Cambodia should be a gourmet’s paradise: It’s situated between Vietnam and Thailand, two representatives of internationally renowned super cuisines. Our cooking class with Smokin’ Pot in Battambang kept us wanting more as well. Wonderful curries, not as spicy as in Thailand nor as subtle as Vietnam, but very smooth and delicious. The national specialty “Volcano/Fire Mountain”, for which you fry carpaccio marinated in peanut sauce on a kind of turned-over pasta strainer over an open gas light, truly delighted us as well.
Then of course there are legions of repulsivenesses absolutely normal for Cambodians, such as unhatched chicken embryos you eat with a spoon directly from the egg, plenty of critters, and entrails of all kinds. The embryos were too advanced for our taste (nobody forced us to eat them, plus they look really repulsive), the critters we knew from Bangkok already, but the entrails really spoilt the fun in Khmer food for me. As good as some Khmer chefs may be, the majority works with meat or fish by chopping up the complete animal (!) with a Chinese cleaver and then throwing it all into the wok. It’s astonishing what kinds of unidentifiable parts crop up in a soup.
So it came that some day in the countryside I got fed up with stall food and was really glad to find the fast food paradise Phnom Penh (more on this best of all cities in a minute). Here you can get farmer’s breakfast in a German restaurant, dozens of affordable and delicious burger joints, and above all Happy Pizza! Not the cheapest proposition (in Cambodian terms, a big one for about two people costs $9), but at least at “Happy Phnom Penh Pizza” you can get extra happiness on your pizza on request, which translates to a lot of ground weed. After two pizzas the effect is comparable to space cakes. And the pizza is not too shabby either. After traveling for months our cheese level got halfway normalized again at last. Praise the Lord!
So if you don’t know what to do with all your weed, sagesex recommends preparing this classic Cambodian treat.
What’s to say about this pearl at the Tonle Sap? Simply great! The most civilized, quiet, neat city I’ve so far seen across Asia. Still there’s everything you’re used to from cities like Bangkok: Fancy and less fany clubs and bars, all kinds of affordable drugs, hookers, world class sightseeing (even if we gave up on the stupid national palace after three failed attempts to get in). Add to this the unique ensemble of torture prison S-21, Killing Fields, and the renowned shooting range where for $40 you can empty an AK-47 magazine or even fire a bazooka for $300. A combination that ranges high up there in the scale of tastelessness.
In spite of this, or rather just because of it: I felt right at home in Phnom Penh. It’s a kind of Munich in Asia: There are certainly bigger and more exciting cities, but Phnom Penh is simply beautiful. Especially in contrast to the simple life in the countryside elsewhere.
Finally we get to Cambodia’s most important natural resource: Cambodians are the most beautiful people on earth! Not only the children are of such incredible cuteness that you want to instantly adopt them all. Not only the women are gorgeous with noble faces and unusual curves for Asia. No, even the men could tempt the odd female western traveler: Besides the typical Cambodian noble countenance, they are comparatively tall and strongly built (at least compared to Thais). Plus they are mostly very agreeable, simple people, with amazingly calm and deep eyes. Isn’t Miss World Cambodian every year?
It’s a peculiar society where after years and years of war there are hardly any old people left. In many respects (cooking, education) this is certainly harmful, but it also makes for a positive, relaxed, naively innocent euphoric mood. I can’t deny it’s extremely heart-warming to play catch-me-if-you-can or tug-of-war with young Cambodians between 3 and 30 years.