I did not learn until I arrived in Cambodia that the country's territory used to encompass parts of Vietnam and Thailand and that it sees itself as the originator of Thai food and culture. As a result, it is not uncommon to see restaurants featuring Khmer-Thai food.
A local Cambodian recommended that I try the Khmer-Thai Restaurant near the office. Who could resist a place whose tagline is "Best for Everyone?" I couldn't.
I walked inside that noticed immediately that the restaurant had a decidedly more upscale vibe than other places I had gone to for lunch. I expected the menu to reflect that observation, but I was pleasantly surprised.
While the price points generally were higher than at other local restaurants, they were still quite a number of items on the large menu for $5.00 and under.
It was divided into the usual sections: appetizers, soups, rice dishes, steamed dishes, and one-pot dishes. As I looked at the menu, the waiter brought a glass of tea that I had never tried before.
Pandan leaf tea is my new favorite tea! My introduction to pandan leaves was in Malaysia. Also known as screwpine leaves, they are often tied into a knot and put in stews and soups. And the extract is used in desserts. I bought a bottle of pandan extract when I was in Malaysia last year. I use it to flavor pancake batter.
I chose from the one-pot dish section, selecting stir-fried noodles with mixed seafood (squid and shrimp)and mixed vegetables (Chinese broccoli, carrots, young corn and mushrooms) in a soy bean paste sauce.
I was surprised at how generous the portion was as well as how inexpensive ($3.50) and flavorful the dish was. The sauce was not at all spicy, but really relied on the natural flavors of the vegetables, seafood and soy bean paste to make a tasty dish that was mild yet very, very good.
With such a successful dish, how could I pass on dessert? Apart from the usual suspects found on dessert menus in Phnom Penh, I came across a different one: fried bananas with pandan honey custard! If you recall from previous posts, I'm a pandan (also known as screwpine leaves leaf fan. My curiosity about what a custard would taste like got the better of me and I ordered it.
Several minutes later, the waiter brought a generous portion of crisp yet tender bananas with a green concoction that was obviously the pandan honey custard. I was not totally sure how to eat it, so I poured the custard over the bananas.
The custard was very light and mildly scented by the pandan, and combined nicely with the bananas. It was too much and I couldn't finish it. But I tried!
While the service left something to be desired, I really had no complaints. By the end of the meal I had to agree that this restaurant really was best for everyone!