Phnom Penh the restaurant

For years I wanted to try Phnom Penh, a Cambodian and Vietnamese restaurant on W. 25th in Cleveland.  It’s not in the best area and it’s not on my normal path so I just didn’t get around to it.  Then, amazingly, the owners opened a new location in North Olmsted not too far from where I live.

I have been asking my husband to take me here for a while.  I don’t know why, but I keep asking him and every time we drove by the place, he would act like it was the first time he’d seen it.  Probably because trying it wasn’t high on his list of things to do.  I really enjoy trying exotic things, my husband likes to try, but needs time to let the idea sink in first.

Well, the restaurant had a coupon deal online and my husband bought two!  Yay!  We first used one about a month ago.  We took my son, The Monkey King.

Since it was the first time we went, I wanted to try a bit of everything.  I went online and found that many people recommended something called Nating and the Hue Beef Soup.  So we ordered both plus the Pad Thai and the Roll platter.  And stuffed chicken wings.  We had those too.  There was a section of the menu for “blended tropical drinks”.  On it was a House Special Drink.  Of course I need that too.

Nating, is an appetizer.  It’s ground pork in a thin sauce served with rice crackers.  The crackers remind me vaguely of rice crispy treats only thin and without marshmallows.  And the sauce was so tasty with coconut milk.  I wish there were more crackers to get more of the sauce.  I just did a bit of searching and found that the commonly accepted spelling of this dish is Nataing. Using that as a search term turned up this lovely recipe.  I like that it suggests using a baguette instead of the crackers.  That would soak up all of that lovely sauce.  I would not deep fry the bread though.

The Hue Beef Soup was purple and very spicy.  I loved it.  It was a bit too spicy for my husband. Very much like pho which is one of my favorites.

My husband ordered the Pad Thai spicy.  I love spicy.  My husband is used to spicy but isn’t as tolerant of it as I am.  Usually, when ordering at Asian restaurants, the spiciness is relative to ethnicity.  If you’re not Asian and order spicy, it’s usually not very spicy.  I have to tell the server that I want it truly spicy.  Here, they really served it the same as if we were Asian.  It was so hot that it overwhelmed my husband’s tastebuds and he couldn’t catch the more subtle flavors in the dish.  I enjoyed it very much.  It wasn’t as big of a blast to me.  But I’ve also been known to eat habeneros whole.  An Asian family was at the restaurant at the same time.  They also ordered the Pad Thai.  They sent it back because it was too spicy. This made my husband feel much better.  I keep trying to tell him it’s not a competition, one’s personal tastes are one’s personal tastes.  I must say, my husband’s Pad Thai is the best I’ve ever had.  I love going out to try others’ versions but I also know I will get the best at home.

The roll platter, which is not on the take away menu, is really good.  It has 5 mini spring rolls which are hard to describe.  They are a tiny bit of whatever wrapped in a thin egg batter coating?  I’m not even sure. They are about 1/2″ wide and about an 1 1/2″ wide and super tasty.  There are 2 rice paper rolls.  The rice paper rolls are really well wrapped but don’t have much in them.  There are some small pieces of cucumber, a tiny bit of matchsticked carrots, a tiny bit of lettuce and rice noodles.  No basil, no pork, no shrimp, no bean sprouts.  There are also 4 spring rolls which are really tasty and 2 egg rolls.  The egg rolls are not normal egg rolls.  The meat is kind of like those red-ish teriyaki beef sticks meat.  And there are almost no vegetables in them.  They are so good.  I could eat these all day.

I did not care for the stuffed chicken wings.  There was a flavor that just wasn’t something I personally enjoy.  They were made well though and my husband enjoyed them very much.  I prefer the ones from Siam Cafe.

Service here is really slow.  There was one server and one cook and the cook had to make everything.  The end result is that my drink came after all the food.  It was worth the wait though.  The description is pineapple, jack fruit, and guanabana mix sweet milk.  Sounds like a billion calories and tasted like it too.  The drink tasted like coconut and pineapple.  It just needed some rum.  So yummy.  I just finally saw a real jack fruit about a month ago while walking through a grocery in Asia Town.  It was massive; the sign said it was 30 pounds!  That’s a lot of smoothies right there.

My husband just complained a lot about this restaurant after we left.  How hot the Pad Thai was.  How much money we spent.  The slow service. I really liked it.  The decor isn’t fancy, rather cafeteria-like.  But many Asian restaurants are like this. I just assumed that when I went back it would be alone.

Last night, my husband decided we should use the second coupon he purchased.  I wanted to try something unusual.  The menu is so large it’s a bit overwhelming.  I ended up ordering a dish called Chha Kreoung Ma Rass Prowt.  It’s pronounced “Number 94”.  The description says “an exotic flavor, mixture of lime leaves, garlic, tumeric root, galanga root, coconut whip, Ma Rass Prowt (special vegetables from Asia) aromatic and fresh lemongrass. Stirred with onion, green or red pepper, chunky chopped roasted peanut with steamed rice.  We chose chicken as the meat.  The dish was delicious, but small.  It was very accessible for my husband.  We ordered it medium spicy and it arrived zippy but not overwhelming.

Today, I’ve been trying to identify these dishes and ingredients.  It has taken a bit of research.  The only results that come from a search for Ma Rass Prowt are all for this restaurant.  That’s the same problem I had with a search for nating.  Here’s what I learned.

Chha refers to stir fry vegetables.   It’s alternately spelled Char and Chhar.  The most common spelling of the next word is Kroeung.  I found a recipe for Char Kroeung that I might try.  Now Ma Rass Prowt is harder to come by.  I’ve seen it also spelled maras prov but I can’t find anything useful.  I guess I don’t care because it’s really really good.

My husband really liked this place this time.  We’ve decided that we will keep it as a take away place only as it takes so long.  I think the fact that the food was really accessible helped him come around about it.  I’m glad.  Only, next week, I want to try the Korean take away place across the street.

….SSSSsssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!  Don’t tell.

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