Siem Reap noodle shop, Chep Por Restaurant, has been in operation since 1983 and is now a famous landmark for Khmer noodle soup lovers.
Chep Por, who died in 2007 aged 74, was a Khmer Rouge regime survivor and while one of his children was killed during the regime’s darkest hours, he faced the struggle of supporting his remaining eight children and his wife.
He hit upon the idea of a noodle soup restaurant which, although a staple in Southeast Asia, was in limited supply in Siem Reap and, when he saw a noodle shop at Psar Leu, his idea took hold.
His simple noodle soup quickly became an essential part of the community food chain and his restaurant became well known among noodle soup lovers.
His daughter, Chep Leeing, the owner of Por Cuisine – a new contemporary restaurant named in her father’s honour – said the soup was the hallmark of her dad’s success.
“My father had a secret and special traditional recipe to make his soup tasty and he always chose vegetables, meats and ingredients carefully,” she said.
He taught the secret to Chep Leeing’s third elder brother, but he showed no interest in running the restaurant so the secret recipe was handed down to her second elder brother in 2003 by Por’s wife, Chhay Lee Eng, 77, when she retired.
“I am too old to manage it,” Lee Eng said, “Running a noodle soup restaurant is not easy. But my husband really loved and enjoyed running it.”
Since the restaurant opened in 1983, it moved from place to place until 2003 when Chep Por and his wife bought a plot of land near Wat Damnak pagoda, and then the restaurant settled into a permanent site.
“The customers liked his noodle soup and followed my father’s restaurant wherever he moved,” Chep Leeing said. “Some customers have eaten my father’s noodle soup from when he first started making it because they understand how good his soup making was.”
Now, well after Cep Por’s passing, the restaurant still sells at least 500 bowls of noodle soup daily from 7am to 10am.
“My second elder brother followed all my father’s recipes in making soup,” Leeing said. “That is why our restaurant still continued to have a lot of customers after my father died.”
But despite the big number of daily customers, Leeing said her family wishes to keep everything in the restaurant the same as when her dad was alive.
“We have only 15 tables in the restaurant, but we just do not want to change everything that was created by my father – we want to keep it the same as before,” she said.
“His life had gone through so many difficulties for us to still have this restaurant, so we have to take care of it.
“We want this restaurant handed over from a generation to the next generation without changing the name, location, or expanding it, and I believe we can do it,” she said.
Leeing also honoured her father’s name by using it for her new restaurant, Por Cuisine, which is dedicated to his loving memory.
Chep Por Restaurant serves rice noodle soup and egg noodle soup with pork, beef, and chicken. A small plate is $1.25 and a big plate is $2. The restaurant is at 7 Makara Road, near Wat Damnak pagoda.