A look at how I found the most amazing Cambodian food in Vancouver, BC
Vancouver. What a city. And Vancouver in July? It’s beautiful. Just absolutely beautiful. Long days, warm weather, and cool breezes. That’s summer in Vancouver. The warmest part of the day is 5 PM. How great to get off work and head straight for the beach! The busiest time at the beach seemed to be 7 PM. Crazy, right? Almost my bedtime. Anyways, I digress. It’s beautiful.
Regardless of it’s beauty, our reason for visiting was to check out the food scene. We heard the food in Vancouver is awesome and it most certainly is. After some extensive research, we settled on a few select restaurants to try during our 5 day visit. I wish we could have tried more, but alas, you can only eat so much in 5 days. I gained 5 pounds during this trip. Seriously.
Named after the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh Cambodian & Vietnamese Restaurant was close to the top of our list. You’re wondering how I found the most amazing Cambodian food in Vancouver? Maybe, maybe not, but I will tell you regardless. Research. The internet is a wonderful thing. Typically, we use Yelp as a starting point. I know Yelp is not always totally accurate, but it is a great place to get a feel for the food scene. As a food blogger, I also try to stay in touch with the food blogging community. I try. My best. The days seem to disappear so quickly though…. Either way, before leaving I read blogs such as Gastrofork, Follow Me Foodie, and Foodology, all with great reviews of this place. It also never hurts to pop onto TripAdvisor and see what people on there think. It’s not my go to, but it provides a slightly different angle than Yelp. And then of course, a review of the menu to see all they have to offer. Which is a lot.
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The Food of Cambodia
What is Cambodian food? Well, let’s talk about it a little before we dive into the deliciousness that is Phnom Penh. I’m not going to claim to be an expert in Cambodian food, as there are few options in my hometown of San Diego, but I know good food when I
see eat it. I have eaten at many a Vietnamese restaurant, quite a few Thai and Laotian spots, so am very familiar with the amazingly intense, deep, spicy flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine. I wish I was eating it now. Seriously. Won’t someone bring me some?
Very similar to the cuisine of it’s neighboring countries of Vietnam and Thailand, fermented shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, and chili peppers are commonly seen in dishes, as well as tamarind, hoisin sauce and soy sauce. While the flavors are intense, they are not quite as spicy as Thai cuisine. I could write a whole book on the cuisines of Cambodia (well, maybe not a WHOLE book), but that’s a whole different post. We’re here to talk about one of the best restaurants in Vancouver.
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The menu at Phnom Penh is extensive, however, they are known only for a handful of dishes. We ordered 3 of the most popular dishes; the Phnom Penh deep fried chicken wings, marinated butter beef, and filet beef luc lac on rice with egg.
PS – this restaurant gets PACKED! Luckily, we like to eat early and made it over here a little before 5 PM, so there was no wait. However, there were only a couple tables open. We got lucky. The lesson is get here early, or be prepared to wait, with an average wait time of 20 minutes, and likely much longer during peak hours.
Phnom Penh Deep Fried Chicken Wings
Sometimes I feel that no visit to a Southeast Asian style restaurant is complete without ordering the fried chicken wings. I mean, who doesn’t love fried chicken wings? Deep fried and covered in salt, garlic and chilies, and what seems to be a touch of sugar, Phnom Penh’s chicken wings are definitely a favorite, and for good reason. They are delicious. I’m pretty sure there’s some MSG mixed in there given the deliciously intense flavor of the wings, but it’s totally worth it for me. The wings are served with a traditional white and black pepper lemon dipping sauce, which is raved about in many of the reviews. The Cambodian and Vietnamese often dip their beef, seafood and other meats in this peppery lemon dipping sauce. Personally, I prefer it on seafood, but I totally understand the appeal.
Marinated Butter Beef
A Vietnamese dish, this thinly sliced rare beef is covered with fried garlic, cilantro and this absolutely amazing tangy, sweet and salty sauce. It’s the perfect umami flavor. The beef is melt-in-your mouth tender. A very intense soy and fish sauce based sauce, with a touch of sweetness, I recommend ordering some rice to sop up the extra sauce. Don’t waste the sauce. It’s amazing. Plus, you can never go wrong with some extra rice!
Filet Beef Luc Lac on Rice with Egg
If you order this, you MUST order the version with the egg. What dish isn’t bettered by mixing in a nice runny egg yolk? Served in a thick sweet and savory sauce with a touch of sesame oil on a bed of white rice and topped with a sunny side up egg, this tender beef is delicious. Served with a famous Vietnamese dipping sauce (Nuoc Cham) and some spicy chili on the side, this dish was packed full of flavor. And did I tell you how tender the beef was. So tender. Pour a little dipping sauce on, add some chili to your liking, and enjoy! Beware though, the chili is SPICY! At least to me. But I’m a wuss.
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And so I sit, back in my humble abode in San Diego, dreaming of re-living this food experience. If you ever visit Vancouver, I highly recommend trying this place. If you live there, I envy you. Eat up!
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