What’s so Doubtful about a Doubtful Salad?May 7, 2012
There’s a great beer garden in Phnom Penh that my friends and I like to go to often enough for it to be on our regular list. It’s on the corner of St. 360 and the delightful Tuk S’oy (smelly river). Wafts of hot sewage stench are actually less regular than you would think on the wooden balcony of this establishment, but when the wafts come they can definitely stop the flow of conversation.
The signpost names it simply as ‘Grill Food’. Its 7000 riel for a jug of Angkor and because we are regulars there, the friendly staff know that we prefer to pour our own and if we need ice we’ll take it – which is a welcome break from consistently having to shake your head and put your hand over the glass to avoid a glass of ice with a dash of beer.
There is great food on offer here-freshly grilled beef skewers, chili fried duck, pork fried with kreoung paste, lovely fresh squid salads and beautiful lemongrass steamed clams. The ribs are also pretty good and there’s an array of them to chose from on the menu. Most dishes are between 2-5 dollars.
My friends started last New Year’s Eve here and stacked up a hefty pile of plastic dishes which are used to count how many jugs you have got through. They also ordered the ‘honey covered chicken’ (which ended up being a whole chicken), plus vast quantities of other meat treats. I turned up at the tail end of this and we were all very merry indeed to find that the bill came to less than 40 dollars between 7 people.
One of the best things about this place though is the menu. I am sure we have all had a chuckle at a few menus on our travels, but this one is my personal favourite. Anyone for ‘Fried hot cow penis’ or ‘Hand Some Frog’? Or how about ‘Stride Fried Squid With Safe Sauce? These are just some examples of the wordly offerings on the extensive menu. We normally have a giggle at these then order what we know is good, because we are hungry and have our thoughts fixed on sweet and sour ribs or a lovely plate of fried seafood noodles.
However, recently my friend and I decided to find out just three things in life…What’s so doubtful about the ‘Doubtful Salad’? What makes the ‘Lazy Salad’ so lazy? And just what dish could possibly live up to the grand title of ‘Naked Dancing Shrimp’.
So we ordered, the staff had a giggle with us as and a jug later we found out.
The ‘Lazy salad’ and the ‘Doubtful salad’ came out together. The waitress had to have a close inspection to clear any doubts over which one was the ‘Doubtful salad’ because it looked extremely similar to the ‘Lazy salad’. The majority of the plate was piled with crunchy pepper, onion and carrot covered in a fresh, zesty dressing. We nibbled and nodded approvingly.
Then our chopsticks delved deeper and we discovered the doubt in the salad. Intestines, from which animal we were doubtful lay grey and curling beneath the surface. With that quick chopstick prod it all made sense.
Next we moved onto the ‘Lazy salad’ and discovered the laziness just as quickly in the salad. The laziness stemmed from the fact that the chef had just given us another plate of ‘Doubtful salad’ with a couple of stir fried shrimp on top. You have to admit, that’s fairly lazy, which was explained to us in plain English on the menu. We could have really pre-empted it all but we were happy to know for sure about the meaning behind the menu’s names. We ate the shrimps, crunched on more salad and ordered another jug.
We had almost forgotten about the ‘Naked dancing shrimp’ but when we saw it coming our way we were excited to find out what made those shrimps dance. Well, it was pretty obvious the naked part was going to mean they were unshelled, but what made them dance was an unexpected treat. So surf and turf is the delightful combination of land and sea on a plate, right?
‘Naked dancing shrimp’ is a step above (or below) that. It’s the delightful combination of under the land, on the land and in the sea. Ants, beef and shrimp are fried together with carrot and oyster sauce. Ingenious, and as the ants were quite big we didn’t bother with them but the thinly sliced tender beef and the naked shrimps were cooked perfectly and tasted great.
At the end of the meal we were very satisfied with our three remaining plates scraped clean of everything except intestines and ants.
We will always enjoy Grill Food for the pretty wooden balcony, the friendly service, fresh food and the satisfyingly tiny bill at the end. I just hope they never change the menu, or at least not before we have ventured into the realms of ‘Hot Butter Salad or ‘Fried cow tongue with large red ant and edible aquatic plant’.