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The Sous-Vide Challenge

Deco’s sous-vide burger

The first time I had heard about the sous-vide method of cooking was when Caspar from Yumi and now Deco joined us for a nyam about a year ago. He had just purchased the equipment and was already talking about tinkering with the method in an effort to perfect a sous-vide burger. Needless to say, Vinh and I were really excited.

Caspar’s sous-vide burger has finally arrived on the menu at Deco. Not an everyday burger, coming it at $9 for the burger and triple cooked chips, it is however, probably the new king of burgers in Phnom Penh. Cooked evenly through with the sous-vide method done right, the meat is juicy and delicious. I think they even try to show off the quality of the burger meat by keeping the toppings relatively simple.

The triple cooked chips fine but were not my favorite mostly because they are English style chips, not the American fries I’m looking for with a burger. But the ketchup and burger sauce that came along with the plate were both awesome. For those of you not in Cambodia, ketchup being good is unfortunately not a given. It is typically some gross, sweet watery mess so Heinz 57 is a treat.

The rest of the menu looks really good as well but I’m going to have a hard time not ordering the burger next time I’m back at Deco.

Garage’s sous-vide burger

On a normal night, Garage has one of my favorite burgers in Phnom Penh. Nothing fancy, just a solid backyard bbq style burger. It does take as long as 45 minutes to get one if their grill isn’t fired up when you arrive but they do the regular burger really well. However, comparing the sous-vide burger from Garage to the Deco sous-vide burger isn’t even fair. At least not at this point. While Caspar spent a year trying to perfect his sous-vide method, I’m pretty sure the Garage owners bought one and are using their customers to learn how to use the equipment. The night we gave Garage a shot, the burgers were extremely dry and crumpling apart as we tried to eat them. Apparently the whole idea behind sous-vide is to make a juicier burger; this was not the case.

I’d stick to the regular burgers at Garage until they get this new style figured out.

– Bryse

Our first post on this blog focused on a very American diner burger at Mike’s Burger House. 2 years down the line, the culinary landscape has significantly changed with new and exciting restaurants popping up left and right. Sometimes, they are a hit with us and other times, a bit of a miss.

So when I wasn’t too surprised to hear that Phnom Penh has a joint that does sous-vide burgers. I was surprised when I found out that there are two!

Sous-vide is the method of slowly poaching a vacuum sealed bag of food goodness until it achieves whatever temperature the chef would like. What this does is two things:

  1. The food is cooked in it’s own juices, hence intensifying flavor and overall juiciness
  2. Allows for almost perfect cooking temperatures

However, there are some downfalls to the cooking technique.  Because it slowly brings the internal temperature of the food up, cooking times are significantly longer than traditional methods. Also; and this is very important for burgers; there is no browning of the meat. A big part of the burger experience is that char or “crust” that is prevalent on flame-grilled or griddle cooked patties which gives a textural one-two punch when biting into a burger.

Okay, enough burger knowledge for one post, let’s get to the burgers!

We first went to Garage to check out their sous-vide burger. We are big fans of the Garage burger and Jeff the owner is always tinkering with the menu. Usually this is a bad omen of things to come in a restaurant, but in this case, it’s great to see someone constantly refining the menu to keep it fresh.

One admission about the review: C0-owner Jeff was not at the restaurant and his partner had a really bad day trying to get the sous-vide machine up to speed which has adversely affected this review. 

The sous-vide burger was overcooked. There is no other way to put it lightly.

An overcooked sous vide burger at the Garage

An overcooked sous vide burger at the Garage

The burger had a great crust on it so I have a feeling it could have been left on the grill a bit too long. It’s quite disappointing as the onion confit, rocket and sriracha mayo were a great complement to the burger.

In typical Nyam fashion, we ordered way too much food and ordered 2 more sandwiches on the menu.

Cuban sandwich at the Garage

Cuban sandwich at the Garage

We ordered a stellar Pulled Pork Sandwich and a Cubano. Both were excellent though the Cubano didn’t have the prerequisite mustard on it but a simple splash from the bottle of French’s solved that problem

Pretty much all of the food on the Garage menu is under $5 which makes it a great deal for what you get. I will definitely be back to the Garage to retry the burger as this was a one-off experience.

Now onto a more different bear in Deco. Co-owned by Caspar from Yumi and Rob from Rubies, Deco is located in BKK I and is set in a beautiful art-deco villa.

Menu at Deco

Menu at Deco

The Deco burger is  the best burger in town.

Hands down.

However, it’s too much of a good thing.

More on that later.

