Move Over Boys, These two Female Chefs are Taking Over: Siem Reap, Cambodia

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I don't know what was better: giving a Siem Reap restaurant review of one of the best restaurant experiences in Southeast Asia, or finding out it was made possible by women. 

Dining & Feminism? 

I use the word feminism all the time - and even call myself one, but I also secretly hate it. It implies that the respect and support of women's rights even needs a special term. That it shouldn't just be engrained in us. Then there's the sigma of feminism: that you must be an angry woman or lesbian to be feminist. That men can't be feminists. The list goes on. 

I can certainly continue a rant on this but I don't want to derail my point. My point is, Alex also considers himself a "feminist". And while in Siem Reap, Cambodia we were dining at the Embassy Eatery & Lounge to do a review of the restaurant. The establishment is a part of the famous Ankgor W Restaurant Collection and while the cuisine blew our minds, the fact that it was run by women from different villages really made the experience special.

The shocking part?

At the end of the meal, our two chefs came out to greet us and to Alex's surprise, the chefs were also two women. He had no idea they would be.

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We were already told of their achievements: 

  • The Kimsan Twins (not actually twins but share the same surname) are local legends in the culinary scene and have quickly risen up the ladder in the restaurant industry.
     
  • They oversee menu and kitchen operations in 17 different restaurants and Embassy is the latest addition, curating regularly changed menus that highlight traditional Khmer cuisine with a modern approach.
     
  • The Twins, Pol and Sok, have co-hosted a gala dinner with famous Chef Gilles Choukron, placed in international culinary competitions, and even trained with Michelin starred Chef Regis Marcon.

But, as Alex humbly shared later, even knowing that the restaurant had all women employees, he still automatically assumed the head chefs, with all of their achievements, would be European men (there's a big community of French business owners and chefs there).

How often do we do that?

How often do we hear of a highly successful person and assume they are a caucasian man? 
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I loved this eye opener. I also loved that one of my best meals and restaurant experiences in all of Southeast Asia came from local Cambodian women. We took the evening to genuinely reflect on the assumptions we make and appreciate the experience that allowed us to be impressed by Khmer dishes and the local talent.

Interested in the Food? Read on:

At Embassy, we dined from a five-course set dinner menu that also offered a four-glass and one glass wine pairing option. I prefer set dinner menus often because I enjoy receiving the experience as the chef intends (as opposed to mixing and matching).

Course #1: Amuse Bouche

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For our first plating, we received a light serving of pumpkin and turmeric galette topped with dried shrimp (R) paired with steamed ground pork stuffed in tomato (L). I preferred the stuffed tomato over the pumpkin but they were both quite flavorful and enough to calm down my hunger while I waited for the larger plates.

Course #2: Appetizer

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In a fluid follow up, our first plates swiftly left the table and were replaced with this seasonal khmer salad featuring crispy rice paper with prahok red ant sauce and topped with grilled scallops. It was interesting to experience a rice paper salad as opposed to using a bed of lettuce. I thought the crisp crunch paired nicely with the softer texture of the scallops. 

Course #3: Soup

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Y'all know I hate most soups. But this was one legendary exception. First, I never had someone serve my soup dry and proceed to pour the broth or cream right in front of me. I felt like a kid at a circus: a lot of "oohs" and "ahhs". The dish was a banana blossom soup with coconut cream. The banana has a grainy, mushier texture that surprisingly settled my stomach after the scallops.

.Course #4: Main Course (Dish A and B)

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The main course came with two dishes: I'll call them A and B. 

Dish A: I love sea bass and this dish did not leave me disappointed. The delicious sea bass was served on green bass leaves and came with amok sauce (which is a traditional Khmer fish curry). It is not spicy and has a creamy taste to it. 

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Dish B: Although not my favorite (because duck isn't my thing), Alex adored the duck breast roll over eggplant. It came with mixed beans and a Khmer forest wine sauce reduction, and a light side of grilled pineapple and steamed brown rice. 

Course #5: Dessert

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For dessert we had "Kromou Thong" served with lime sorbet and orange sauce. The Kromou Thong reminded me of roasted rice krispies and I wasn't a fan of it. However! I loved the lime sorbet and eating a tart sorbet is my favorite way to end a meal.

Pricing and more information: 

I really recommend trying this traditional Khmer restaurant during your Siem Reap visit. It is located in the King's Road Angkor Village right across the river from the old market.

The set dinner menu is priced at $36.00 per person plus an option to add on four pairings for $22.50 or one glass of wine for $6.50. For more information about Siem Reap's Embassy Eatery & Lounge, visit their website >>

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