Cambodian cuisine may not be as renowned as Thai cuisine but that doesn’t mean it is any less significant.
Putting a spotlight on the rich heritage of Cambodian cuisine, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap has launched a new fine dining restaurant called 1932. An ode to the year the hotel was opened as a refuge for archeologists and adventurer-seeking souls to explore the ancient kingdom of Angkor Wat, 1932’s menu offers an untold history of Siem Reap and the hotel combined through tasting menus.
The tasting menus offer an introduction to the distinctive flavours of Khmer cuisine, delicately crafted by executive sous chef Dorn Doeurt, known as chef DD. The Siem Reap native is well-versed in the intricacies of the national cuisine, including authentic Royal Khmer cuisine and modern Khmer gastronomy. A Cambodian fine dining experience filled with local seasonal produce is the best way to describe Restaurant 1932.
“I’ve designed these menus as the perfect introduction to Khmer cuisine, spotlighting premium fresh local produce. We source local meat and fish, spices, chocolate and other ingredients to create distinctive dishes that even the most discerning foodies will agree make them a new ‘must-experience’ on the culinary map of Southeast Asia,” says chef DD.
The tasting menus are categorised by important decades or periods in Cambodian history, including the 30s (“The Reign of King Sisowath Norodom” priced at US$80++), 50s (“The Grand Renaissance” priced at $50++), 60s (“The Golden Age” priced at $60++) and 90s (“The Raffles Grand Legacy” priced at $120++). “As Cambodia’s most storied hotel with 90 years of history, it is only fitting that our signature restaurant, 1932, celebrates the rich and royal culinary heritage of Cambodia while also paying homage to the illustrious Khmer legacy,” explains chef DD when talking about dividing the menu into the decades.
“We emphasised several of the nation's historical eras since they were important to our Grand Dame,” he adds. "We believe that within these decades, the culinary scene notably evolved with influences from what was happening in the country.”
Highlights from the signature “Raffles Grand Legacy” tasting menu include Phlea trey salmon with lemongrass, coriander and spicy lime sorbet; Sam lor m'jou prei or Duck consommé with straw mushrooms, eggplant and morning glory; Amok trey prel or 1932 Fish Amok, a restaurant signature, with kroeung (the quintessential Cambodian curry paste), coconut milk and black sticky rice; “Char kdao” Angus tenderloin with hot basil, green beans and sweet potato; a Cambodian cheese selection, including Tomme of Bokor, Brie and Kampot Camembert; Leang mort featuring a kaffir lime sorbet with Elephant Bar gin; and Chocolate and ginger truffles with passionfruit, coconut and palm sugar caramel.
“In order to produce dishes that accurately depict the specific era, we had to perform extensive studies. When King Sisowath Monivong was in power, for instance, only the Royal Family had access to Royal Khmer cuisine, which is why the 1930s only features the unique flavours of the royal recipes. The 1950s, on the other hand, celebrate the modest lifestyle of the Khmer people during the reign of the youthful king, Norodom Sihanouk, and commemorate the period when Cambodia achieved complete independence,” explains the chef.
For example, the amuse bouche from the 30s menu is Sach ko ngat kroeung or Beef and pork with Cambodian papaya salad. A roll of beef and pork is marinated in the silky kroeung paste, a staple in Khmer cooking, which contains garlic, galangal, kaffir lime, lemongrass, red chillies, turmeric and shallots. This is served with papaya salad. Another outstanding dish from the 30s menu is the Nham khyorng phlet jea mouy kra av chouk or Seared scallop and lotus salad. A Royal Khmer recipe, it is a heady mix of everything lotus, the fruit and the root tossed in a salad with scallops. The addition of a crispy lotus chip atop lends for crunch and texture to the dish.
Entering the 50s with a Sam lor Praher Khmer or Clear soup with tropical vegetables and the ling leak karnam herb. Part of the vegetarian tasting menu pays homage to the rural lifestyle in the country's provinces during the renaissance by including flowers and local products. The Ling leak karnam is a medicinal herb and is often found in Ayurvedic medicines.
Chhien juon trey ch’pung or Seabass with pickled soya and ginger is the fish main course from the 60s menu. Seabass from the coastal Kep province is pan-seared and served with pumpkin, fragrant fermented soya and ginger sauce. The sauce is made and refined to a smooth consistency.
The meat course from the 90s is Stek sach ko char kdao or Angus tenderloin with hot basil, fried green beans and capsicum. One of the country’s known dishes, Char kdao or spicy stir-fry with basil, lemongrass and galangal served with long beans, capsicum and onions. And one of my favourite Cambodian dishes!
Dessert from the 90s blends the traditional with the modern in the form of Bang em chocolat or Passion and Ginger chocolate truffles. Artisanally made in Cambodia from Mondulkiri cacao beans, the Modulkiri chocolate and truffles cake is served with fresh passion fruit and strawberry. It also has chek ktih, which loosely translates as bananas in coconut milk. However, here it is a sweet banana fritter served with Cambodian sorbet of tapioca, coconut milk and palm sugar.
If tasting menus aren’t your cup of tea, the restaurant also offers a good a la carte selection. “These particular selections are from our most well-received dishes: for starters, the traditional Khmer spring rolls with shallots, carrots, papaya, and cucumber in chilli plum sauce topped with roasted peanuts; Khor T’pearll Ko, the melt-in-your-mouth beef cheek served with aromatic herbs known as ma-om and quail egg curry. For dessert, pepper-infused dark chocolate lava, local strawberries, passionfruit and honeycomb from Mondulkiri,” adds chef DD.
The menus at Raffles’ 1932 celebrate the vibrant flavours and cultural heritage of Cambodian cuisine and provide it with a global stage, where one hopes it will no longer be a mystery.
Call +855-63-963-888, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit affles.com/siem-reap.