There a net across the top tries to contain some newly emerged beauties raised on site. We saw very few butterflies which was probably fortunate because before we went there Aidan protested the choice. He was afraid the insects would land in his food and he would eat them. The owners use some of the profits from the restaurant and adjoining gift shop to support local disadvantaged children which makes it a wonderful place to support.
The final restaurant I went to was Il Forno. It is actually known for wonderful Italian food. Unfortunately Sydney complained her “tummy hurt” minutes before the food arrived. We thought she was hungry until a few seconds later she did her best “Linda Blair in The Exorcist” impersonation all over my shoes. She and I then spent the next 24 hours at the hotel. Aidan give high marks to the pizza and the gnocchi Andy brought back to me was wonderful.
One final photo is on the market in Siem Reap where on display were wonderful ingredients used in Cambodian cooking.
Cambodia seems to be emerging not only as a wonderful travel destination but as a culinary wonderland as well. I am more than happy to see this influence spread further and relish the thought of exploring where this frontier leads.