It was the first day of my first visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and I was curious to find out what Khmer cuisine was like. So, that first evening, a few of us decided to seize the moment and try the local street food. We’d seen a stall doing brisk business across the street from our hotel, so that was our destination. First, we had to survive crossing the street.
Let me tell you, crossing the street in Phnom Penh required a considerable amount of skill. We saw the locals saunter casually across the street, while cars and motorcycles zipped and swerved around them, without slowing down.
Finally, we did it. We got to the other side, after much hand pulling, hand holding, squealing and sprinting. It took us probably 10 minutes, and once we even almost gave up.
To be honest, the street stall, which was already quite full with perhaps only one or two tables left unoccupied, looked more appealing from across the street. There were crumpled tissue papers littering the ground at every table, and geckos (lots of them!) clinging to the wall where some tables leaned against. Ugh.
The guy manning the stall, approached us, probably recognising us as tourists, and asked us in his broken English, “We famous for beef noodles! You want?”
We were quite hungry (crumpled tissues and geckos be damned) so unanimously we said, “Yes, we want.”
So, we sat at a corner table which had the crumpled tissues beneath it and ordered. He came by and asked again, “You want noodles with bowl?” “Err…,” I said, “ok, noodles with bowl.” I thought he meant if we wanted a soupy noodle, which would come in a bowl. I was proven wrong later for it was fried noodles and `the bowl’ was a bowl of soup. Oh well.
Another thing I remember about that meal was that the wall next to our table had perhaps more than 10 geckos staring back at us. I was silently praying that none of those geckos fall into our meal or drinks or self. I didn’t want additional protein other than the one served by the street stall.
I wish I could say that the beef noodle was delicious but it was just mediocre. I was expecting lots of spice and heat since the country shared a border with Thailand, however, the food did not singe my tongue in the slightest.
We left dissatisfied culinary-wise but happy because the dinner conversation was good. Then, we realised that we had to cross that darn street again to get back to our hotel.