Fork It: As Khmer as You Dare

Billy Otter / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The Roasted Red Fish with Chili Salt fresh from the live tank. (KT Photo: Billy Otter)

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – When a large grouping of mixed ethnicity friends found themselves together with hunger becoming the pressing issue, an easy choice to satisfy all tastes came to mind.
 
Rik Reay BBQ is an authentic Khmer-style restaurant complete with a charcoal grill on the street. You will find a small selection of Western dishes in the menu, but the focus here is local fare.
 
Given that it was a social evening, the $2 pitchers of beer were the first order of the night. Cocktails are also two bucks each, with no happy hour offerings to entice the tourists. But then again, they really don’t need to, as business is steady.
 
Looking through the picture menu, foreigners will soon discover this is a place that takes traditional Khmer cuisine seriously. Black Chicken Soup, which my Cambodian friends love, is available in small and large portions for $8.75 and $10.50, respectively.
 
A favorite of the expats in our crowd was the Roasted Red Fish with Chili Salt – and it was delectable. Firm, yet moist and beautifully seasoned, for $8 we dined on a large fish pulled from the live tank. The dish is served with lettuce, vegetables and noodles, so you can wrap the fish in lettuce and pack it tight with fillings, as the locals do.
 
Our Khmer friends did not order any of the more exotic local offerings such as, Red Ants Fried with Beef & Kanchhet, Beef Intestines and what the menu listed as “Tongue’s Liver 100 Layers.” Yet all these dishes received big thumbs up when we asked them if they were delicious foods.
 
This night the Westerners in our group went for the Pork & Pineapple. At $4.75 for the large plate, it was an ample serving of fried pork slices and pieces of fresh pineapple in a delightful sauce.
 
Tom Yam with Seafood was the entrée of choice for our local friends, as few social events seem complete without a soup. The large pot came in at $10. Fried Rice with Vegetables for $3.75 was a generous serving that we thought would finish things off for the night.
 
One of the great things about Rik Reay is the ambience of the place. Diners from all over the world wander in, probably because it sits just across the street from the touristy Night Market.
 
On this evening, a gentleman from Sri Lanka and his wife from Japan were sitting at a table behind us. He had shown the waiter a photo of a fish that he wanted to try in Cambodia, so a staff member was dispatched to a market two blocks away to purchase it.
 
When the fish arrived, it was a three-kilo snakehead, served with lemongrass stuffed into the body cavity through its mouth, and with local vegetables, garlic and ginger spread over it. 
 
The couple took a portion for themselves and then insisted that we take the rest of the serving for our table. We are now all fans of snakehead fish, which has a surprisingly light, delicate flavor and firm texture reminiscent of halibut. 
 
Rik Reay provides a dining experience that is international thanks to the tourists that stop in, but also enjoyable because of the friendly Khmer people who dine here. Other visits have provided this camaraderie with local people who also insist on having you sample the dishes that they have chosen.
 
Whether you decide to stick to the cuisine that is more familiar to you, or venture into the deep end of Khmer offerings, this restaurant will provide you with a fine food experience, and perhaps new friendships as well.
 
RIK REAY BBQ   
No. 3Eo, Street 108          
Across from the Night Market near Sisowath Quay          
012-583-808
 

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