24 Feb Insider chat with… Tiara Sum
FOODIES IN PHNOM PENH
Insider chat with… Tiara Sum
24 February 2017
At 22, the manager of a successful Khmer cuisine restaurant re ects on the aspirations of the younger generations in a really young country. Excerpts from our chat with the soul of Phka Slaa, an airy eatery near the Phnom Penh Royal Palace.
Pumpkin and coconut owers…
One year ago, when we started to elaborate the menu with our chef, we realized the scope of Khmer traditional cuisine. There is a lot more than lok lak and amok here! I’ve been to Italy several times – my fiance’s country –, vegetables flowers are everywhere, and at Phka Slaa (the Khmer name for the inflorescence of coconut palm trees), we also serve pumpkin owers, lightly browned with a stuffing of crab and pork meat. Blending tradition and modernity, this is fun! For music background, I love to play the “oldies” songs from the golden 1960s.
Province and pepper…
I am a city girl, but I think each one and every Cambodian holds in his or her heart memories of the countryside, a love for rural life and stronger connection with Nature. Phnom Penh is booming, high-rises sprout everywhere, but we need more green areas. My family is originally from Kampot, the green South, and I often dream of starting a small pepper farm there. You have to find the right soil, peppercorn bitterness or smoothness depend so much on the location, closeness to the sea, many factors.
I started a professional life quite early, I still have to complete my business law studies this year, while managing a team of 24 people now… We are the first generation of Cambodians extensively traveling abroad. I’ve seen Singapore, Shanghai, Bangkok, Europe, and our first reaction is awe, we feel a bit backward, then we come back to our country and we start to realize that pace of life here is less hectic, everything is more affordable… We can develop as a country without giving up a certain way of life. Learn from other cultures without losing ours. That is the feeling you can get at Phka Slaa, and I think it explains our appeal to international visitors.