MY PHNOM PENH: Jessica ‘Lisha’ Srin, Rapper/restaurateur

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Jessica Srin, aka MC Lisha, has been rapping and recording music since the early 2000s.

MY PHNOM PENH: Jessica ‘Lisha’ Srin, Rapper/restaurateur

Jessica Srin, aka MC Lisha, has been rapping and recording music since the early 2000s. After taking a hiatus from performing and producing, she is working on a new album and writing a memoir all while slinging burritos and other Mexican food from her street cart on Street 172. This week, she sat down with James Reddick to discuss the spots that have shaped her, where she likes to get some fresh air and her destinations for inspiration.

Block Tanpa

Block Tanpa

I grew up in a building called “Block Tanpa” [on Street 144, between Street 49 and Street 51]. There are about 400 plus families there [and] it’s a ghetto. Back in the day, you would go to other people’s houses to watch TV and to play around with all the kids and sometimes you would sleep over at your neighbour’s house. It was fun. I go sometimes but it’s not like back in the day. Families aren’t bonding as much anymore so kids just go to school, come back and sit in the house. All of us kids used to play in the street. Me and my friend’s favourite thing was to cook soup with a clay pot. We’d cook leftovers from my mom’s cooking. We’d take it and then have a pack of noodles. You know, to eat hot pot is to feel rich or high class. We’d do it almost every day.

Cam’s Burritos

Cam’s Burritos

Two years ago, my life was down and I started to crawl back up. Three weeks [after opening the burrito cart], I had a gas explosion and I got burned and the other business owners helped extinguish the fire and really saved me.

People wanted me to rest. The other business owners on this street [172] started giving me free food, free coffee, and they were mad that I didn’t stop. I make burritos, Cali fries, nachos, fajitas and jalapeño omelettes. But also I do things flexibly. I love to cook and I love to eat, so I want my food, my way, my taste.

So when a customer wants something specific, I put myself in their shoes. I’m a hustler for business, so nobody can pass my store without me calling out to them. I’m like ‘Hey, how ya doing? Want some food?’

Riverside

Riverside

I go to the river when I’m sad and want to write. I feel like even though there are crowds by the river that I’m the only one. I’m in my zone. I can cry without shame in front of everyone. I just block myself from the outside and look at the flow of the river. It just makes me understand about life even more. The water still has waves up and down just like life. There’s nothing to be upset about or to complain about. Life goes through ups and downs. If your life is flat or always happy that’s not living. I’ve had a bond with the riverside since I was young. All my childhood friends would always go to the river and swim. Just on the side. We’d swim, grab fish or whatever, like kids do. So I have that bond with the river.

Moan Dot Seang Pises

Moan Dot Seang Pises

You have to pass under the [Japanese] Bridge and keep going. I call it a very secret hideout because you have to go through an alley and then you have to pass by a warehouse and then it’s right by the river. It’s a local restaurant, and if you don’t go there often, you’ll miss the entrance. The roast chicken is the special and they fry it with ginger or with morning glory. Your choice. You can sit on the floor or you sit at a table but usually I like to sit on the floor. It’s fresh, like the countryside. There are people with vegetable farms right by the river.

Psar Kandal

Psar Kandal

One of the places I used to go to chill out was to Psar Kandal to do my nails, wash my hair and chit-chat with the girls. I would [always] go in at the same time. First to my [ingredients] supplier to tell them what to get and what I need, and then I go directly to wash my hair. You get your hair washed and you get to talk to people. There’s a lot of laughter. You get your nails done, and you feel fresh and feel beautiful and smell good. It helps. I used to go almost every day. People talk about the lottery. I play it just once in a while, only if I have a dream about numbers, just for a little bit of money. We talk about how to take care of the skin and working out — which I don’t really do. Woman stuff. Now I don’t have time to spend more than one hour there.

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