Archive for Cambodia

Happy Herb Pizza, Siem Reap

As you know, most travel must-dos come from word-of-mouth and this next meal we had is just that. Just as the name suggests, happy herb pizza is basically pizza sprinkled with cannabis. Apparently you can tell the waiter if you want the pizza “happy”, “very happy” or “ecstatic”.

So we walked into Happy Herb Pizza, the restaurant on our last nite in Siem Reap, looking for a little excitement. the extra, secret ingredient is not explicitly stated in the menu so it’s up to you to tell the waiter how happy you would like to be. lol. We didn’t see any topping we liked so we asked the waiter if we could have our own picks and he agreed! So we ordered pizza with sundried tomatoes, ham & olives.

happyherb.jpgIt took a while for the pizza to be served but we were well occupied with watching the geckos on the walls. i counted at least ten geckos! i wondered if they are happy geckos? lol. anyway, back to the main star of the night, the pizza. couldn’t really differentiate the so-called “happy herb” with the rest of the italian herbs sprinkled on the pizza by looks nor by taste. but still the pizza was heavenly due to the lavish use of cheese. nor did they skint on the ingredients either. quite worth the money paid – USD7 for a medium sized (8 slices).

i don’t think either one of us left the place feeling any different, honestly. so maybe our pizza wasn’t too “happy”. but still, i think it was a pleasant surprise finding such good pizza in siem reap. try it and if you’re tempted, ask for the “happier” versions. lol.

Happy Herb Pizza
#069, Mondul 1,
Khum SvayDangkum,
Siem Reap, Cambodia.

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Breakfast in Siem Reap

i didn’t check if any of the guesthouses in siem reap offered a bed & breakfast option as i reckoned we would be out early to try and catch sunrises at the temples anyway. and we hoped to get local breakfasts instead of having the american variety. when we asked our local driver what the national breakfast was, i was a little surprised to hear that it was pork & rice, noodle soups etc. not too different from the chinese community in m’sia then, i reckon. but malaysians generally love nasi lemak and regard it as the national dish anyway.

it was only after browsing through my travel photos that i realised i had baguettes for 3 of the 4 breakfasts i consumed in siem reap. i guess i am a safe traveller afterall. lol. it’s not that i didn’t want to try the soupy dishes but i reckon the heat and humidity became a deterrent. i was already sweating buckets as it is. our first two breakfasts were taken in the vicinity of the temples, after catching the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Our first khmer breakfast was taken at on of the restaurants opposite the temple itself, by the name of Angkor Reach Restaurant. Eager to be refreshed and awake, I ordered the local iced coffee and politikus ordered lemon juice. Her drink came out to be lime juice and over the days, i realised that cambodians generally label the kaffir lime as “lemon”. if you’re like me, and prefer lemons and calamansi to kaffir lime anytime, do take note of this.

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anyway she ordered rice noodles soup and i, fried rice with spices. once again, i am not sure of what spices were used in the fried rice but there were fresh basil leaves and what i would guess to be turmeric as the rice had a yellow tinge to it. still, it tasted delish. the rice noodles soup came with generous servings of pork slices and vegetables. i don’t remember the soup much, but the noodles were served with blanched bean sprouts and lime halves. we squeezed the juice onto the bean sprouts and had that with the pork slices which gave the meat a tart bite.

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on day 2, we had breakfast at one of the stalls – Mom Bayon Restaurant within the vicinity of the temples again, this time at Bayon in Angkor Thom. It was relatively early so the crowd was thin, and we could enjoy our meal slowly. I ordered the baguettes with the spanish omelette (eggs, cheese & onions) which was served with tomato & cucumber slices, a generous pat of butter and mixed salt & pepper. and politikus ordered pancakes with banana.

whilst waiting for our food to come, we sipped our coconut juice and people watched. an ice-delivery truck (actually a lorry carting huge blocks of ice) parked in front of the stalls and the men started sawing away at the ice blocks, before carrying the smaller blocks to the respective stalls. i was joking with politikus about what would happen if one of the blocks fell and the next thing we knew, one of the ice blocks had indeed fallen from the man’s arms. he just picked it up, dirt and all and placed it with the rest of them next to the coconuts. lol.

the pancakes came first, with golden syrup and freshly sliced bananas placed in between pancakes.it was quite heavenly as the pancakes were light & fluffy, and the banana slices complimented it very well. my baguette was lovely too, very fresh and i enjoyed sandwiching my omelette inside. it was a much needed power breakfast for us as we would cover 5 temples after that.

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on our last 2 days, we only bought baguettes from roadside sellers for a quick bite. on both days, we opted for the cheese version instead of the fatty pork one. they add in cucumber slices and some pickled greens (raw papaya & carrot, if i am not mistaken) which gives it a fresh bite. i’m sure the baguettes cost us more than the locals as we had prices quoted to us from 2,000 riels to USD1 each. but still, it was convenient & fast, and easy to bite into when we’re on the tuk-tuk. lol.

