Even though the previous day had been pretty full, from sunrise until our afternoon trip to Lake Tonle Sap, we were ready to go the next morning. I was especially rarin' to go, since Narin had told me we'd stop at his favorite noodle stand on the way to our first stop Kbal Spean, which was a bit out of Siem Reap.
We stopped at a crossroads village outside of Siem Reap. The place was colorful and bustling, dusty and yet somehow alluring. And tons of tourists and visitors in sight....except these were mostly from Phnom Penh. There were several mini-buses parked alongside the road, along with SUVs, and motorbikes.
This place was doing some major business.
Narin ever so concerned with our welfare, first stepped out and checked the well water....
This is the noodle dish that arrived:
A very nice and mild coconut milk based fish noodle soup. The noodles provided were rice noodles, which looked just like the "Bun" we had in Vietnam.
Along with the noodle soup several garnishes arrived. At the bottom of this bowl are some of the most amazing long beans we've ever tasted. So very sweet.
A bowl covered with a plate arrived at our table. On top lime and chilies.
Underneath was a brown fragrant sauce, that at first glance I mistook for some tamarind based sauce. Until I tasted it, a strong and complex sweet flavor, with pungent, savory undertones. I was told it is called Tik Pha Em, and is a basic sweet fish sauce.
I also had Narin write down the name of the noodle dish, he called it Num Banh Chok. The only real reference I could find to it was a recipe found here. Apparently, what makes this dish unique to Siem Reap is they way it is served, with the sweet sauce, and with all of the herbs, many of which I hadn't tasted before. No it's not table decoration, it belongs in your Rice Noodle Soup!
It was a staggering variety of herbs, some tasting peppery like cilantro, some had a celery like saltiness to it. The most amazing were the green leaves, which tasted almost like curry leaf:
I asked Narin to write the name of it down for me. Poor guy, he must think I'm a nut! He spelled it Kantrop. I found several citations of it, in English it's called Wampee, or Chinese clausena. It is the leaf of a certain type of citrus fruit tree. In Vietnam it's called Hồng bì, I had never had anything like it before. We even saw the trees growing on the trail up Kbal Spean.
We were also told that dish was famous in Khmer legend. After searching a bit, I found a post, here. The story of Thun N'chey and the Chinese Emperor. Who'd have thunk, revolutionary noodles, in a little village outside of Siem Reap.
Narin insisted on paying for the meal, telling us that, if we paid, they would overcharge, and would not take reimbursement. I was determined to make up for this later.
Meanwhile, the Missus had wandered away......I just knew She was up to no good!