MY PHNOM PENH: Masahiro Hara, aka The Potato: Blogger

Masahiro Hara moved to Cambodia four years ago as a massage therapist.
Masahiro Hara moved to Cambodia four years ago as a massage therapist.

MY PHNOM PENH: Masahiro Hara, aka The Potato: Blogger

Masahiro Hara moved to Cambodia four years ago as a massage therapist. He soon created a Japanese-language blog called The Potato – so named, he says, “because my massage therapy teacher said my face looks like a potato”. It gets 500 views a day, and is a go-to resource for the thousand-odd Japanese expats in the Kingdom. This week, ‘The Potato’ sat down with Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon to share the places that he and his readers most enjoy.

Japanese noodle shops

JAPANESE NOODLE SHOPS

The first time I went to Shangri-La was in 2013 when I first visited Phnom Penh. At that time, there were only a few noodle shops, and I’d read about this one on Facebook. In Siem Reap at the time, there were no ramen joints, and I found this place to be very delicious, like real Japanese ramen noodle. I still go there sometimes, and it’s good not only for ramen but also for many other foods. Also, the atmosphere is very nice. And it’s open late, so if you work late, it’s good to go to – unless the soup runs out. Now, for Chiyoda, it’s very nice, unbelievable. I like soba, and in Cambodia I had never eaten this kind of noodle before. This chef [Nobu] had a restaurant near Golden Soriya Mall but it closed. I like the shrimp tempura there because they use the big shrimp. Cambodians also like shrimp, but it’s the small variety.

Kizuna Street (St 63, south of Mao Tse Tung Boulevard)

Kizuna Street (St 63, south of Mao Tse Tung BOULEVARD)

It means “ties” or “bonds” street. It’s where the Japanese people and Japanese expatriates and their Cambodian [partners] get together to make friendships, make business deals and drink together. There are bars, udon restaurants. One place, Jidaiya, has many Japanese sake options – I think it’s been open for three years and also has a location in BKK [on Street 278]. I like the sake there and the dote katsu don, which I go there for, or order for delivery. Other popular Japanese places [that aren’t on that street] are Ninja, and also udon shops like Green Bowl, Moriiya and Marugame… but for soba, the best is Chiyoda.

Sui-Joh (St 294½, near De Boat Restaurant)

Sui-Joh (St 294½, near De Boat Restaurant)

The owner [Mr Asano] is Japanese. It sells tote bags, kramas, decorative bags and other items and clothes. You can also get things [tailor-made]. It’s not so expensive, like a shirt can be $30, and the design is unique. Many Japanese expats buy items from this shop. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find; mostly Japanese know about it - maybe for [Western] expats it’s hard to find because it is in a small alley. He does not have a shop in Japan, but he does sell online, and in Siem Reap, he has a location at the Night Market. Many, many Japanese use his items or his shirts; he is a Japanese unicorn living in Cambodia.

Aeon Mall

Aeon Mall

There are some shops there that I like. But there you can find many, many Japanese foodstuffs like natto, ramen, spices, soy sauce, miso… so many things. Almost anything you need to find in terms of Japanese food items, you can find in Aeon. Now Angkor Mart and a few other places carry Japanese items as well, but before Aeon existed it was very difficult to find Japanese items for Japanese expats. When Siem Reap-based Japanese expats came to Phnom Penh, 100 percent would go to Aeon to get Japanese food items and desserts. I also like to go to Aeon for bowling or to watch movies, which are much cheaper, about $5, while it’s $10-$15 in Japan; and films come out earlier here compared to Japan, though I don’t know why.

Sushi Bar

Sushi Bar

I recommend the location [in Chroy Changvar]. The one in BKK on Street 302 is easy to go to and it’s always very crowded with lots of Japanese, Cambodian and expat guests. Sometimes we want to relax [while having sushi] and meet other Japanese people, and because the second location is more difficult to get to, it’s a bit less crowded – even though the menu is the same. It’s a good place to relax. I like the salmon sushi there. Its part of a chain that has a location in Ho Chi Minh City, but it exists only outside Japan. It came to Cambodia from Vietnam, and it’s one of the older sushi restaurants in town.

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