Tony Johor Kaki Travels for Food · Heritage · Culture · Diplomacy

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Num Banh Chok @ Central Market Phnom Penh

Num_Banh_Chok_Central_Market_Phnom_Penh

One of the missions I set for myself for this trip to Phnom Penh was to experience num banh chok, one of the dishes often mentioned as Cambodia's national dish. It is a noodle soup staple found along streets, corner coffee shops and markets.

Stall name: Num Banh Chok (cooked food stalls in Central Market got no signboard) 


Address: Central Market, Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Hours: 6:00am - 10:00am (Num Banh Chok stall)



Num_Banh_Chok_Central_Market_Phnom_Penh

Another of my objectives was to visit Phnom Penh's famous Central Market. It's a sprawling complex with hundreds of stalls selling clothes, jewelry, housewares, etc., and there is a wet market for dried / preserved food, fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, fish and seafood.

Num_Banh_Chok_Central_Market_Phnom_Penh

I found the wet market absolutely fascinating as it gives me insights on what the land, sea, lakes and rivers around Phnom Penh provide and on the foundations of Cambodia's food culture.

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They have a cooked food stall section (like Singapore's hawker centre) where I stumbled upon a num banh chok stall - there's bound to be at least one or two NBC whenever there is a group of food stalls in Cambodia.

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I speak no Khmer, so I pointed to another customer's bowl of noodles to order. They understood me instantly. I soon got my first bowl of num banh chok (for USD2).

Notice that the soup spoon provided is wrapped in tissue paper. That's a nice sincere touch.

Num_Banh_Chok_Central_Market_Phnom_Penh

It was a mound of rice vermicelli (bee hoon) in a soup topped with lots of garnish such as bean sprout, sesbania flower, banana flower, mint leaves, etc. For protein, there's pork blood curd and soft pieces of boiled fish. There's fried garlic bits for added aroma and flavour.

This version is relatively simple - more elaborate ones have water hyacinth, water lily, cucumber, lead tree leaf, green papaya, long beans, etc.

I was seated with ladies young and old my age. Turnover was quick, I was the only slow one 😬 Most customers were ladies who came here to do their marketing or work nearby.

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Num banh chok is a versatile dish in that it can be served with different types of meat (fish, chicken, pork), different types of soup and even curry.

This stall at Central Market serves only fish soup which was clean tasting and quite sweet probably from vegetables and perhaps some sugar.

I've heard it said that Cambodian food is underwhelming but I don't care lah... don't think so leh. I really enjoyed the moist crunch of all the raw vegetable ingredients, their tannic taste and feel in the mouth. I am fascinated with sesbania flower and love the aromatic mint leaves. I love the rice vermicelli they use which is like those in putu mayam, soft smooth, sweet. There were so many things I like from this humble dish 💚

This num banh chok is filling, delicious yet healthy, being mostly plant based. No wonder I haven't seen any obese Cambodians since I got here three days ago.

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I am just starting to learn about num banh chok but this humble stall Central Market really whetted my appetite and woke my taste buds to this Khmer dish. After this meal, I went to suss out more num banh chok stalls in the area and found a busy one that I shall try tomorrow for breakfast. I prefer slow food trails, don't like stuffing myself 😬
                  


Written by Tony Boey on 11 July 2022

1 comment:

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