It must be the smallest menu for a café in the city but it is the latest addition to the many eateries lining bustling streets 280 and 282. More specifically in the BKK area (in Chamkarmon district of Phnom Penh). Located in an alley of Street 282 in the block opposite the famous Sports Bar, you will find a newly opened café called ‘Tan Tan’.
Mr Komatsu Yoichi is a Japanese man who knows his noodles at this café which he runs at No 1B, Samdach, the noodles being specially ordered from a local noodle-maker.
And what Mr Yoichi the entrepreneur is offering for the famished in that little alley of invention are just FIVE food items on his menu: Starring Chilly Pan Mee with soup for $2.50, Boiled Gyoza (5 pcs meat dumplings – $2.50), Special Karaage (fried chicken – $3), Edamame (boiled green peas – $2) and Angkor draft ($1.50) on tap – but of course.
The bowl of Chilly Pan Mee consists of: chili, noodles (or ‘mee’ as it is known in Asia), anchovies, a soft-boiled egg, dried shrimp, garnished with spring onions and sesame oil. How you eat it: Stirred not shaken — when the bowl of Chilly Pan Mee arrives (see pic), use chopsticks to stir the side portion of red-hot looking chili into the egg and mix well with the noodles.
On the magical ingredients to prepare the dry chili paste, Mr Yoichi explains his labour of love: “I grind small and big chillies with dried shrimp in the right proportions, which is my secret recipe.”
No food delivery plans yet in his ambitions although Mr Yoichi personally makes big deliveries of Chilly Pan Mee to a certain karaoke nearby his street, at closing time naturally.
Why the location in St 282: “I noticed that the streets around here are very busy, with many tourists, people strolling leisurely and also the rental for this small alley for my shop is quite right (cheap) up my alley,” said Mr Yoichi.
How café ‘Tan Tan’ was conceived — from oodles of experience: Mr Yoichi spent time in Penang (northern holiday island in West Malaysia) for some months where he observed the local penchant for noodles which is a favourite Chinese breakfast or late night supper.
While the Chinese in Penang largely rave about ‘Prawn Mee’ noodles and ‘Hokkien Mee’ (black sauced fat noodles with very spicy chili and deep fried lard), it was one particular dish called ‘Chili Pan Mee’ that captured his imagination.
Mr Yoichi, a former corporate man who ran a trading company in Cambodia seven years ago, decided to open Tan Tan noodles café (closed on Sundays) in Phnom Penh, featuring nothing but his star meal of Chilly Pan Mee.
What’s in a name: They say ‘a name is everything’ but Mr Yoichi differs, “There is no big story behind the name ‘Tan Tan’. Just a name I picked since the noodles café is a joint venture between my friend and me, whose name was Tan. The real story is Chilli Pan Mee,” he said. (If you google: ‘Tan Tan Restaurant’ pops up but is not a direct hit, it’s a restaurant in Houston)
Verdict: Chili Pan Mee — ready to serve in five minutes or sip your dripping cold Angkor draft.
The first slurp of the chili noodles will send your taste buds into a little fiery orbit. Simply out of this world – you know instantly that you will be back for more.
Are noodles and pasta distant cousins in the food pyramid? No-no. Noodles are of Chinese origin while pasta comes from the Italians. So, both stringy foods are more like next-door neighbours. If there is any confusion due to the similar taste (both made from unleavened dough, salt), there are differences too. And let’s not complicate the issue with ‘spaghetti’ – which is actually long, hard and cylindrical pasta. Noodles are of Chinese origin and a most popular staple food item around the world — that is both a meal and an easy snack. Noodles are made from unleavened dough of wheat. Aside from the greatest invention of the wheel, noodles the world over come in long, thin strips, and ready to serve after it is cooked in boiling water (and garnished with sesame oil, meat and a sprinkle of vegetable. Fried noodles take the cake. Noodles and pasta are both derived from a mixture of wheat flour with water and the biggest difference is their shape. But together they have instantly conquered half the palates of the world.