22-24 December 2016
As I wrote in the previous review, I had a long day that culminated in that fine meal at Malis. But for lunch that afternoon I stopped at a place near the Independence Monument called Khmer Surin. Needed to fuel up after that tiring trek around the Royal Palace.
Most importantly I needed hydration, so I began with a big ol’ coconut…one of the things I love about here. Makes me miss Hawai’i too… I ordered and it took awhile for the food to arrive, but it soon did. One dish was good, one was less good.
The good one was this omelette, which contained salted fish and minced pork. Totally delicious, I could eat this stuff all day! Lovely, with a hint of sweetness too.
The less good was the fried fish. It was utterly unseasoned, so there was very little flavour. Fried excessively, the only taste was really oil. But it wasn’t fried quite enough to eat all of it (bone and head), so… But I cleaned it off and left full — which is what I wanted. Plus, I had to save room for Malis that evening.
The next day I trekked to Udong with the same tuk-tuk driver, and that was challenging — especially for the driver. At times the “road” — I really hesitate to use this word — was barely there, and we were going slower than a pedestrian. But once we got to the highway-like road outside of Phnom Penh it was a joy as the breeze was just wonderful. This is why I didn’t take a taxi.
We got to Udong and I stupidly hiked up the steep side, and was a sweaty mess by the time I got to the top. But spent the next few hours exploring the former capital’s stupas on this small mountain that you can see from many miles away, as well as a big new temple complex just down at the base. I found my driver watching TV on his mobile phone (progress…) and we headed back. I felt bad for him and how much of a physical strain it was to ride this tuk-tuk over the deteriorating path as we got back to Phnom Penh. I thanked him profusely as we got back to the hotel.
I ducked out and headed to a late lunch at a nearby place called Orchidee. Horrible service and totally confused staff that wanted to gossip instead of serving people. The food was okay tho. First up a nice big plate of blood cockles.
I love these things, tasty in a very interesting way — if the “blood” doesn’t annoy you. The lack of napkins annoyed me tho as my hands were ridiculously sticky after this. My second dish was a nice stuffed squid.
Tasty, they brought this out thank goodness after I finished the cockles, but clearly it was under a heat lamp (or well just left out as it’s hot enough…). Sigh… It took probably 15 minutes for them to deal with the bill, at first rejected a perfectly good bill due to a tiny tear… Sick of this BS. Headed out unhappy.
That evening I went on an interesting wee food tour with Urban Forage‘s Ducky. A mixed group of Australians and Americans, I think most of them were less experienced especially with odder foods. But they grew in confidence in eating stuff from exotic fruits to insects. We went around to various places from an amazing rooftop bar skying over Phnom Penh to the local street market, ending up in a restaurant near my hotel for a nice feast of goodies that included frog and various insects in addition to the usual beef, pork and chicken. Nice, recommended if you have a free evening in Phnom Penh.
I had a few drinks at the hotel bar afterwards and went to get some rest. The next day I packed up and dealt with various trip logistics as it was Christmas Eve, and from that day to Boxing Day, these 3 days will see me on 3 flights with a flying time of nearly 24 cumulative hours. Crazy stuff… So had to sort out logistics before I checked out and headed for a last lunch in town.
I walked to a nearby place called Ambau Khmer and chilled out with a coconut and ordered my food. As I waited for my food, there was a middle-aged American making a scene demanding change for his large denomination bills. I almost went over and slapped him. This is exactly why we Americans get a bad reputation abroad…what a total asshole…
In any case, after he finally left (turns out he was lying and he *had* small bills and finally paid with them) and I joked with the staff about this. Tho it was interesting to see a local get angry, something I’ve never seen. But the food came and I focused on it.
A place to veggies and beef tripe. Not bad, but not enough tripe. Lots of veggies, so I enjoyed that. Also arrived was some lok lak.
This was a little different as it featured crocodile. Not bad, not as strong tasting as usual tho. Nice stuff, but I had more time and I won’t be eating a full meal again today (I get into Hong Kong too late), so I ordered another item. Oh, I’m gonna miss these when I leave the region…
These tempura frogs were excellent. Full of flavour, and the batter was quite good too. I love frogs, even these smaller, milder ones than the ones you get in the US. I enjoy eating the rest of the animal, not just the legs. The body is tasty too.
Alas, time to go. As I was paying I asked if they had change, and everyone burst out in laughter. What a nice way to end my trip to the region. I headed back to the hotel and got to the airport and dealt with the trials of crazy tourists. From Chinese tourists trying to cut in line to me cutting into a conversation that some Estonians were having (they almost had a heart attack), I was just hoping to get on the plane without drama.
It was a little sad to fly out as this has been a fantastic trip. Tiring, and I’m very tanned, but a fantastic trip. I ate pretty much everything under the sun as my stomach became Noah’s Ark, so it was exactly what I wanted. Now back to the chaos of Hong Kong before the long, two-leg trek home…
Khmer Surin [ខ្មែរសូរិន]
#9, Street 57
#106 Pasteur Street (51)
Ambau Khmer [អំបូរខ្មែរ]
#30, Street 184
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
PS: My flight was early so I just beat the closing of my Hong Kong hotel’s Thai restaurant and had a late Christmas Eve dinner…