Monday, March 21, 2011

sincerity on a plate

In Siem Reap, we stayed at Ta Som Guesthouse. At only US$15 a night, it was the best deal ever in the history of the world, no kidding.

Our room was huge, with three double beds. We had AC, cable TV and a mini ref. The hot shower worked perfectly in the jumbo en suite bathroom that can easily fit five people doing their business all at the same time, I don't know why. Plus they provided bottled water, shampoo and soap everyday.

The price included free pick-up from the Siem Reap International Airport (the country's largest and busiest airport) as well as a hearty breakfast every morning. Oh, and a free ride to Old Market whenever you want.

The location was very convenient for all things tourists of all types do in Siem Reap, and the staff were just so danged charming and friendly-- I'm half-in-love with them. They gave us the best guidebook to Angkor for free. And they gave each of us a krama, the traditional Khmer scarf, for free!

Besides breakfast, we had a couple of other meals at Ta Som Guesthouse's homey little restaurant.

World-famous fish amok: Freshwater fish from Tonle Sap cooked with the Cambodian spice paste called kroeung, simmered in coconut milk.

Loc lac: Stir-fried beef served with fresh onions, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes, and dipped in a sauce consisting of lime juice and/ or black pepper.

Fish in yellow curry. I don't know if it's a traditional Cambodian dish, but all the staff recommended it.

String beans stir-fried with oyster sauce and some really tender beef slices.

As I said in my previous post, Cambodian food can be a tad boring, but only if you expect too much. By "too much", I mean if you expect to have your socks blown off like Vietnamese food. Or have your mouth set on fire like Thai food.

Verdict? The restaurant of the Tas Som Guesthouse serves good food. When you stay there, go ahead and eat there. Prices are comparable to the restaurants at Old Market, but at Ta Som, you can feel the love. This is home cooking at its most bare, most honest, most sincere. They just want to nourish you, the best way they know how.

My favorites were the fish amok-- delicately spiced, creamy but light, and the fish was perfectly cooked-- and the string beans. Yez, the beans were truly magical. They were screamingly fresh and crisp, as if they had just been pulled out of the ground. The oyster sauce was not overpowering, and the beef was just. So. Nice.

You know how you order some stir-fried veggies and it comes with miniscule cubes of mystery meat that are used to flavor it daw, and you know that they're just scraps that have been lurking in the fridge for weeks? Or worse, they've been recycled from other... Well, you know what I mean? This is not like that at all.

Quality. Not fancy, but nourishing on so many levels.

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