3 km outside center of town center: call ahead at 092 80 80 40 - 012 99 57 83 or email touich.restaurant @ gmail.com
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Touich, a small Khmer restaurant set in Siem Reap's back alleys, has gained something of a cult following since I was last there in February. Owned by an English speaking and charmingly eccentric Battambang family, this surprisingly hip little joint is probably my favorite in Siem Reap. If you call ahead to make reservations, the restaurant will send a 1940's era military jeep to pick you up at your hotel, which is all kinds of fun.
Touich specializes in sea bass baked with salt and stuffed with ginger. Although fish is often suspect in Siem Reap, they know where to source it, and it's fresh and good. The waitress will skillfully fillet the fish then serve it to you at your table, after cracking the salt crust - it's served with a spicy chili sauce. Beware bones, as is the case in Asia.
This grilled pork rib with barbeque sauce was excellent and tender. So much so that my Southern father had to ask about the provenance of the pig from whence it came. "It was a very big," the restaurant co-owner said. "It won an award, actually. I think it was around 500 pounds." Well, that explains a lot. One enormous pork chop. He told us that super-size pigs are often raised in Buddhist pagodas here and raised until they attain truly monstrous proportions, when they are sold off. Both spiritually sound and delicious, I suppose.
Stir-fried squid with Kampot pepper is a perennial Cambodian favorite (in a country amply blessed with both tender cephalopods and fresh pepper) and was very good here, in a slightly sweet sauce with the very unique bite of fresh green pepper. I will miss fresh green pepper very much in the event of my leaving Cambodia. There's nothing quite like it.
Westerners who aren't from the Deep South usually are highly disinterested in eating frog, but you should really give the Cambodian frogs a try. These fat, placid beasts really DO taste like chicken, and it's worth navigating around the small, delicate bones.
Touich stir-fries the frog with ginger and some herbs. Frog is also good barbecued on a skewer. Don't knock the local protein source. Further: my mighty Louisiana ancestors have been noshing on these things straight out of the swamp for many generations right alongside Cambodia, so I'm the last to get all snooty.
Chicken soup with lemon is Cambodian comfort food, and something I eat a lot when sick, not-super hungry, or just feel like a simple meal. The tangy broth is accented with ginger and some very subtle fresh herbs, and is really refreshing after a long, hot day of touristing around the temples. I like to toss some white rice into mine for extra texture.
There's a pretty impressive wine list and a "wine rack" presided over by the Wine God. Mostly French stuff - we went with a fruity French white.
Sidenote: Touich plays awesome music. Bob Dylan, Beirut, Sinatra and Delta blues were all on the playlist when we visited.
Don't miss Touich for a fun dinner experience in Siem Reap. Scorn the massive tourist restaurants, and come for the free jeep ride and a good meal instead.