Soun Sovann was a student at Bak Touk High School in Phnom Penh during the 1990s, a public school in which classrooms were filled with 50 to 70 students sitting in several rows of long tables learning shoulder to shoulder.
When the rusty big bell was banged signalling break time, he was among throngs of students in white and blue uniform rushing to the crowded food court serving the classic high school foods of soup with instant noodles, meatballs or blood curd served in a small bowl.
These are the quintessential tastes of high school that are still remembered by many people born in the 80s and 90s like Sovann.
“I attended Bak Touk High School until 1999. I really missed the time when I was in high school eating delicious instant noodles with meatballs. I still recall it as the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten,” Sovann says.
Unable to find an equivalent, and suffering from this yearning nostalgia, the 34-year-old restaurant entrepreneur – together with his wife, who herself felt the same urge for high school cuisine – decided to revive these meals from times-gone-by through opening their own restaurant dedicated to them.
The restaurant, appropriately named Mi Soup High School, gives the classic dishes a restaurant quality facelift, all served in surroundings that evoke memories of the classroom with its long wooden tables, ‘9A1’ lettering on the door resembling a classroom name, and right down to the inspirational quotes aimed at students adorning the walls.
‘A good child listens to their parents, good students listen to their teachers’ and ‘the boat floats away, but the port stays’, are just two examples.
The couple, who also own many branches of meat stick hotpot restaurants across the capital, opened the restaurant near the twin Koh Pich bridge on Koh Pich, a popular place for school students to hang out.
“The restaurant opened in September last year to cater to the experience of former students who used to eat instant noodles with small pieces of meat,” Mi Soup High School’s general manager Phorn Vireakbott told The Post. “We’ve also hung golden quote banners and decorations from the olden days to show the young generation what high school was like in the past.”
The restaurant serves three types of noodle soup in different sizes – small is 8,000 riel ($2), while medium is 12,000 riel and large is 16,000 riel. Dumpling noodle soup costs 11,000 riel for small, 15,000 riel for medium and 18,000 riel for large. While sweet pork noodles cost 12,000 riel for small, 16,000 riel for medium and 19,000 riel for large.
It also serves high school potato fries for 5,000 riel, fried elementary school meatballs for 10,000 riel, as well as many soft drinks that are students’ favourites.
Virakbott said all the recipes are from the restaurant’s owners and all the ingredients are local products, not cheap imports that are not good for people’s health.
“The soup is made from pig and vegetable stock that has been cooked for at least three hours to get just the right taste from the past."
“On the first day of our opening, we received between 150 to 200 customers. But after four months of business, we now receive between 500 to 600 people daily. It is more than our expectation."
“We plan to open at least 10 branches in Phnom Penh and other provinces to share the sweet memory and taste from the past with people of the 90s high school generation,” he says.
The restaurant offers a 10 per cent discount for students with a school card and uniform. You can find more information on their Facebook page (@Misouphighschool).