One Khmer-influenced fine dining restaurant in Siem Reap town is now serving local and Western foods on a stretch of the popular dining destination Pub Street.
Khmer Touch, sitting the opposite the Angkor Night Market, is the long-running fine-dining restaurant that serves all local foods on its menu for international and Cambodian customers who wish to have local flavour in a comfortable place.
“Though local foods are served everywhere in country, especially street food, some foreigners found it difficult to satisfy their hunger [because of] hygiene. We created Khmer Touch to bring local street food to high-class standards with gastronomic delight,” says Oeurn Srey Leap, Group General Manager at Khmer Touch and Gloria Angkor Hotel and Restaurant.
Khmer Touch also tries to appeal to local people who have a modern lifestyle, especially visitors from Phnom Penh who appreciate MSG-free food.
“We also target Cambodian people but the lifestyle of people here is not at the same level as Phnom Penh yet. So we spend a lot and sell at a high price,” says Srey Leap.
“Mostly we focus on Western and Asian tourists who want to try Khmer food with high-class and hygiene. Therefore, they can come and try many types of food here.”
Khmer Touch has between 20 and 30 Khmer main courses (costing between $6 and $12), eight starters ($4 to $8) and ten soups ($5 to $8).
When asked why Khmer Touch has less than 100 dishes on the menu, Srey Leap says that it’s about hygiene. If the menu contains up to 100 dishes, the kitchen has a load of products.
“Some customers know that if they find many dishes on the list, they may imagine the kitchen is a mess. So we keep only a modest [amount of] food on the menu and change them all the time.”
Two of Khmer Touch’s best dishes were brought up in a New York Times article – the lotus salad and the Khmer rice cake.
“For the Khmer rice cake, I can’t say it is unique because this starter is served everywhere. But we have our own recipe to keep the outer layers of rice cake crispy and soft inside and we serve [it] with coconut milk, sugar and salt without fish paste,” Srey Leap says.
The lotus Salad, Khmer Touch’s signature dish, contains healthy herbs.
“We can say that the lotus salad is unique. Some restaurants also serve this starter but we know the benefits of this salad. Some people have flower petals for decoration [only], but when we serve the lotus salad, customers can eat them all since the petals can improve their health, especially their skin and help ease baby delivery,” Srey Leap claims.
Keo Vuthy, the restaurant’s chef with 20 years experience, said the lotus salad is simple and light food, but it reflects carefulness and concentration.
Deep fried lotus tubers are decorated with petals, served with a temple-like salad containing cucumbers, tubers, seeds, stem, pollen, prawns and other ingredients.
“[We add] crushed garlic, shallots with a fish sauce dressing, green pepper, lime, finger chillies and white sugar, add warm water and stir,” says Keo Vuthy, adding that it costs $6.
Though the lotus salad is the signature dish of Khmer Touch, from year to year it is redesigned in accordance with the chef’s creativity. So far, the lotus salad with seafood is most popular among Cambodian customers.
Since it was established by Somontha Oeng – who worked her way up from dining room steward to sous chef at the luxury Amansara resort, before opening Khmer Touch Cuisine in October 2014 – the restaurant has received many requests for Western dishes.
“Now we can open a new page by adding some Western food to our menu. First, we made about 20 to 30 per cent of the menu international [dishes],” says Srey Leap.