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Two Dragons, Siem Reap

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l-r: our guesthouse’s facade, with Sokla, our tuk-tuk driver standing in front of it. Our Room, #15

we put up at two dragons guesthouse during our sojourn in siem reap due to the raving reviews in travelfish. true enough, the simple rooms were very clean, with the basics (towel, bottle of water) given. we didn’t manage to work the hot shower but that didn’t matter as i relied on the cold (more like lukewarm, actually) water to cool me down after a hot day out exploring. the tv had about 80 channels (!) and there was free wi-fi.

also read some great reviews on the restaurant so we had our first meal in siem reap there. there was a “khmer specials” on friday, which offered a 50 cents discount on the khmer dishes. both of our dishes cost $3.75 each originally. somehow i ended up choosing steamed freshwater fish with some citrus sauce (can’t remember the name). the fish came garnished with lime slices and the sauce has taken on the flavour of the fanta orange soda that they had used in making it. i must admit i wasn’t took keen on the taste of soda on fish even though the waitress told me it was a good choice when i ordered it. the chunks of fish were quite generous though, and since it was only coated with the sauce, parts of the freshwater fish retained a tinge of a muddy taste. was a little amused to see our rice served in a triangular shape.

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politikus made a better choice i did in ordering amok, the steamed fish curry which is a traditional khmer dish. it came in an hollowed out coconut, which was more for decorative than taste purposes. to me, amok tasted somewhat like thai green curry, only that fish was used instead of other meats. it has copious amounts of coconut milk though, so it is very rich tasting. loved the use of sliced kaffir lime leaves and peanuts in the gravy. it wasn’t spicy at all. apparently, there are other ways to serve amok, ala otak-otak manner, custard-like, in banana leaf cups.

both of us were glad we ate the freshwater fish in our first meal as we visited the floating village Chong Khneas at tonle sap lake, the largest freshwater lake in south east asia and were not too keen on fish after that. lol. i guess the murky, teh-tarik coloured waters of the lake, coupled with the “lifestyle” of the boat people that made me balk a little.

washed down our lunch with excellent fruit shakes (i had coconut, she strawberries), which is blended with yogurt and crushed ice. we later found out that fruit shakes are a big thing in siem reap, with almost every restaurant offering them, at about $1 to $1.50 per glass.

Two Dragons Guesthouse & Restaurant
#110 Wat Bo Village,
Siem Reap, Cambodia .

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Khmer Kitchen

Khmer Kitchen is another of those restaurants in Siem Reap that was recommended to me for authentic Khmer fare. It was only after I got back to KL and googled this place that I found out Mick Jagger visited this place and recommended it on The New York Times. We’re in good company then, lol.

We arrived past lunch time and found the unassuming place quiet and empty. but word is, it gets packed at night! the deco is simple, using mostly rattan chairs. the menu is simple and gives one many choices of either beef, chicken, pork, shrimp or fish etc. i was quite excited to see that they offered steamed dumplings which could very well be the cambodian must eat “spring onion dumpling”.
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the dumplings were filled with chives and mengkuang (jicama/yam beans) instead. we have something similar here, which locals called chai kueh (菜粿). My grandmother makes them too, but her version looks somewhat like this, elongated and ingot-shaped instead of round.

khmerkitch2.jpgWe ordered beef loc lac, which is essentially marinated beef stir-fried with soy sauce despite the exotic sounding name. The beef slices were served with fresh lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and a fried egg. An accompanying dip tasted tangy and salty, which i suspect to be lime juice, sugar & pepper mixture. I didn’t know that the correct way to eat it was to wrap the beef slices in lettuce and then dipping the bundle into the lime sauce. i just dipped the beef into the sauce and ate it with rice. lol.

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Pumpkin seems to be a firm favourite with the patrons here as we saw quite a bit of pumpkin dishes on the menu. Being a huge fan, I ordered the baked pumpkin with shrimp. And I wasn’t disappointed. Baked together with shrimps, onion, julienned carrots, garlic in a custard-like texture, i loved it with my white rice. the chicken tom yam soup was a later addition and had generous chunks of chicken meat in it. i wished it was hotter (both in spiciness & temperature) though.

the quiet atmosphere and the laidback service was something we enjoyed that afternoon. great place for unwinding, while having great food.

Khmer Kitchen Restaurant
Alley behind Bar Street,
Old Market Area,
Siem Reap.

