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Fresh crab, without all the work, in Tuol Kork

Kim Sotheary manages Cha Kdam Kampot, or ‘Kampot Crab Fried Rice’, a new food cart in the capital with a very limited menu.
Kim Sotheary manages Cha Kdam Kampot, or ‘Kampot Crab Fried Rice’, a new food cart in the capital with a very limited menu. Hong Menea

Fresh crab, without all the work, in Tuol Kork

Along a row of food carts inside the sparkling compound of CUPS Coffee on Street 337 in Tuol Kork, an extension of a Kampot favourite has recently set up shop in the capital.

Bai Cha Kdam Kampot, or “Kampot Crab Fried Rice”, is run by Kim Sotheary, 23, whose uncle founded a popular eating house in Kampot in 2010. Her restaurant has different ownership, and chefs, but the family recipes have migrated from the coast. Here it is all fried rice and crab, all the time, but the fresh seafood and house-made Koh Kong sauce make it worth seeking out.

When Lak Sichay opened his shop in Kampot more than seven years ago, the dish was hard to find, but since then it has become popular among Phnom Penh diners. That popularity inspired Sotheary to open a food cart two months ago in the capital so that customers can eat it without having to make the trip to Kampot.

The dish is served along with a plate of chopped fresh cucumber, a small bowl of pork bone soup, some carrot, radish and a sprinkle of fried garlic and spring onions. But it’s the Koh Kong sauce – with the perfect balance between sweet, savoury and spicy – alongside the fresh crab that is the essence of the dish’s flavour.

“The key to our fried rice is simplicity. We focus on the flavour of the sauce, which is always complimented by our customers,” Sotheary said. “The ingredients are not different from others. It consists of lime juice, sugar, salt, chili, garlic and fish sauce. However, what makes it different is the right measurement of those ingredients.”

The crab fried rice in Phnom Penh costs 12,000 riel, or $3, a slight increase on the $2.50 in Kampot, to account for the transportation cost.

“We do not use the crab in Phnom Penh because most of them are from the crab farm, while in Kampot we can get the ones freshly caught from the sea,” Sotheary said.

The demand here at this spacious and airy food court is evident, especially for takeout orders, and Sotheary already has her eye on a brick-and-mortar shop so she can expand operations. “In the near future I want to open a new branch in Phnom Penh with a bigger space because I want to include more foods into the menu,” she said.

Bai Cha Kdam Kampot Phnom Penh is located inside CUPS Coffee on Street 337 in Tuol Kork. It is open every day from 8am-8pm. 015/092 26 82 82.

Its Kampot branch is located at the Cambodia-Korea Friendship roundabout. It is open every day from 6am-10am. 085 68 78 68/ 098 37 26 26.

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