Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tasty Thai with all the spices but at low prices

Tasty Thai with all the spices but at low prices

The Seafood Noodle Salad features glass noodles with tomato, minced pork and squid.
The Seafood Noodle Salad features glass noodles with tomato, minced pork and squid. Heng Chivoan

Tasty Thai with all the spices but at low prices

Thai food may be ubiquitous throughout Phnom Penh, but Keo Lykoum, 21, and Heng Chamraeun, 22, are determined to bring something new to the table.

“Many places [in Phnom Penh] offer both Khmer and Thai food,” says Lykoum. “But we thought—how about only Thai food? Most Thai food [only] places have high prices, and most Cambodians can’t afford it. So I thought about having quality and low prices [for our restaurant].”

Built on the savings of the two business administration students at Pannasastra University, the restaurant has been running for about a month and a half, and is already doing brisk business so far.

They credit their background as children of businesspeople, and their early entrepreneurial start, with setting them up for success. Lykoum started working at the age of 12 as a salesperson at his aunt’s electronics shop, and then worked in a phone shop when he moved to Phnom Penh.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Owners Chamraeun (left) and Lykoum. Heng Chivoan

He also became a money lender on the side. Chamraeun, on the other hand, opened an online shop, selling “everything”, according to him. The savings they had from their previous jobs allowed them to open De Map in Boeung Keng Kang I.

According to Lykoum, the pair began by travelling Thailand to study the food. There is no provincial focus to the cuisine but, having grown up on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, Chamraeun was exposed early on to Thai food, and now creates the recipes at the restaurant and judges the authenticity of the food.

“One of the most important things is: ‘Can my customers accept this taste?’,” he says. This is the barometer that both partners use in determining whether their creations work—whether the flavours will appeal to locals.

Among a sampling of dishes tasted by Post Weekend, the standout was the Fried Octopus with Salt Egg ($3.75), which is topped with a delicious tomato-based gravy. The Seafood Noodle Salad ($3.25) features glass noodles with tomatoes, minced pork and squid.

Running the restaurant is done alongside their studies, and it leaves them with little free time. Their biggest challenge, rather than the lack of time, is the competition.

“Customers don’t trust us because [our food] is cheap,” Lykoum says. It’s the stereotype that good Thai food has to be expensive, compared to the average Khmer restaurant, that they are pushing against, which they say has been an uphill battle.

With bright blue walls and light-bulbs hanging above each table, De Map is a welcoming and unpretentious space, though Lykoum and Chamraeum say down the line they hope to expand.

“A restaurant should be bigger, with a big parking lot, and our own [building],” says Iykoum. “Someone asked me: ‘Why do you name it a restaurant? It’s only a small shop.’ But I think [calling it a restaurant shows] our dreams.”

De Map is located at #37 Street 310. It is open every day from 9:30am until 10pm.

MOST VIEWED

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • NA, Senate set for bill on ‘emergency’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested the Senate to convene an extraordinary meeting to review the draft law that aims to put the Kingdom in a state of emergency after the bill reached the National Assembly (NA) on Friday. The draft law, which was approved

  • Temporarily laid-off workers to get just $70

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced changes in the allowances for temporarily laid-off garment workers from receiving 60 per cent of the minimum wage to a flat $70 because factories cannot pay, he said. Workers will also not be required to attend training courses after more than 100 factories

  • Tourists can now prolong their stay

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said tourists holding Visa T and arriving in the Kingdom after January 1 will be allowed to prolong their stay until they are able to return home. The decision comes as Cambodia and most countries take measures to

  • PM: Law likely next week

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the draft law aiming to place the Kingdom in a state of emergency amid the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to be approved after the Khmer New Year, though he said there is a slim chance of enforcement given the current