There is no shortage of street food vendors scattered across Phnom Penh, but what is far rarer is finding a place that also has comfortable seating, good hygiene and parking.
This is where Jing Ling and her five friends step in.
With the concept of elevating street food with more creative recipes, comfortable seating and plentiful parking, Ling and her business partners opened eatery The Street Cambodia in the capital.
The 32-year-old Ling says they studied local street food, selecting some of its most popular dishes in order to adapt them and make them stand out from the rest. We carefully chose some of the best street food and were creative with them by adding a unique flavour to each dish.”
“For instance, sweet and sour chicken feet are sold on every street corner. It is popular and you can never go wrong when you eat them with a nice beer. And here, we also have it on our menu, but we’ve added special scallions from Kampot province to give it a twist,” she tells The Post.
Cambodia is famous for its street food, with global media outlets often reporting on its more quirky and unusual offerings, such as fried insects.
But as The Street Cambodia’s slogan alludes – rich diverse street food – Ling has the goal of elevating the traditional Cambodian practice to a higher plane, where it is not known just for maggots and crickets.
“We offer creative street food, such as deep-fried shiitake mushrooms, chicken feet with scallions, along with many others,” she says.
“The signature dish here is deep-fried chicken soft bone with garlic, which I can say is probably the only one served in Phnom Penh. It is very popular and a best seller as well.”
The Street Cambodia offers 60 dishes, including grilled scallops, salmon fins, frogs, meatballs, squid, small octopus and crab in different cooking styles, with prices ranging from $1.50 to $3.
The restaurant also takes inspiration from neighbouring countries.
“The grilled pork skewers are generally regarded as a popular street food from Thailand, but we do not sell the exact same thing. Here the pork has a different taste. We give the flavour a little twist to cater to the Cambodian taste,” Ling says.
But it’s not just the street food on offer that attracts customers; the restaurant also has an extensive drinks menu of 56 items that is replete with interesting concoctions.
The star of the drinks menu is, without a doubt, the $6 blue or pink cocktail served up in a plastic jerrycan, big enough for a few friends to share.
“Customers like to order it along with our wide range of cocktails, such as mojito, margarita, blue margarita, pink margarita and pink lady,” Ling says.
Having opened more than three years ago, Ling says the restaurants now serve about a thousand people daily. With their two restaurants struggling to meet demand, she says they have plans to open further branches.
“About 70 per cent of our customers are Cambodian. They come in a group of friends and family. We’re popular with students too since the price is quite affordable. Another 30 per cent of our customers are foreigners, usually Western and Chinese, who love our stir fried vegetables.
“Currently we have only two branches and they are too small to serve the growing number of customers that we have built up over the past few years. We are looking to open more branches, as well as add a daily lunch menu for students,” she says.
But with expansion on the horizon, staying faithful to the brand and original concept is Ling’s main priority.
“We will not sell our brand as a franchise because we don’t want to entrust the name and recipes to other people. We’ve worked so hard to make normal street food more creative and we don’t want to lose it,” she says.
The Street Cambodia has two locations on streets 461 and 313 in Phnom Penh. The Street 461 branch can be contacted by phone (070 216 566), while the Street 313 branch can also be contacted by phone (015 226 566). Opening hours for both branches are from 11am to 10pm.
Credit: Soung Sovanny