Chilled tomato soup at Deco

Chilled tomato soup at Deco

There are elements of molecular gastronomy on the menu but none of that exemplifies it more than the chilled tomato soup. The clear broth belies the intense tomato flavor that pummels the perception of what your eyes are telling you. A great start to the meal.

Sous vide burger at Deco

Sous vide burger at Deco

Now onto the burger. It’s simple in it’s presentation which once again belies how much thought is put into it. Every ingredient was top notch even down to the fresh tomatoes which are prominently displayed on top of the patty. I have an almost Un-American love of fat fries aka chips and these triple fried ones are definitely some of the best in town. No ketchup needed for these babies as they are also salted perfectly.  The remoulade-like burger sauce gave a great tangy bite to the burger. As for how the patty was cooked, check out the photo below:

A perfectly cooked sous vide burger at Deco

A perfectly cooked sous vide burger at Deco

But throughout the meal, something was constantly nagging at me and it took me a week or so to figure out what it was.

It’s too perfect.

I have proclaimed the best burger in town a couple of times, here and here but both burgers had their faults. This one is completely flawless and that’s the problem with it. Maybe I like imperfection.

Also, the location is too close for comfort. For example, I love the burgers at Cafe De La Paix (RIP). But one of the reasons why I love them is that they were 6 hours away from Phnom Penh and it took a bit of effort to get one. And that made them special. I’m not saying Caspar and Rob shouldn’t pack up and move to Siem Reap but it’s too much of a good thing.

This is my last post as a regular contributor of Nyam Penh. I have moved to Saigon and have started up a new food blog called Vietnomnom. I am getting content for a post in the next month so please check it out and let me know what you think of it.

Also, thanks to all of our readers and commenters for reading Nyam Penh and helping us get to where we are now.

Vinh

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Ayotaya

Interior of Ayotaya

Interior of Ayotaya

Ayotaya is a no frills Thai restaurant that is severely lacking on ambiance but inversely makes up for it in flavor. Upon walking in, you have a sense that you have entered a canteen. It’s white walls are bare with a few signs stating daily specials. It also has that living room look that only a canteen in Southeast Asia can have with a few couches in back, a whiteboard with daily specials which are in Thai no-less, and the ubiquitous TV running a very melodramatic dubbed soap opera.

Interior of Ayotaya

Each table comes with your own personal trash bin

The good thing about places like this is the high probability of getting a really good meal. But sometimes you need a ringer to really order the goods. Enter Fon from Hungry Go Where who we gave the undue pleasure of ordering for us and Lina from My Big Fat Face.

And it was so good… 

Fon ordered a total of 6 dishes which included 2 plates of Green Curry Fried Rice ($3.00), Lime Steamed Tilapia ($6.00), a Wing Bean Spicy and Sour Salad ($3.50), Fried Squid in Curry Powder ($4.00) and a side of fried eggs ($2.00).

They were all excellent with the Wing Bean Salad and the Tilapia being my favorites of the meal. The salad was clean and fresh with the Wing Beans giving a great crunchy texture to it. For the Tilapia, I am a huge fan of this Thai preparation and almost always order it when it is available.

The only niggly thing I could say about the meal was the quartered hard-boiled egg as garnish on almost all of the dishes.

All in all, Ayotaya is a great Thai restaurant on the cheap if you can deal with the canteen-like feel of the place.

Vinh

Ayotaya is conveniently situated at st 302 in BKK1. You wont miss the cheerful yellow sign outside Decoration is basic, yet clean and welcoming.

Being Thai, of course I was tasked to order for the other 3 foodies – pressure was on. Fortunately all the dishes we had lived up to the expectation. I was happily to collect the compliments!

Fried squid in curry powder

Fried squid in curry powder

We ordered few things to share; snake beans salad with prawns, steamed river fish with garlic, chillies sauce, green curry chicken fried rice and fried eggs to accompany the curry fried rice.

Snake beans salad with prawn came with light and slightly spiced coconut dressing. It was a hands down everyone’s favourite and personally, I can eat that everyday. Steamed river fish came in a generous portion. We asked for the garlic & chillies sauce to be spicy and the restaurant was not shy to give us that. The sauce offers that perfect sour, spicy and salty combination which compliments the fish really well. We just could not have enough of that.

Green curry fried rice

Green curry fried rice

Last dish, curry fried rice with fried eggs. The dish reminds me of good street food in Bangkok  – rustic and giving home cook feel – Two thumbs up!

There are daily specials on their board every day (in Thai). Just ask what they are if you are curious and want to try something different, their Thai staff will be able to explain to you.

