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.
Tel: +855 (0) 636362060