Saturday, June 4, 2011

Seafood Tomyum Soup in Phnom Penh!

While hard at work interviewing people for the assessment that I’m currently doing, another part of my brain is thinking about where I’m going to eat, what kind of cuisine it will be, and whether I’ll be able to get good pictures. It seems obsessive at times, but it’s always fun. As the person I was interviewing was talking (just before the end of the day) I was thinking about whether I wanted soup of some sort, which I had not had since arriving in Cambodia.

Phnom Penh is unrelentingly hot. But I still decided that I wanted a steaming hot bowl of soup for dinner. After going back and forth between whether I wanted Khmer food again for dinner, I decided to go with Thai food. I found my way to Karma, a restaurant located on the riverfront that features both Southeast Asian and Western dishes.

The service was efficient and friendly. Except for the sullen waitress that I mentioned in a previous post, Cambodians in general are warm and open, as was my waitress at Karma.

Immediately, I was drawn to the seafood tomyum soup, which was served with steamed rice. Tomyum is one of my favorite soups. How can you go wrong with a slightly tart, chili-infused soup flavored by galangal, lemongrass, kaffir leaves and basil? Then add river fish, shrimp, calamari, onions, tomatoes, and mushroom. It doesn’t get much better than that, at least for me.

I always drink water with meals, but wanted something else. In the United States we drink our fare share of lemonade, especially during the summer. While it's available here in Phnom Penh -- and is known as lemon juice-- an even nicer drink (at least to me) is lime juice. You can order it with or without sugar. I ordered mine with a little sugar. It was so refreshing that I easily could have drunk several glasses of it.

The rice arrived first. In Phnom Penh, it seems that rice is served the same way - in a mound.

Shortly after, the seafood tomyum soup arrived.

It was absolutely divine. I was delighted to taste real kaffir leaves, which I am unable to find in the pan Asian supermarkets where I shop. Short stalks of lemongrass floated in the bowl, its mild flavor combining nicely with that of the kaffir leaves. Bits of galangal strengthened the savory flavor of the well-seasoned, chili-infused broth. I'm of the opinion that you can never put too much lime in anything, so I squirted lime juice in the soup, which gave it an extra level of tang.

The price tag for the lime juice and soup was a whopping $4.50!! I'm hard-pressed to imagine a better investment for a high-quality meal.

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