There are a whole slew of Korean joints dotting Phnom Penh’s culinary landscape, designed no doubt to serve as a taste of home for well-heeled Korean businessmen and Western cosmopolites alike.
Jang Su Chon, a no-frills hole in the wall on street 123, near the capital’s Russian Market, is a far cry from its shinier, sterile counterparts located in the city’s popular districts.
The restaurant serves an appealing roster of Korean dishes with prices that will allow diners to escape with dinner and a good helping of the fruity, funky, fermented rice wine makgeoli for about $10 a person.
A crowd-pleaser is Jang Su Chon’s stir-fried pork: an appealing mix of tender sliced meat, spring onions and carrots was lent a savoury, mild spiciness by what appears to be a pleasantly greasy slick of gojujang chili sauce.
Pork seems to be a uniformly safe bet at Jang Su Chon. Salty-sweet grilled spareribs have never disappointed after dozens of visits, as enjoyable gnawed straight off the bone as with their meatier bits wrapped in a lettuce leaf and a pinch of kimchi on the side. The same goes for the Korean-style bacon and “pig neak [sic] meat,” both of which may appear plain at first blush but are crispy and delicious with a dab of deeply flavourful fermented bean paste and a saucer of peppery oil served alongside.
Ordered at the urging of a native Korean dining companion who argued that it was a traditional dish for starting the new year, the rice cake and dumpling soup is familiar territory for anyone acquainted with the American southern classic chicken and dumplings.
Like that dish, the soup features a slightly thickened chicken broth replete with dense, noodle-esque lumps of rice flour dough and two pork-stuffed dumplings—in other words, a steaming bowl of comfort food that would be all the more comforting if the temperature in Phnom Penh ever dropped below 16 degrees.
Despite my Korean friend endorsing Jang Su Chon on the grounds that it has the ratcheted-up flavours of a Korean version of Panda Express, it’s unlikely that that oft-maligned airport food court staple would serve anything as bizarre as the restaurant’s offal-studded blood pudding soup. Lacking the spicy-smoky verve of European-style blood sausage, Jang Su Chon’s version is an inadvisable detour on a menu of otherwise universally appealing options.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart White at [email protected]<wbr< a="">>mail.com