Capital gets a pure taste of the Khmer countryside

My Homeland has already attracted a loyal following.
My Homeland has already attracted a loyal following. Eliah Lillis

Capital gets a pure taste of the Khmer countryside

The recently opened ‘My Homeland’ restaurant promises patrons a nonfried taste of unadultered Khmer cuisine, made fresh every day.

While restaurants serving Khmer food can be found around every corner in the capital, what you’re usually getting is Khmer with a foreign twist, or simply fried meat and vegetables with rice.

But at the recently opened Metophum (My Homeland) restaurant, fried food isn’t on the menu. The proprietors are aiming for something different: truly authentic Khmer countryside home cooking.

This is instantly apparent when the first bowl of prahok– the traditional fermented fish paste – arrives with a generous portion of raw vegetables to go with it.

Adjacent to Beltei University in the capital’s Tuol Sleng neighbourhood, the signage is in Khmer, but the eatery is identifiable by its green colour scheme.

Meas Phanida, Metophum’s 45-year-old owner, makes it clear that this restaurant is for purists.

“We serve only Khmer food options . . . we don’t mix with foreign food,” she says.

The motivation to open the eatery, she adds, has to do with her family’s own home-cooking traditions.

“With my family, I love cooking traditional food. When we cooked for our friends, they liked it so much,” she says.

Phanida, who formerly ran Khmer-French restaurant Lion d’Or, says her desire now is to focus on “pure” Khmer food, which she says needs to be re-introduced to a younger generation increasingly gravitating towards foreign and fast-food options.

The veggies are fresh from the market.
The veggies are fresh from the market. Eliah Lillis

At the entrance of the restaurant is a glass display case where customers can see the freshness of the food: Grilled fish, frogs, pickled crabs and steamed innards sit alongside roasted prahok and traditional Khmer soups.

“We cook about 30 to 40 entrees with desserts each day . . . we serve prahok every day but we change up the soups,” Phanida says.

“We also serve Khmer soup made from mudfish and river fish, which has a savoury taste. We don’t serve fried foods because that’s not Khmer food,” she continues. But the price-point is certainly affordable, with offerings ranging from 2,500 to 16,000 Riels (about $0.60 to $4).

Ingredients are sourced from farmers and fishermen in Siem Reap and Kampong Chhnang provinces, Phanida says. “We have people supply us every day; we pay for the best quality and healthy food for our people.”

Indeed, whatever isn’t sold at the end of the day is thrown out. Meats and leafy greens are all fresh. For Phanida, it’s proving to be a winning formula, especially among visiting Cambodians who now live overseas.

“We see Khmer who live abroad coming to eat in our place because they miss the homeland taste,” she says.

Metophum is located on Street 360 near Beltei University, and is open from 10:30am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 8:30pm every day. Tel: 097 7 686 977

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