Monthly Archives: September 2011

Chatsworth Road E5

Chatsworth E5 market in Hackney

Chatsworth E5 market in Hackney

I’ve been staying for the past couple of days with friends from Cambodia that now live in Blackheath. The girls wanted to do some shopping so Brandon (my host in Blackheath) and I had a chance yesterday to head to a little known street market in Hackney named after the address and post code Chatsworth E5. Not as big or diverse as the  Borough Market in the center of London but was definitely worth the 3 changes on the Tube to get there. With about 50 stalls, it’s not the biggest street market but has some excellent options for food and has a very local feel that the Borough Market might have had a few years ago. We did a fast reconnoiter of the food stalls and found all of them irresistable. We could only choose 3 and after much argument and a quick coin toss, we started our foray into the food at Chatsworth E5.

Kimchi Cult stand in Chatsworth E5 Market

Kimchi Cult stand in Chatsworth E5 Market

The first place we went was the Kimchi Cult stall which is run by Danny, a Londoner who spent a couple years in Korea, eating up the local street food while teaching. Unfortunately the kimchi slider’s weren’t available but we had a great pulled pork sandwich with ginger coleslaw.

Pulled Pork on the grill at the Kimchi Cult at Chatsworth E5

Pulled Pork on the grill at the Kimchi Cult at Chatsworth E5

The great thing about the stall is that he cooks everything to order but only takes about 5 minutes to prepare. The pork was a sweet yet punchy affair with the ginger coleslaw giving an added crunch to the sandwich.

The pulled pork sandwich at the Kimchi Cult stand in Chatsworth E5 market

The pulled pork sandwich at the Kimchi Cult stand in Chatsworth E5 market

After the Kimchi Cult, we headed off to Sho Foo Doh stand which only sold one item: Okonomiyaki. I’ve only had this dish once before during the Happa review and didn’t really care for it but wanted to give it another shot. Oh was it good….

Sho Foo Doh stand at Chatsworth E5 market

Sho Foo Doh stand at Chatsworth E5 market

What I really dug about this version over the one at Happa was the cheese was placed in the potato mix so it had a richness to it that wasn’t overly cheese filled and a sauce that wasn’t too sweet.

Okonomiyaki at the Sho Foo Doh stand at Chatsworth E5 market

Okonomiyaki at the Sho Foo Doh stand at Chatsworth E5 market

Added with some pork belly and a healthy dose of green onions, it made for an Okonomiyaki that I would come back for.

Okonomiyaki on the griddle at the Sho Foo Doh stand at Chatsworth E5 market

Okonomiyaki on the griddle at the Sho Foo Doh stand at Chatsworth E5 market

The last place we tried was Banhmi 11. Advertised as bespoke baguettes at their stall, they give several options for their banh mi.

Banh Mi 11 stand in the Chatsworth E5 market

Banh Mi 11 stand in the Chatsworth E5 market

After waiting in line for what seemed to be an eternity (bespoke baguettes take a while to assemble) , we ordered the BBQ Squared banh mi which had pate, caramelized pork meatballs with roasted rice flavours. Unfortunately, the long wait time allowed our stomachs the time to fill up and left us wondering if we had the room to fit even more food in our bellies. Luckily, I spied a huge bottle of Sriracha on their mise en place and after coming in for a closer look, and noticing the Huy Fong label, immediately became hungry again.

Rosemead Sriracha at the Banh Mi 11 stand in Chatsworth E5 market

Rosemead Sriracha at the Banh Mi 11 stand in Chatsworth E5 market

The banh mi was completely worth it. Lots of char-crusted meatballs smashed together with pate and surprisingly, pork floss which I haven’t seen in years! Add in pickled carrots, cucumbers, a heap of cilantro, Sriracha and green chiles in a spongy on the inside, crunchy on the outside baguette and we had a banh mi that was in my top 5 all-time list.

The BBQ Squared banh mi from the Banh Mi 11 stand in Chatsworth E5 market

The BBQ Squared banh mi from the Banh Mi 11 stand in Chatsworth E5 market

There were other notable food stalls that were just as busy as the ones we ate at. Notably, the wrap stall next to Banhmi 11 almost had us when we saw a kofta wrap being eaten next to us. Also, there was a Mexican street taco stand that had some amazingly fresh guacamole!

