It is no secret I am a huge fan of Friends International http://www.friends-international.org/ and have enjoyed great meals at both of their Phnom Penh restaurants “Friends” http://wp.me/p2spY3-1Q3 and “Romdeng” http://wp.me/p2spY3-1QK so when visiting foodie Victoria Milner http://www.singaporefoodie.com/ mentioned she was planning on having for lunch at their Siem Reap restaurant “Marum” I jumped at the chance to join her and her friends.
As is the case at Romdeng and Friends, Marum is a training school and restaurant where trainees are taught vocational skills in hospitality in the hope that they will go on to find employment in the ever expanding tourism and hospitality industry in Cambodia. Many trainees come from impoverished rural backgrounds where families can earn as little as $300 a year – a salary that can be matched in a month for someone holding a good job in the hospitality industry.
We decided to share a set menu (meant for 2 people) and some additional dishes from the main menu amongst the 5 of us, something that definitely caused a bit of confusion for the trainees but after we clarified the order with one of the training instructors they were able to send out all of the dishes in quick succession with no real delay to our meal, we even managed to squeeze in an extra couple of desserts before Victoria and her friends had to head back to the airport which was a happy surprise – not least because the coconut tart was absolutely one of the highlights of our meal, but more on that later!
The set menu ($15 per person for a minimum of 2 people) included a plate of delicious Seafood Dim Sum with balsamic curry glaze, Rice Noodle and Tofu Salad with sweet potato and coriander spring rolls, Local Fish Soup with lemongrass, galangal and morning glory (that appeared to win dish of the day from most of the group) as well as a Beef and Kampot Pepper Stir-Fry, Stir-Fried Vegetables in a garlic and oyster sauce and Fresh Fruit to finish.
Highlights of the rest of the dishes that we ordered included the Grilled, Spiced Dory with Red Tree Ants and Green Apple Salad which was probably my favourite of the main courses. The Dory was beautifully cooked so as to still be translucent on the inside and the tart apple salad was a great foil for the spicy seasoning of the fish. We also had to try of Fish Amok, a lightly curried dish of steamed fish in coconut milk that is without a doubt, the local “signature dish” and for good reason as it is delicious!
Another local dish that I was keen to introduce them to was Prahok K’tis as I had enjoyed it so much at Sugar Palm. The Marum version was probably a little sweeter than that of Sugar Palm and was presented in a slightly more “fine dining” way with little pots of vegetable crudités and rice crackers to dip into it – another big success, reinforcing my desire to learn how to cook this for myself ASAP! Tree Ants made another appearance in the Kampot Pepper Beef and Tree Ant Stirfry that the rest of the gang declared very good (I’m not a real beef eater as regular readers may remember)
Whatever you do, don’t miss dessert! Both our Kampot Pepper and Chocolate Tart with passion fruit and the Coconut Tart with Chilli Ice Cream were absolute stunners and with Marum being open all day from 11am to 10.30pm (Kitchen closes at 9.30pm) it would be a great spot to visit for an afternoon slice of cake and coffee on your way back from the temples if you didn’t have time to fit in a full meal as we did.
All in all it was a great meal and whilst you have to remember that the waiters (and chefs) are in fact trainees and adjust your expectations (slightly) accordingly, there really is no excuse not to eat here! Expect to pay around $25 pp with 3 courses and a bottle of wine and make sure you visit the quirky little gift shop next door on your way out for unique gifts made by the families and caregivers of the children and young people employed by Marum to take home for family and friends.
Between Wat (Pagoda) Polanka & Catholic Church, #8A,B
Phum Slokram, Siem Reap
+ (855) 17 363 284