Wearing a stylish dress, and holding a plate of food with beaming smile, Phuong Sopheadary, the youngest of four siblings, jokingly says she was always teased growing up that “the youngest child doesn’t do anything, especially housework and cooking”.
Sopheadary says this was one small reason that motivated her to open her own restaurant named Ptas Bay Kon Pov (literally translating as Youngest Child’s Kitchen).
But the architecture graduate’s main motivation was her desire to look after her parents and improve the selection of restaurants available in Battambang town.
“After I graduated from my Master’s degree at Tianjin University in China this year, I worked for an architecture company in Phnom Penh. Months later, seeing my parents living alone without any children nearby, I felt bad and I tried to find way to live closer to them,” Sopheadary told The Post.
With the architecture field in Battambang much more limited than Phnom Penh, and noticing a lack of comfortable restaurants serving regional Battambang dishes, in May the youngest daughter opened her own eatery.
“I want to serve food mainly for families and tourists who wish to enjoy a meal in a comfortable place. But in fact, we receive a mix of people, and mostly they are friends who order not only food but beers as well.
“Battambang is a nice province, but there are not enough restaurants which serve a range of food. More importantly, I want to develop and create new local foods myself,” said Sopheadary.
One regional specialty being championed by Sopheadary is a paste called kantuy hes that is more commonly associated with neighbouring Pursat province, but the older generation claim it actually originated from Battambang’s Banan district.
“Kantuy hes [8,000 riel] has prohok fish paste, dried fish and ripe or young tamarinds or lime. The dried fish can also be replaced with kanteal touk [an aquatic insect]. It can also be mixed with red chilli and fresh vegetables, such as cabbage, eggplant, cucumber and long green beans,” she said.
Her kantuy hes is so popular that she packs it into jars and sells it at 72,000 riel ($18) per kg for customers who want to take it home.
That the local food is largely fish-based is not a surprise, as Battambang is located near Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake the Tonle Sap, which provides a huge amount of fish.
However, Youngest Child’s Kitchen also serves non-regional favourites, including kon peou crusty rice (8,000 riel), steamed and grilled snails (6,000 riel), papaya salad with chicken wings (14,000-18,000 riel) and sour soup with shrimp.
“The crusty rice is dried under sunshine, deep fried and eaten with pork or beef mixed with egg, salt, sugar, coconut milk, tomato sauce and pepper, topped with spring onions,” she said.
The restaurant also offers desserts such as fresh palm seeds (3,000 riel), palm seed porridge, green bean porridge, panda noodles with palm sugar, lotus seed porridge dessert and banana pudding – all priced at 2,000 riel.
“My mother taught me these recipes from childhood, and sometimes I learn from Youtube. I designed the space on my own to make people feel like they are in their homes,” said Sopheadary.
Youngest Child’s Kitchen is open from 10am to 9pm daily and is located on the corner of streets 202 and 209 in Battambang town. For further information, you can reach Sopheadary by telephone (085 669 992).