Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - For the street-eat averse, a California-branded pho



For the street-eat averse, a California-branded pho

Pho Cali serves up the traditional Vietnamese dish in trendy surrounds.
Pho Cali serves up the traditional Vietnamese dish in trendy surrounds. Eliah Lillis

For the street-eat averse, a California-branded pho

While a hearty bowl of pho may be the most well-known Vietnamese dish, Cambodian-American Sandra Lim has made it the centrepiece of her trendy new restaurant, which opened last month in the capital’s Tuol Kork district.

Pho Cali is named after Lim’s home state, where she says she developed her own take on the traditional beef noodle soup through experimentation. “I like to eat pho, and I learned to make pho,” she says.

Lim explains that she was motivated by her travel between her home, in California, and her family’s homeland. “Since I go to Cambodia for business, I want to have my own restaurant that uses quality products from Western countries in Cambodia.” she says.

“I also wanted to keep this California name because I want to remind my children that they were born in California although they are Cambodian,” she adds. Pho is usually flavoured with beef bones, oxtail, onion, ginger, cardamom seed, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fish sauce, brown sugar, spring onion and bird’s-eye chilis.

The flat, wide rice noodles are thrown in with beef sirloin or filet and garnished with coriander leaves, chili sauce, hoisin sauce, chili oil and lime. Making the broth alone can be a five- to six-hour process, Lim says.

She’s not diverging much from the traditional recipe, but rather has “upgraded” the quality – and as such, the price. While a bowl of pho is readily found on the street for under a dollar, on the menu at Pho Cali are Lim’s pho ($3.80 for a regular, $4.50 for a large) and her special pho ($4.50 or $5.50) which has extra beef and a raw egg.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sandra Lim has plans to expand. For now, it’s Tuol Kork. Eliah Lillis

The difference? Lim says her pho is made with only high-quality Australian beef – including the intestines and meatballs. “Our meat is expensive, but it tastes better,” she says. For under a dollar, you can get a side order of bite-sized chha kvei, a fried rice flour-based breakfast bread.

To wash it down, Lim serves Nespresso in place of Vietnamese drip coffee – a very Californian touch. The food matches the interior, which features a quite minimalist Western design with colourful Cambodian-inspired decoration. Boxes of coffee and bottles of American-imported sauces line the shelves.

The seating is no fuss: a set of wooden tables and chairs that pander to the crowds. And there is a crowd. Lim claims she already sells a hundred bowls of pho every day. She says that with some luck, she hopes to expand the business to other locations. The Pho Cali name, she says, will stick.

Pho Cali is located at #63 Street 315 in Tuol Kork. It is open from 6am to 8pm everyday. Tel: 070 558 855.

MOST VIEWED

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • Chinese may be first in tourism revival: PM

    Cambodia's tourism industry is gearing up to roll out the red carpet for Chinese travellers after Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 17 indicated that the Kingdom could soon throw open its doors to international holidaymakers vaccinated against Covid-19 – starting with guests from China. Cambodia Chinese

  • Four-pillar approach in reopening of tourism: PM

    Cambodia is drawing up a four-strategy approach to promptly restore domestic and international tourism activity and put the industry on a transition pathway to a sustainable and inclusive model that is resistant to future crises, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The prime minister made

  • Airline says ready for green light to reopen international tourism

    Sky Angkor Airline Co Ltd on September 21 said it is ready to transport South Korean and Chinese tourists to the Kingdom once the Cambodian government makes good on plans to reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers. The Siem Reap-based airline made the remark during a

  • Tourism concerns laid bare

    To ensure the success of plans to reopen the tourism market for international visitors, Cambodia must pay utmost attention to two primary determinants – the ongoing paradigm shift in domestic tourism services towards the ‘new normal’, and the factors influencing choices of destinations among foreign holidaymakers.

  • Cambodian bride ‘badly treated, held captive’ by Chinese man seeks help

    A Cambodian woman who travelled to China to marry a Chinese man there was “badly treated” by her husband’s family and then had to be rescued and will be returned to Cambodia to ensure her safety. The rescue operation came about after the 25-year-old