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Malis: Taste of Cambodian heritage

Anith Adilah Othman / Khmer Times Share:
Malis Phnom Penh exterior. Malis

National heritage is an instrumental aspect of a country. It speaks volume of the national identity and the rich history of a nation. Today, in the Kingdom of Wonder, the traditional Cambodian recipes which had been passed on for centuries are still proudly preserved for generations to come.

How? Through the sumptuous delicacies crafted by a culinary team led by a passionate Cambodian chef Luu Meng. At least 15 years ago, the cook was determined to put the Kingdom back on the map as a culinary destination so he decided to revive Cambodian cuisine from the past, adapt the taste to the present and preserve it for the future.

The result is the birth of Malis Restaurant in 2004. Located in the heart of Phnom Penh, Malis now adds a rich layer to the national heritage by offering only the best of Cambodian cuisine featuring fresh ingredients from all over the country.

Malis Takeo pork chops. Malis

The restaurant’s name itself carries a beautiful significance. Malis is the Khmer word for the white jasmine flower; a fragrant flower that is highly associated with the Buddhist culture and is used for prayers throughout the country. Aside from the religious aspect, jasmine flower is also incorporated in the cookings at Malis, particularly in the makings of desserts.

At Malis, not only guests get to savor the mouth-watering food, but they also get to experience the rich story behind its inception. The passion, history and creativity of the team at Malis is evident in the dishes that they create. Every ingredient is carefully picked and paired to concoct an explosion of flavours with every bite.

Take for instance, the Takeo pork chops – a crowd’s favorite which features tender pork chops from Cambodia’s own Takeo province. The meat is marinated in a special sauce made out of palm wine and Kampot pepper before being served with a fresh banana blossom salad. The interesting pairing marries the flavours harmoniously.

Staying true to the Cambodian custom of turning every meal into a communal affair, guests are encouraged to share the meals, seeing as the dishes at Malis are also served in large portions. This promotes a stronger bond between guests and invokes a higher appreciation for the Cambodian gastronomic experience.

Malis Kampot Crab fried rice. Malis

Today, Malis stands as one of the sought-after eateries in the country offering Cambodian dishes that are prepared using modern cooking techniques, while still paying homage to the traditional ways. This ‘hybrid’ methods provide just enough room for the chefs to still experiment with flavours and textures.

Good Times2 recently had the opportunity to sample some of Malis’ delicacies including Takeo sausages (handmade organic pork sausages flavoured with Malis spices and coconut, served with sweet chilli sauce), Moringa soup (a nutritional Moringa leaf and pumpkin consommé famous for its medicinal properties) and fish amok (traditional dish made with goby fish fillets marinated in a lemongrass curry paste and steamed in a banana leaf basket).

Malis also offers a tantalising array of dishes made with fresh seafood sourced locally such as Kampot Crab fried rice (Kaffir-flavoured rice cooked in fresh crab juice, then wok fried with Kampot crab meat), Kampot Rock Crab Red Curry (hand-picked Kampot crab cooked in a natural fully-flavoured crab broth with red chilies, red curry spices and coconut milk, served with rice), Bang Kang Malis (Bang Kang river lobster marinated in a prahok and chilli paste, wrapped in foil for an intense flavour and grilled until golden, served on a bed of jasmine rice) and fish Prahok (slowly grilled Prahok-marinated fresh Tonle Sap fillet with minced garlic and herbs, served with steamed rice).

Meanwhile, those with sweet tooth would definitely enjoy their dessert varieties including Durian Delight (taro style dumplings cooked in coconut milk and ginger sauce with Num Ko corn and durian ice cream), Malis mousse (Jasmine flower infused mousse with hints of Cambodian honey and ginger, circled with fresh seasonal fruits and served with a crunchy rice ‘Kamao Thort’ and coconut ice cream) and Kampot pepper brûlée (brûlée with a pepper twist, served with Borbor Ambok in coconut milk and a jasmine infused ice cream).

Malis Fish Amok. Malis

Suffice to say that at Malis, there is something that suits every palate. The best part of the whole Malis experience is guests get to take pleasure in its gastronomical delights in an ultimately serene surrounding.

A step into the fine dining haven first reveals an outdoor courtyard, surrounded by a luscious tropical garden with colourful flowers in bloom. The trickling water feature, right beside a giant statue of the King of the Angkor Empire Jayavarman VII, complements the tranquility of the entire landscape.

Guests can also opt for the indoor seating area for air-conditioned comfort, while still bask in the green scenery through the glass panels framing the walls.

Malis Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and offers private dining rooms for business lunches or special events. Please contact +855 (0)15 814 888 or e-mail [email protected] for enquiries or bookings.

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