Fon

Ayotaya
No 58 Street 302
BKK 1
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
099 222 408

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The Exchange Burger

The Exchange

The Exchange

The Exchange is one of a number of high-end restaurants that have opened up in Phnom Penh in the past 6 months. I tend to wait a bit to let the restaurant get on it’s feet a bit and sort out the niggly details that comes with opening a restaurant.

After hearing that Al formerly of Sharky’s was running the food side of things, I excitedly threw out this rule and showed up on opening day. Unfortunately, in my excited state, I forgot to bring my camera.

Interior at the Exchange

Interior at the Exchange

The interior of the Exchange exudes class and was very well designed. Also, I really enjoyed the open air feel of the place with lots of windows let in the breeze and light. I ordered the burger and my wife ordered the braised lamb shank. Both were excellent and the service was impeccable. The only issue was my burger was dripping with juices which made it nice and juicy but turned it into a soppy mess.  Al came over after our meal and I mentioned the juiciness. He winced and mentioned that the staff isn’t properly resting the burger before serving. I didn’t think anything of it as it was the first day.

Fast forward to a week ago where Bryse and I headed back to the Exchange to have one item and one item only: the cheeseburger.

The cheeseburger at the Exchange

The cheeseburger at the Exchange

It’s advertised as the Flame-Grilled Black Angus Beef Burger on the menu and was definitely worth it a second time around. The menu is a mix of  pan-asian and western grilled plates and prices range from 8.00 to 16.00 dollars but we didn’t bother with anything else.

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

Perfectly cooked to a rare temperature, the burger comes with extremely fresh tomatoes, crispy lettuce, an onion confit and swiss cheese on a not-too sweet sesame seed bun. A side of fries with a garlic aioli and ketchup round out the plate. Not too bad for $7.50. I mentioned in an previous post that T-Bone had the best burger in town but after this one, I have to take that crown off T-Bone and place it squarely on the Exchange burger. The high quality of the imported Australian meat shines through and the fresh garnishes make it the complete package.

Just a little juice

Just a little juice

So next time you are fixing for a burger and are willing to dish out a little more loi, then you can’t go wrong with the burger at the Exchange.

Vinh

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

Perfectly cooked cheeseburger at the Exchange

A big old flag at the Exchange

A big old flag at the Exchange

The Exchange
#28 Street 47
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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Nyam At Home: CP Fried Chicken

During our research for the Fast Food Burger extravaganza, Bryse and I searched high and low for fast hamburger places to try in Phnom Penh. In our research for a burger cart for the review (which failed miserably I must add) , I found out a take-away chicken stall that has been a great go to for cheap and delicious eats.

The CP cart of fried goodness

The CP cart of fried goodness

Enter the CP Fried Chicken cart. Contract farmed in Kompong Speu for the CP Company, the chicken is brought to Phnom Penh and made into deep fried goodness. I have never seen breasts there but since I am a huge fan of the wings and thighs, it hasn’t bothered me too much. And I have to admit, I am a bit addicted.

Only 2,500 Riel a piece, the chicken is very tasty but definitely geared towards the khmer palate as the breading is a bit sweet but if you can compensate for that, it makes for a fantastic meal.

Just out of the fryer

Just out of the fryer

Which brings me to the At Home part of this posting. When you get the chicken, it comes with some napkins and the typically sweet chili sauce that is ubiquitous to the region. The sauce ups the sweetness factor to 11 so I tend to throw it away the packet.

Upon getting home with my chicken, I usually open up my fridge and check it out to see if I can scrounge up any proper condiments with the chicken. This time, I went to my trusty Sriracha sauce and decided to whip up a variation of a  great glaze I found online.

5.000 riel of fried chicken ready to be sauced

5.000 riel of fried chicken ready to be sauced

The ingredients of the Sriracha lime/cilantro glaze are:

1/4 cup Sriracha
1 tbsp Palm Vinegar
2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
Juice of 1 Lime
1/4 cup chopped Cilantro
I purposely left out the honey in the recipe due to the already sweet breading and added half a diced onion for a bit of texture.

Prepping for the lime/sriracha glaze

Prepping for the lime/sriracha glaze

After pre-heating the oven to 250 C, I combined all the glaze ingredients and tossed the chicken in them.

Glazed and ready for the oven

Glazed and ready for the oven

20 minutes in the oven allowed the breading to crisp back up  and what came out was crispy chicken that was spicy, tangy and easy on the wallet!

Fried Chicken from the CP cart with a Sriracha lime/cilantro glaze

Fried Chicken from the CP cart with a Sriracha lime/cilantro glaze

You can find the CP carts around town but my main haunts are the ones on Sothearos. The first is in front of the VIP Mart around the corner from the White Building and the other is just south of the old National Assembly.

