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A ‘feast’ from the Middle East off Bassac Lane

A serving of fresh hummus sprinkled with spices and served with pita bread.
A serving of fresh hummus sprinkled with spices and served with pita bread. Sahiba Chawdhary

A ‘feast’ from the Middle East off Bassac Lane

Whether for a hearty lunch or a late-night snack, new restaurant Middle East Feast is the latest entrant to the ever-growing food scene on Street 308. Syrian owner Abdullah, who arrived in Cambodia a year ago, has brought to the Kingdom knowledge he accumulated working back home.

“I worked in a restaurant before, in Syria, and Lebanon,” he said. Abdullah, who asked his last name be withheld for privacy reasons, prefers not to dwell on the war back home, instead focusing on the food.

“The food here is [representative of] all the Middle East, not just Syria and Lebanon,” he said.

Despite the novelty of his surroundings in Phnom Penh, he found that all the herbs, spices and peppers required were readily available in the markets.

One of the dishes offered at Middle East Feast.
One of the dishes offered at Middle East Feast. Sahiba Chawdhary

“We can find them all here in Phnom Penh,” he said, adding that at times it could be tricky navigating the language barrier, but ultimately “just the names are different”.

“I would go by myself [to the markets] in order to see, and I would show the Cambodian vendors pictures, and also taste them to see if it is the same,” he said.

The restaurant has a soft-opening menu for the next month with more than two-dozen menu items featuring everything from a plate of Hummus ($3.50) to Baklava ($3) to end the meal.

A main “special” will be changed every few days, in order to showcase different entrees to a local clientele that might otherwise be unfamiliar with Middle Eastern cooking.

Middle East Feast's chef preparing food.
Middle East Feast's chef preparing food. Sahiba Chawdhary

He foresees it catching on, he said, noting the similarities in rice-grains in Khmer cuisine, and the prominent uses of grilled meats across the two otherwise disparate culinary traditions.

“There are some Cambodian dishes that are in some way semi-Arabian,” he said.

Abdullah’s plan is to more than double the already ample current offerings. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices, his favourite is the chicken shawarma done “Damascus style”, which means it is marinated in garlic and herbs and slowly spit-roasted, instead of simply grilled.

“People in Phnom Penh might have had the shawarma before, but this is going to be different from that,” he says.

Middle East Feast is located at #11 Street 308, and is open every day from 11am-11:30pm.

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