I spied Pho Trung a few weeks ago while getting my camera repaired. One item that stuck out of the generic restaurant storefront that populates most Phnom Penh eateries was the sign for Banh Cuon
. Like most North Vietnamese dishes, banh cuon brings me back to my childhood where Saturday mornings involved sitting down at the table with a huge plate of greens, a jam jar filled with nuoc mam and my grandmother at the stove dishing out the goods.
The Banh Cuon at Pho Trung doesn’t stand up to the grandma standard but pretty good in their own right. For 4000 Riel ($1USD) you get a huge plate of rolls, bean sprouts, basil, a beefy portion of cha lua and fried shallots. The gooeiness of the wrapping played well with the crunchiness of the fried shallots and wood ear mushrooms. A welcome surprise was the chopped basil which added a freshness to a generally stodgy dish. My only complaint could be there wasn’t enough meat inside the roll but that could have to do with the smells coming from the grill a few feet away.
Spying over to my right, I saw the real reason why I should eat here. Rack upon rack of pork ribs were grilling on a barbecue and it was then that I realized that I ordered the wrong dish. I immediately stopped eating the banh cuon and asked for some com suong.
What came out was probably the best ribs I have had in Cambodia (sorry Cold Night). Charred crunchy on the outside but still soft and juicy on the inside, this is heaven for rib lovers. For 5,000 Riel, it came with a fried egg, nuoc mam dipping sauce and a bowl with beef broth but the goods are in the ribs. You can also order an ala carte portion for 3,000 Riel which is what I am doing next time I am here. — Vinh
For a country so close to Vientam, the options for Vietnamese cuisine in Phnom Penh are quite scarce, late alone an authentic cuisine. Although a small journey to get to, way south of Monivong Boulevard right before it joins with Norodom Boulevard, and easily missed if you’re not looking for it, Pho Trung is a great option for basic Vietnamese dishes and the prices make it even more attractive.
I had a generous plate of banh cuon, rolled thin rice sheets filled with a minced meat and mushroom mixture then topped with fresh herbs, cha lua and fried shallots. Not only was I surprised that Vinh found a place that serves banh cuon, I found the dish to be legit and without any distracting substitutes as some other Vietnamese restaurants in town like to add.
Being a big fan of cha lua, something like Asian spam without the excessive sodium, on my banh cuon, the three generous slices that came with the dish endeared the restaurant to me. The traditional dipping sauce on the side also had the right combination of flavors and textures—salty, sour and spicy—and again, there were no substitutes that made the sauce a hybrid of Vietnamese and Cambodian flavors.
As if I wasn’t already pleased, the plate of banh cuon, surprisingly only cost $1.
We also consumed multiple cups of ice coffees, for normal the average coffee price of 2000 riel, that I found to be on the nice average side.
I also had some of the extra barbecued rib Vinh ordered, which I thought was a mixed bag. The meat was moist and had a nice flavor but I found it to be extremely greasy. I found myself compulsively wiping my mouth for hours afterwards and wondering if my breakfast companions/fellow reviewers, who both have facial hair, were fairing worst than me.
Something else I wondered about was the language barrier. The three of us used a mixture of Khmer and Vietnamese to a fair amount of success but I didn’t see any menus and we didn’t use any English. I would love to go back and see what other Vietnamese dishes can be found. — Christi
The pho: pretty damn good … and greasy … which is a plus. An absence of weird beef parts which is also a plus, however, the meatballs were a bit sketchy looking. The broth was pretty great and nice and spicy. It was way too much to finish but we shared a plate to the ribs at the end which were amazing. Also, the coffee was surprisingly good with is a big plus. Unfortunately, Vietnamese or not, most places in Cambodia serve instant coffee instead of the real deal. Overall it turned out to be quite the feast for a Tuesday morning breakfast. — Bryse
Vinh: 4.3 for the banh cuon and 5 out of 5 nyamies for the ribs
Christi: 3.5 out of 5
Bryse: 3 for the pho, 4.5 for the ribs
Nº. 825SD, Preah Monivong
12307 Phnom Penh
Look for the I-qlick sign.