At $1.50 for 12 morsels of pure delight, the fried pork dumplings at budget Chinese restaurant Jiang Su Ren Jia might just be the best value in Phnom Penh. The skins are thin and delicate while the filling is substantial and packs a punch of ginger. Crispy fried on only one side, they boast that winning combination of crunch and squish.
Delicious as they are, if all you sampled at the Monivong Boulevard eatery was dumplings then you would be doing your tastebuds a massive disservice. The menu at Jiang Su Ren Jia is extensive and pretty much every dish is good or, more often, great.
I headed there on the recommendation of a Chinese friend. We were chowing down on some dumplings and noodle soup at a better-known cheap Chinese restaurant last week when she and a couple of other friends mentioned a nearby place where the food was much better and around the same price.
I’ve visited Jiang Su Ren Jia three times since, with different sets of friends on each occasion, and so far everyone’s been a fan.
Even the décor is less grimy than at most budget eateries. Red lanterns hang from the roof while fans and bold red menu items written in Chinese adorn the walls along with photographs of some of the food. Waitresses are both numerous and attentive.
The tables have photos of the some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, so you don’t even need to look at the extensive menu. Just point to what you want and within a couple of minutes the real thing is delivered.
It’s best to go with a group, so you can sample as much as possible. On my last visit we were seven. We started with mildly spicy Sichuan-style pork and vegetable stir fry, scrambled eggs with garlic shoots and mushy eggplant. Next was silky soft tofu and veggies served in a sizzling iron pan. Then out came potato slithers with capscicum, a viscous and delicious hot and sour soup and, of course, several plates of steamed and fried dumplings.
And those were just the orders listed on the menu. One of the highlights was the secret special, reserved for those in the know: fried pumpkin cakes, crispy on the outside and almost gooey in the middle, with just a touch of sweetness.
Dessert was a plate of ice cold sliced watermelon, which was sweet and refreshing.
After dinner owner and head chef Liang Chun – who first came to Cambodia in 2003 while working for the Chinese government as an aid mission chef and decided to stay on – said that after taking over and renaming the restaurant nearly three years ago he focused on providing affordable prices, high quality food and good service. He has succeeded: the total damage for our meal was under $5 a person.
Come to Jiang Su Ren Jia for the dumplings. Come again and again and again for everything else.
Jiang Su Ren Jia is located at 246E0 Monivong Boulevard.