Sugar Palm Restaurant, Wat Bo, Siem Reap.

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet of late but  those of you that don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook may not be aware that I left Bangkok last week and made the short move to Cambodia where I will now be based. With a new home comes lots of great new opportunities to explore and that was exactly what I did on my first weekend here in Siem Reap when I headed to The Sugar Palm for dinner. 

 *** Since I wrote this post Sugar Palm have moved to a new location on Street 27, Wat Bo across from the Pannasastra University***

Sugar Palm was established back in 2006 by Chef Kethana (who is a bit of a local celebrity chef, even advising Gordon Ramsay on Cambodian cuisine when he filmed Great Escapes here back in 2011) in order to try to re-establish some of the authentic  Khmer cooking techniques and recipes that had been virtually lost during the turbulent years of the Khmer Rouge regime ( you can see my post here http://wp.me/p2spY3-1Qn on The Killing Fields in Phnom Penh)  Set in a beautiful traditional wooden Khmer style house the restaurant can accommodate up to 90 guests and on the night I visited it was running at full capacity – something I love to see!

You won’t be surprised to hear that the first thing I noticed was the wine prices (!)  with a glass of wine starting at $3.50 (just over 100 THB) and so I happily ordered myself a carafe and settled in to look at the menu. Cambodia is somewhat similar to Thailand in that a traditional meal consists of multiple courses including a soup, a salad, a main course (often fish) with vegetables and rice and dessert, but as I was alone I decided just to order a salad and a main course as generally speaking this is more than enough.

I started with the Cucumber & Silver Noodle Salad as I thought it sounded  interesting with its mix of sliced cucumber, thin strips of pork, tiny little shrimps, “silver” rice noodles and mint in a crunchy peanut and chilli dressing. My first thought was that the salad was going to be far too large for me to finish but it was actually rather light and extremely refreshing. I love salads like this that make use of different textures and contrasting flavours like the cooling mint and fiery chilli and I would absolutely order this again.

I had noticed a little wrinkling of the waitresses nose when I had ordered the Prahok K’tis and was a little bit worried as to what lay in store with my main course.

Prahok is a Cambodian seasoning made from salted, fermented crushed fish and here it is cooked down with kroeung ( a Cambodian curry paste) tamarind water, chili, coconut milk and pork (amongst others I am sure) into a sort of Thai style relish which is then served with crunchy raw vegetables for dipping into it and a side of rice. I must say to my uneducated palate I found this dish incredibly similar to Khao Tang Na Tang, a spiced prawn, pork and coconut milk dip I made at the Blue Elephant cookery school (although that is served with rice crackers) I would hazard a guess that the Sugar Palm version uses less prahok than strictly traditional as it had none of the funky fermented fish taste or smell I had been expecting and was in actual fact a subtly spiced, comforting sort of minced pork stew that I polished off in no time at all and Prahok K’tis  has gone straight to the top of Cambodian dishes that I want to learn how to cook for myself once I make the move into my new apartment.

With wine, dinner came to less than $25 (around 800 THB) which, I would guess, is in the mid-upper range of meals in Siem Reap – pretty exceptional value for the quality for cooking, service and ambience that you experience at Sugar Palm and I would have no hesitation in recommending a dinner here to anyone planning on spending a few days in Siem Reap.

 

Bookings: bookingsr@thesugarpalm.com

Tel: +855 (0) 636362060

5 Comments Add yours

  1. The other half had one of his favourite dishes of the trip to Siem Reap at Sugar Palm! He loved the smoked fish and mango salad, he was in heaven 😉

    1. beirutibrit says:

      I so nearly tried that but the silver noodles sounded too good to miss! Next time 😉

  2. Lara Dunston says:

    The wrinkling of the nose was probably because most foreigners don’t like prahok, even in its most enjoyable form, prahok k’tis. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but once acquired, if you’re anything like us (and I think you are), you’ll become addicted. Do try this recipe that Terence cooks. It’s absolutely wonderful. http://grantourismotravels.com/2014/11/27/authentic-khmer-prahok-ktis-recipe/ And if you’re keen to read more on prahok, we have this story here: http://grantourismotravels.com/2014/11/20/prahok-the-secret-ingredient-of-cambodian-cuisine/

    But the wrinkle of the nose might have been cause you should have had it as a snack or appetizer but the staff didn’t want to offend you by suggesting that 🙂 And this is something it shares with khao tang na tang – that it’s a dip that is served as an appetizer. The main difference is that khao tang na tang is made with shrimp paste instead of prahok, which is very different in taste and texture, and it’s served with khao tang or rice crackers, instead of vegetables/crudites.

    Khao tang na tang dates back to the Sukhothai period – the first Tai kingdom. And most of the cooks in the kitchen at Sukhothai had been ‘borrowed’ from Angkor, accompanying the Khmer princesses (and artisans, dancers, etc) when they were married off to the Tai tribal chiefs. The Sukhothai dishes were the dishes that became ‘Royal Thai’ dishes – when in fact they started out as ‘Royal Khmer’ dishes.

    For a wonderful version of the rice crackers with ‘Natang’ sauce as the Cambodians call it, head to Chanrey Tree. I’m sure you’ll recognise it from your Blue Elephant cooking class.

    1. beirutibrit says:

      Yes i figured she thought i wouldnt like it – hadnt considered the fact its another appetiser! Such an interesting history too thanks! I will have to revisit Chanrey tree as i didnt notice it on the menu there!

  3. Lara Dunston says:

    I also meant to say that, yes, Sugar Palm is always busy – and with good reason. The food is consistently delicious, even if some dishes are more ‘accessible’ to foreign palates. I always recommend it to visitors and I’ve never had a complaint.

    I like to send the real foodies to Sugar Palm first, then Chanrey Tree, Cuisine Wat Damnak, and Marum, as I think they’re eased into it by the accessibility of Sugar Palm and they get to taste a slightly more refined version of the cuisine at Chanrey Tree. They then get to taste the very finest renditions of dishes with really authentic flavour profiles at Cuisine Wat Damnak, and finally they get to choose between fun, creative, contemporary expressions of the cuisine (esp. in the tapas) or hearty home-style dishes (the mains) at Marum.

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