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Nyam Nippon

sushi appetizer

Not Cambodia related but I just got back from a short trip to Japan and I wanted to share photos of some of the amazing food.

octopus

Pretty sure this was octopus but I didn’t always know what I was eating.

Cooking Takoyaki

One of the highlights was the takoyaki. I had never tried it before but it is a small delicious octopus and batter ball. We were in Osaka where the dish apparently originated. The first time we had it was at a restaurant but we saw them being cooked in small stalls all over the city.

Takoyaki

Like many things in Japan, there is a very specific way of eating takoyaki. You are supposed to open them up and let them cool off a bit before eating. This was one thing I learned the hard way. Anyone know a spot to get good takoyaki in Phnom Penh?

– Bryse

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Lemony creamy goodness

The 999 restaurant on Street 184

The 999 restaurant on Street 184

There are a group of local restaurants located on Street 184 inbetween Norodom and Street 19. I have never taken too much notice to them as they look like the standard teenager fare, a bit too sugary and loud.

But when an Irish friend kept raving about a drink he could only describe as “lemony creamy goodness”, I knew I had to try.

And it was completely worth it.

Lemony creamy goodness aka the Khmer 50-50 drink

Lemony creamy goodness aka the Khmer 50-50 drink

Described on the menu as “Lemon Tea with Sweet Milk”, the drink is shockingly good. It reminded me of an orange creamsicle, which is never a bad thing.

Fried beef with egg

Fried beef with egg

Khmer banh cuon

Khmer banh cuon

The rest of the menu is quite ordinary with a notable Khmer version of banh cuon with shredded egg and julianned carrots but in all honesty, the reason to head to this restaurant is for the drink.

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Hometown Bak Kutteh

My friend Jeremy from Malaysia came into town this weekend for my birthday on Saturday. It was a pretty drunken affair which involved the Rossini Burger at Raffles, go karting at Kambol racetrack, absinthe shots and singing Loverboy at the Zeppelin bar. Needless to say, Sunday morning was not pretty. Luckily in my drunken haze, I made plans with Jeremy to try a Malaysian restaurant in Phnom Penh to see if it was the goods.

Oh it totally was…..

Hometown Bak Kutteh’s exterior exudes unassuming and if I have to be a bit honest, when I walked in felt like I had just walked into someone’s living room. There was some pretty kitschy elevator music (a rather weird version Police’s “Message in a Bottle” using a glockenspiel was playing when we walked in), there were boxes and sinks everywhere, and there was a kid playing a video game in the corner of the restaurant. Jeremy tells me that these places are all over Malaysia and that it was pretty authentic experience in terms of decor. Luckily, there was an air-conditioning unit blasting some cold air which isn’t seen in alot of these restaurants which is fine by me.

Jeremy sits in Hometown Bak Kutteh

Jeremy sits in Hometown Bak Kutteh

Let’s see if Hometown Bak Kutteh’s dishes pass Jeremy’s authenticity test.

Bak Kut Teh at My Home Bak Kut Teh restaurant

Bak Kut Teh at My Home Bak Kut Teh restaurant

Bak Kut Teh, or “pork rib tea” in Malaysian Hokkien, is a Chinese dish originating from around Fujian province in China that was brought to Malaysia with the influx of labourers in the 19th century.  In Malaysia, it is most commonly associated with the town of Klang, about an hour west of Kuala Lumpur, and the version served at Hometown Bak Kutteh has a rich, slightly sweet broth, deeply infused with Chinese herbs, and tender pieces of pork rib, belly, intestine and stomach accompanied by tofu skin, tofu puffs, Chinese shiitake and lettuce, and is a fine example of the Klang tradition.  No wonder too, as the proprietors hail from the area.

Bak Kut Teh at My Home Bak Kut Teh restaurant

Bak Kut Teh at Hometown Bak Kutteh restaurant

All the details were there in the accompaniments: crispy fried shallots garnishing the oily (but not too oily) rice, pieces of fresh deep-fried bread (known as youtiao in the West after the Mandarin name), and a little dipping saucer of sliced bird’s eye chili in light soya sauce.  If you want to feast on an authentic version of Bak Kut Teh, you could do far worse even in Malaysia, much less in Phnom Penh.  Highly recommended.

