People do not only go to Phnom Penh’s Orussey Market to buy housewares or clothing, but also to treat themselves to a variety of indoor and street food. Located near this sprawling market is a small eatery, which builds up its reputation and popularity in the capital through its signature noodle dish. The small restaurant proves that space and fancy decors aren’t really necessary for a successful culinary business, write Taing Rinith.
I love noodles, especially when it is served in a bowl filled with soup, meat and vegetables. I find great pleasure in slurping the yellow noodles and slowly drinking the savoury broth. Unfortunately, it is very hard to find places that serve healthy noodles in Cambodia. Most of the restaurants use instant noodles, which is associated with the increased risk of metabolic syndrome, no thanks to its high sodium, unhealthy saturated fat and glycemic load.
Then one day, a friend of mine, who happens to share my love for long-strip pasta, told me about a popular eatery specialising in Mi Kork, a unique dish consisting of a bowl of dry noodles boiled in beef bone’s broth, and a separate bowl of soup with meat. She told me that every ingredient there, especially the noodles, is handmade by the owner on daily basis and is served to the customers while they are still fresh, which means no harmful substance is used to preserve them. However, she recommended I go there before 10 in the morning, or they will run out of food. I found that everything my friend told me is true when I have been there myself.
Although the shopping neighbourhood of Orussey Market during the morning’s rush hour is usually crowded with people doing shopping and eating breakfast, it is unusual for the small eatery near the corner of a narrow street like Mi Kork Orussey to be crowded with people for almost the whole morning. To the residents in the area, it is not strange even to see those who patiently park their cars a hundred meters away and walk to the restaurant for a good breakfast.
In the small hole-in-the-wall shop with four tables inside and other four outside, Chhoul Huy Lang, the friendly 33-year-old “manager”, is taking orders from the customers. Remarkably, Lang knows almost all their customers as well as how they like their noodles to be cooked.
“I gave those I know nicknames, and they love them,” Lang says “They laugh at my jokes and teasing, but they come here for my dad’s noodles.”
Chhoul Huy Kry, 54, is hurriedly preparing food for his waiting customers, boiling noodles in the broth and filling bowls with soup. He is a man of few words, and what really matters to him is customer satisfaction.
Kry’s flavourful noodles, made from cassava flour, have a satisfying elasticity and soft texture, while the savoury soup brims with flavour from the tender meat and the sweetness of spinach, carrots and onions.
“I learned to make Mi Kork from my mother, a Chinese immigrant who came to Cambodia years ago,” Kry says. “There is a secret recipe behind our delicious noodle.”
“Of course, I cannot reveal the recipe,” he adds. “If I did, it would be no longer secret, wouldn’t it.”
Lang, however, opens that one thing that produces the tastiness of her family’s noodle is freshness.
“Our shop is only open in the morning and we spend the rest of the day making ingredients, like noodles, broth, sauce and meatballs,” she says. “By doing this, we could achieve the quality we want while saving a lot of money. Fresh meat and the Chinese sour soy sauce also contribute to our popular dish.”
Mi Kork Orussey, with its home-like atmosphere, looks almost exactly the same when it was opened ten years ago after Krey left his job as a chef to start a family business. The only difference maybe is the wait time.
“To be honest, sometimes I have to wait for until 20 or 30 minutes for my noodles,” says Eng Virak, a regular of Mi Kork Orussey.
“But, the delicious noodle is well worth the wait. Sometimes, the long wait makes me hungrier and hungrier, and I find the noodle even more delicious.”
With such a good business, the family have always wanted to get a bigger place, but they are always reluctant to do it.
“It is not easy since there are only four of us and we cannot trust anyone outside of our family to cook our signature dish,” Lang says. “We are also afraid that our customers will not be able to find us at the new place.”
For $2.5, one can get a set of Mi Kork with one of the meat options – beef, pork, beef meatballs, fish meatballs, offal and seafood. Customers can get the set with two meat options by adding another $0.5, or another $1.25 for the set with all options. Drinks, such as iced coffee with milk ($0.75) and red tea with lime juice ($0.60), can be the noodles’ perfect pair.
Mi Kork Orussey is located at 1E0 on Street 119, near Orussey Market . It is open every day from 6pm to 11am.