Vinh

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Ichiriki Tei

Ichiriki Tei

Ichiriki Tei

Located on Kampuchea Krom just west of Central Market, Ichiriki Tei is a great Japanese restaurant that not only serves your generic sushi and nigiri rolls but some seriously filling homestyle cooking.

Interior of Ichiriki Tei

Interior of Ichiriki Tei

We were greeted immediately by the staff and were offered a huge table that could have easily fit 10. The interior is a blend of tacky Khmer Riche and understated Japanese.

The view of the other tables at Ichiriki Tei

Understated yet tacky

The menu is quite extensive and was a bit daunting to look through. Luckily, the proprieter was very patient with us newbies and guided us through the menu. Between the 3 of us, we ordered 4 dishes.

Gyoza at Ichiriki Tei

Gyoza at Ichiriki Tei

The first dish that arrived was the gyoza. At $2.00 for 5 pieces, it was a little expensive, though not as expensive as the gyoza at Bekkan Ramen. I felt they were a bit bland and definitely needed to be dipped in the accompanied soy sauce. After the demolishing the gyoza, the rest of the plates started to appear.

Ichiriki Tei Special Ramen

Ichiriki Tei Special Ramen

Ichirikitei Special Ramen ($6.50) was one of the lunch specials of the day. Along with the noodle soup, you get a pretty generic plate of fried rice. . I would suggest sharing your meal if you want to actually do anything after your meal. Half a boiled egg, sliced pork and cabbage accompanied the thin round noodles that came in the sesame oil-infused broth.

Katsu Don with miso soup

Katsu Don with miso soup

The next dish they plopped down was the Katsu Don ($8.50). When I say plopped, I mean a thud. The bowl was huge! The deep-fried pork cutlet was smothered with a beaten egg before serving and tempered the crunchy breaded pork that is usually served with this dish. The rice  was flavored with a bit of soy sauce and was a nice counter-punch to the rich pork. A definite gut buster!

Niku Soba

Niku Soba

The Niku Soba ($7.00) was the last bowl to come out. Nice and chewy soba noodles were served with sliced beef, carrots, onion. I found it to be a bit bland and once some heat was added to it via some chili flakes, it made for a pretty good broth.

All in all, a great place for those who are looking for homestyle Japanese food and don’t mind not doing anything afterwards.

3 out of 5 nyamies
Vinh

homemade chili sauce and soy sauce

Once we were able to find the front door at Ichiriki Tei and found our table, the overly attentive staff started piling hot towels, menus and sauces on our table. The woman that spoke the most English explained to us that the chunky chili sauce they brought over was homemade so we had to give it a try. We mixed some in with the soy sauce and it was decent, not too spicy and a bit sweet but the mix went well with the gyoza.

Food at Ichiriki Tei

My eyes bugged out when the Katsu Don arrived at the table. Probably really unhealthy but the katsu don consists of delicious tenkatsu and fried eggs piled on a top of really nice Japanese rice. This was by far my favorite dish (I’ve actually been back twice since and ordered this).

Special Ramen, Fried Rice and neon red ginger

The ramen was really cheap so I wasn’t expecting much but it wasn’t bad for the price. The noodles were not fresh but the broth and pork were really nice. The Niku Soba and fried rice were fine but not stand outs.

pickles

Americans typically associate Japanese food with healthy options like fresh sushi. This Japanese food is not healthy. Ichiriki Tei does have a very expensive sushi section but bulk of the menu is “Japanese soul food” which is definitely the reason to visit this place.

4 out of 5 nyamies
Bryse

Ichiriki Tei
No.10 Kampuchea Krom Blvd, Sangkat Phsa Thmey 2, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh

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Tom Yum Kung

Tom Yum Kung

Tom Yum Kung

Phnom Penh’s Golden Street or Street 278 is known for it’s many bars, restaurants and shops. So many in fact, that it can be hard to choose a venue to dine in. However, if you head just a bit west of Street 57, you can find a gem of a restaurant called Tom Yum Kung that dishes the goods.

I have driven by this restaurant too many times to count and never knew it was there until it was recommended by a fellow Nyammer. I think this is due to the parking area which is at the entrance of the restaurant and if there are a couple cars there (which there usually are), the sign is covered up. Either way, I am glad I found it because it serves some of the best Thai food I have had in Phnom Penh. I went with a pretty large group of people so we were able to order a ton of items off the menu.