Curry Laksa at Hometown Kut Teh restaurant

Curry Laksa at Hometown Bak Kutteh restaurant

The word laksa is used for a wide variety of noodle soups in Malaysia and Singapore, with each town or city featuring their own version, some vastly different from each other.  There are three main families: curry laksa, which uses coconut milk and curry powder or paste in its gravy; assam laksa, the most famous of which is Penang laksa, which has sour tamarind in a seafood-based broth; and Kuching laksa, which is a spicy coconut milk broth but is different in flavour from both of the former.  (Full disclosure: since I’m a Kuching boy, you don’t have to guess very hard to know where my laksa loyalties lie).  When we ordered, the proprietress asked if we wanted a mix of egg noodles and rice vermicelli, and I opted for this as my dining partners might not have tried this noodle combination.

The curry laksa here is drawn from the ones served in Chinese eateries in the Klang Valley area.  It came topped with red barbecued pork, cockles, tofu puffs, slices of fish cake, a boiled egg.  The curry in the broth was quite prominent, backed by undertones of seafood in the broth base, and finishing nicely with the richness of the coconut milk.  Not the best curry laksa broth I’ve had, but not too far off.  My only complaint would be that there was a bit too much noodle for the amount of gravy in the bowl.

Fried Kuay teow at Hometown Bak Kutteh restaurant

Fried Kuay teow at Hometown Bak Kutteh restaurant

Kway Teow is Malaysian Hokkien for a flat and broad rice noodle, and char kway teow is a stir-fry using this noodle as its main ingredient.  Like almost anything in Malaysia, regional variations abound.  The noodles were quite tasty, and there were delightful little pieces of crispy pork fat sprinkled throughout the dish, but I felt it lacked in wok hei, which is the Cantonese word for the smoky, slightly charred flavour imparted by the high temperatures achieved in wok stir-frying.  This indicates me either an insufficiently seasoned wok, a flame that is not hot enough, or insufficient tossing of the wok to get enough partial combustion of the stir-frying oil.  A workmanlike char kway teow, but not outstanding.

Chicken Rendang at Hometown Bak Kutteh restaurant

Chicken Rendang at Hometown Bak Kutteh restaurant

Just for kicks, we also ordered a dish of chicken rendang, apparently because everything else we had was not rich enough.  Rendang is originally an ethnic Malay feast dish, although it can now be found in restaurants all over.  True to the restaurant’s Malaysian Chinese roots, the version we got was a Peranakan Chinese-style rendang.  The Peranakan Chinese (also known as Baba-Nyonya or Straits Chinese) are a community within Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore descended from Chinese immigrants in the 15th to 16th centuries, with a distinct language, culture, dress, and cuisine drawn from the centuries of cross-cultural pollination in the region.  Peranakan Chinese food fuses Chinese, Malay, and Indian influences into something distinct, commonly referred to as Nyonya cuisine, after the term for women of the community.

Rendang is a meat stew, cooked over a long simmer in rempah (a Malaysian spice mixture), turmeric, chili sauce, coconut milk, and kerisik, a paste made from toasted coconut shavings.  The resulting sauce is a thickly-textured and flavourful mixture having been reduced from over an hour of cooking.  The rendang at Hometown Bak Kutteh is sweet and only slightly piquant with rich aromas of ginger and lemongrass.  It only lacked the additional complexity in flavour provided by turmeric leaves and kaffir lime leaves found in some Malay preparations, but was all in all a very satisfactory rendang in the style.

Vinh here.

I totally enjoyed my experience at Hometown Bak Kutteh and am definitely heading back to try some of the other dishes. My favorite was their signature dish, Bak Kut Teh. It reminded me of thit kho heo but I could have done without the intestine’s floating in the broth. Also, it also had a whole garlic bulb in it!

A proper bowl of Bak Kut Teh

A proper bowl of Bak Kut Teh

All in all, some fantastically tasty and cheap (nothing over $5.00) dishes coupled with an authentic dining experience that I highly recommend. Just do it soon as they are moving to a more upscale location near Sorya Shopping Center on October 1st, 2011. As of October 22nd, it hasn’t moved.