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Psar Chaa

One place that we kept returning to in Siem Reap was Psar Chaa (the old market). The market itself is rather small in comparison to the ones i have visited in Bali & Bangkok but held its own charm. Only the outside stalls sell souvenirs and knick-knacks while the other, slightly hidden stalls sells everything you can find in a wet market – a variety of rices, dried fish / pork sausages, pungent fermented fish in glass containers (prahok, i believe they are called), vegetables, fruits etc.

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but apart from grabbing some souvenirs for friends & family, we spent some time exploring the streets around the Psar Chaa, which had tuk-tuks and food carts parked beside it. i was intrigued with the variety of local street food sold on these food carts, ranging from fried noodles, sausages, some kind of fruit salad and baguettes (probably a vestige from the french colonialism). however, i think we only managed to try the baguettes throughout the entire trip.

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our tuk-tuk driver, Sokla recommended eating at the Psar Chaa if we wanted authentic Khmer food. i was a little sceptical at first as most of these eateries had english menus, complete with pictures, seemingly catering for the foreigners. we plonked ourselves at some the red plastic seats at the eatery directly opposite the friends international & childsafe office. Had fresh coconuts while we waited for the chefs to cook up our dishes. also had some fun playing with reflective shots using the metal teapot.

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i was piqued to see that they had frogs on their menu. i ordered the stuffed frogs but it was not available so i settled for frog with spices and it was easily the best dish we had in siem reap! i am not sure what spices was used, but i think turmeric is one of them, and red chilli slices and peanuts were also visible. i saw a khmer soup on my first day which I have been tempted to try and ordered it this time around – Taro soup with freshwater fish. politikus’s choice was spare ribs with pineapple curry. not too sure why they termed it spare ribs when only pork slices were used. the soup had quite a distinctive flavour, and i wouldn’t be surprised if this was due to the prahok essence which is used as an addition to many cambodian dishes, and every soup apparently.

Glad we took Sokla’s advice and tried khmer food with no frills at the Psar Chaa as it was a truly satisfying meal. Pity I didn’t note the name of the restaurant. Still, look out for the menu board with photos (as above), protected with cellophane tape opposite the friends international centre when you’re in siem reap for the foodie experience we had.

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Blue Pumpkin, Siem Reap.

Cloudy Sunrise politikus and i planned a trip to siem reap quite a while back and put it to the back of our minds as we had months to go before it materialised. however, time has a way of creeping up on you and suddenly it’s time to go. the trip is quite an eye-opener as urbanisation levels were so conflicting. dirt roads and huts, street kids vs limos, 5 star hotels, spas… i tried to embrace it all but at times i admitted defeat to the heat & humidity. (note to self: check on weather before booking future dates) even though we ate mostly khmer food, i must admit it was nice (and very bourgeois) to step foot into the blue pumpkin, nearby Psar Chaa (the Old Market).

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quite a few people in my work circle have recommended the blue pumpkin, for the ID. and we were not disappointed. the first floor (or is it mezzanine?) enclave had tables with bean bags strewn around. However, the air-conditioned floor is upstairs and boasted of an all white minimalist concept. there are divine starck-inspired bed-like sofas stacked with fluffy pillows for patrons to chill out. I am also quickly reminded of Bangkok’s Bed Supperclub.

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as soon as one is seated, the waiter brings you the pretty menu and mint-scented cold towels. quite a nice touch really as it instantly refreshes. the patrons were mostly foreigners, either lounging or typing furiously at their laptops (since blue pumpkin offers free wi-fi) in the cool reprieve from the heat outside. politikus ordered chai masala tea which came in this cute, green teapot. i went for the coconut sherbet & raspberries ice cream shake, as i was very much tempted by the variety of ice-cream they had.

for lunch, we somehow ended up with pasta instead of any khmer food. i reckon the local food here wouldn’t taste as authentic as the one we had in Psar Chaa anyway. so we had chicken ravioli (in creamy basil, black olive & bacon sauce) and fettucine seafood (with crushed tomatoes, basil & garlic).

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tbp4.jpg the blue pumpkin may seem upscale in comparison to the other restaurants around the Psar Chaa area, but the prices are pretty reasonable and it’s an awesome place to just relax and catch up. i think it made quite the impression on politikus and me as we found ourselves back there on our second last day after an especially hot afternoon’s shopping. just had a glass of icy cold orangina and apple pie la mode (actually it was just apple tart puff pastry with pineapple sherbet).

to our surprise upon arriving at the departure of siem reap international airport, there was another blue pumpkin there, a smaller one just selling drinks, ice-cream and pastry. i noticed that a scoop of ice-cream here was cheaper than getting it in town, so if you’re early , do indulge.

the blue pumpkin
365 mondol 1
svay dang kum (Old Market area)
siem reap, cambodia.

6:00AM – Midnight
Tel: 012-946227

other reviews;
- tomato

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