Som Tam salad

Som Tam

Probably the best dish we ordered would be the first one we received.  The quintessentially thai salad Som Tam ($1.50). A great start to the meal, it had just enough heat to kickstart our palates for the upcoming feast. Add some sticky rice to this and it makes for a meal in itself (which I have done twice since). We also received some Satey Khai ($3.00) the same time we got the Som Tam and the skewers of chicken were so good that they only lasted a minute on the plate. So we ordered another.

Satey Khai

What you don't see are the awaiting hands out of frame

After dusting off the two starters, the dishes started pouring onto our table.

Pork Laarb ($3.00)

Pork Laab

Pork Laab

Tom Yum Kung (Sour and Spicy Soup $4.50)

Tom Yum Kung Soup

Tom Yum Kung Soup

Pla Tab Tim Nuang Ma Naw (Steamed Fish in Lime Juice $8.00)

Check out all that fish!!

Check out all that fish!!

Phat Kaprao Gai (Stir Fried Chicken with Thai Sweet Basil and Chili $3.00)

Stir Fried Chicken with Thai Basil

Stir Fried Chicken with Thai Basil

Phat Pak Roum (Stir Fried Vegetables $3.00)

Stir Fried Vegetables

Stir Fried Vegetables

We ordered everything spicy but I have to give the restaurant some credit for not destroying our taste buds by overpowering the tastes of the dishes with copious amounts of chili. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any heat, they just knew the right amount to put in. All of our group absolutely loved the Phat Kaprao Gai with it’s simple, fresh flavors and Pork Laarb didn’t last too long before being demolished and put out to pasture.

After stuffing ourselves silly, we lived up to our nyamming reputation and ordered some Khao Niaow Ma Muang (Mango and Sticky Rice $2.75) to finish out the meal.

Mango with Sticky Rice

Mango with Sticky Rice

A great end to a fantastic meal.

Tom Yum Kung
#10, St. 278, BKK1, Khan Chamkarmorn
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
+855 23 720 234

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Nyam Abroad: Banh Trang Nuong

Stitched image from the rooftop bar at the Ceatec Tower

Stitched image from the rooftop bar at the Ceatec Tower

My wife and I  spent a week in Ho Chi Minh City just recently, enjoying the culinary delights Vietnam has to offer. We had a great time meeting new people along with some old friends and of course, ate tons of great food.

Advertising the goods

Advertising the goods

One memorable item we ate (and we ate alot of it) was Banh Trang Nuong or what I ended up naming the Vietnamese Grilled Taco. Banh Trang is translated as rice paper and is the used as the wrapping material for Bánh Cuốn or Chả Giò. With these preparations, the banh trang is dipped in water to moisten them to make for easier rolling.

Banh Trang Nuong on the grill

Banh Trang Nuong on the grill

With this dish, the uncooked banh trang is placed on a grill and the ingredients are placed on top. We went to several vendors and the filling is generally a mix of minced pork, dried shrimp butter, chopped scallions, and a quail egg.

Ingredients for the Banh Trang Nuong

Ingredients for the Banh Trang Nuong

An optional squeeze of chili sauce rounds out the filling. We also saw chili-sate sauce, deep fried onions and deep fried rice paper as ingredients and thought they made the Banh Trang Nuong even better!

It's almost a taco!!

It's almost a taco!!

At a certain point on the grilling process which the vendor knows perfectly, the banh trang becomes a bit more pliable and is folded over. A bit more time is spent on the grill to crisp it back up and then it is served with some folded paper.

The finished product

The finished product

The crispiness of the banh trang combined with the gooey texture of the filling (probably because of almost done quail egg) is one of those great experiences I will take with me to the grave. One note is that you have to eat this fast as the banh trang wrapper goes a bit limp if you leave it to cool down.

You can find Banh Trang Nuong vendors around town but we found tons of them in the park next to the Notre-Dame Basilica in District 1.

Some more images from the week:

 

Instructions at Wrap and Roll in Ho Chi Minh City

Instructions at Wrap and Roll in Ho Chi Minh City

Sesame seed rice paper spring rolls at Wrap and Roll

Sesame seed rice paper spring rolls at Wrap and Roll

Banh cuon nhan thit at Wrap and Roll. Check out the pork floss

Banh cuon nhan thit at Wrap and Roll. Check out the pork floss

Banh Cuon with 4 types of Cha Lua

Banh Cuon with 4 types of Cha Lua

Complimentary appetizers on the 50th floor at Bitexico Tower

Complimentary appetizers on the 50th floor at Bitexico Tower

A 1956 Lambretta and it's proud owner

A 1956 Lambretta and it's proud owner

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