As the son of a Cambodian-Chinese family who have run a successful sach kap (diced meat) restaurant for three decades, Chan Sa Oun knows the dish all too well.
He says that demand for sach kap peaks three times every year – during Chinese New Year, during the Qingming Festival (Tomb-Sweeping Day) and during the Hungry Ghost Festival.
But the Phnom Penh born restaurant entrepreneur wanted business to blossom all year round, so he decided to branch off from his father’s shop – Chan Kith 39, a sach kap mainstay in the capital for 30 years – to begin his own restaurant serving traditional dried noodles, accompanied by his family’s roasted meat.
“Even before I was born, our business is only busiest time during Chinese New Year, Qingming, and the Hungry Ghost Festival. I wanted to do something interesting, then I thought my family has been selling only whole roasted pigs for many years, I thought this could change,” the 27-year-old tells The Post.
To fill the gap between the restaurants peak times, Sa Oun, along with his brother, came up with an idea to open a restaurant that combines Chinese inspired dried noodles with the family’s traditional sach kap.
“I think most people prefer to have mee (yellow dough egg noodles), steamed rice for three meals a day gets too much,” says Sa Oun.
Noodles for breakfast are gaining popularity as a staple for many of Cambodia’s young urbanites with a modern lifestyle, as they are convenient to prepare and consume.
And when the evening falls and the tropical heat subsides, many carts and vendors selling noodles and roasted meat can be spotted on street corners in Phnom Penh.
Sach kap generally consists of roast pork, duck, seasoned chicken, organs and blood curd, and has long been a popular takeaway dish for people who do not wish to cook, but will buy to eat with steamed rice at home.
Six months studying
Before launching Four Flavours Dried Noodle three years ago, Sa Oun and his brother spent six months studying how to make fresh dried noodles and pork stock soup.
Sa Oun’s mee is a yellow dough egg noodle, served with dumplings and four varieties of sach kap. His dried noodles are inspired by those mastered by Chinese cooks for generations.
“We cook and taste again and again until we get the right taste that is unique for Cambodian people. Some people say our noodles are similar to Hong Kong noodles, but I say it is a Cambodian variation of Hong Kong cuisine. Cambodian people prefer sweat and salty, so the taste has to cater to local people’s tastes,” Sa Oun says.
He says the four flavours in the restaurant’s name do not refer to the sauce or soup, but the four different sach kap the noodles are served with – roast duck, char siu (Cantonese barbecue pork), organs and roast pork.
Sa Oun’s ensures that all the ingredients are sourced locally.
“Everything in my shop is local and not imported, even the noodles are an entirely Cambodian made product,” he says, adding that he wants to support local produce and other local businesses.
The price of a bowl of dry noodles varies from 9,000 to 15,000 riel ($2.25 to $3.75). For big meat eaters, an extra serving of sach kap costs between 3,000 and 7,000 riel. Beverages start from 1,000 riel.
Sa Oun’s clients are mostly office workers, students and also some famous celebrities. The family run restaurant is small, so the phone is constantly ringing for takeaway orders.
Four Flavours Dried Noodle is located on Phnom Penh’s Street 276, BKK 3, and is open from 9:30am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday.
They can be reached for delivery on the phone (089718887and 098373232).