It’s moved and now on Street 154

Hometown Bak Kutteh
Street 154
Between Streets 51 and 63
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
012 611 575

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Lunch at La Korea

The lunch specials at La Korea

The lunch specials at La Korea

I am a big fan of Korean food. Maybe it’s the copious amount of meat that is involved. Or the great sides that you get with every meal. Maybe it’s just value. Back in the land of Disney, you can go to a plethora of all you can eat Korean restaurants for under $20. My favorite has just raised their prices a whopping $3 to $16.99. And that’s just for dinner!

My big problem with the Korean restaurants in Phnom Penh is that they aren’t cheap. I have been to La Korea several times for dinner and have never spent less than $30.00 on a meal so it was nice to hear that they have a very reasonable set of lunch specials.

For $5.00 you get the choice of:

Kim Chee Stew
Curd Bean Stew
Soy Bean Steew
Cow Bone and Tripe Soup with Rice
Dumpling Soup
Buckwheat Noodles with Cold Broth
Soup containing Shells and Cabbages
Vegetable Porridge

Not bad considering you get water, assorted sides and a complementary glass of cinnamon tea (which is awesome btw) to finish the meal.

I ordered the Kim Chee Stew while Bryse ordered the Bibimbap ($6).

Service is quite fast with the meal coming within 10 minutes from the initial order.

Array of sides at La Korea

Array of sides at La Korea

The food came out on a serving cart and looked absolutely delicious. The Bibimbap had a great sizzling sound due to the extremely hot pot that it was served in. My Kim Chee Stew came out right behind and was also so hot that the stew was still bubbling when served.

Kim Chi Stew at La Korea

Kim Chi Stew at La Korea

Chock full of kim chee, tofu, pork belly and funnily enough, hot dogs, the Kim Chee Stew hit the spot. The sourness of the kim chee was counterbalanced nicely with the fatty pork belly and made for a fantastically filling meal. I asked for a side of gochujang, which is the chili paste that comes with the Bibimbap to use as a dip and that took the stew over the top.

Kim Chee at La Korea

Kim Chee at La Korea

Bibimbap translates to “mixed meal” and this rendition keeps with tradition. Tons of ingredients and extremely filling. One notable aspect of the bowl was the layer of crispy rice that formed on the bottom of the very hot pot which gave a crunchy texture that completely won me over.

Bibimbap at La Korea

Bibimbap at La Korea

All in all, a great, cheap meal that I will definitely come back for.

4 out of 5 nyamies

Vinh

Bibimbap at La Korea

Bibimbap at La Korea

Although Phnom Penh never really has the right weather for Bibimbap, it is one of my favorite lunch dishes so I was really excited when I saw La Korea had a relatively cheap one on their menu.

Array of sides at La Korea

Array of sides at La Korea

First the side dishes. The kimchi is great, nice and sour and spicy but not anything crazy sour. This was my second time for lunch in the past few months and the side dishes were a little bit different this time. The first time there were some really tasty potatoes with sesame seeds which they different serve. Unfortunately, I don’t know what any of it is called so I would recommend the potatoes if they do come out. Also, the green stuff was quite nice (very helpful).

Bibimbap at La Korea

Bibimbap at La Korea

When they serve the bibimbap at La Korea they offer to mix the dish for you which I let them do on my first trip. However, they mixed it a bit to vigorously and the rice didn’t get seared at the bottom of the hot stone pot. So this time I gave it a shot and had better success with the rice searing. But I’m not sure if the bowl isn’t as hot as it is supposed to be because there still wasn’t a ton of seared rice and they don’t serve the bibimbap with a raw egg but a fried one instead. It didn’t change the flavor dramatically but the raw egg is kind of fun. You feel pressured to quickly mix the ingredients and get that raw egg cooked with the heat of the bowl.

Kim Chi Stew at La Korea

Kim Chi Stew at La Korea

I tried a bite of Vinh’s kimchi soup and it was pretty tasty. The hot dogs were a bit weird but everything else looked nice. And for desert they served a plate of watermelon and this really great cold cinnamon tea. Perfect way to cool down a bit after the hot bibimbap.

Bryse – 4.25 nyamies (that’s right, two decimal points)

Cinnamon tea at La Korea

Cinnamon tea at La Korea

La Korea
No 128 C1C2
Sothearos Blvd
Phnom Penh
023 211 013

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