Phnom Penh, located in Vancouver’s Chinatown, serves up some great Cambodian and Vietnamese fare. It is hugely popular and is lined up out the door every day during the lunch hour. Even famous food celebrities like Anthony Bourdain have eaten there before. Phnom Penh has won number food awards and is most famous for their deep fried chicken wings. Ever since I discovered it a couple of years ago, it’s been on my list to visit every time I’m in Vancouver.
My friends really enjoy the Marinated Butter Beef (#71) and the Phnom Penh Spicy Garlic Squid (#79). For me, the standout dish is the famous Phnom Penh Deep Fried Chicken Wings ($7.95 for a half order; $12.50 for a full order) – #78 on the menu. The Phnom Penh Deep Fried Chicken Wings are coated in a similar seasoned batter as the Phnom Penh Spicy Garlic Squid as well as the Phnom Penh Spicy Garlic Sparerib (#80). Personally, I like the chicken wings more than the squid and the spareribs because the wings have been consistently succulent. I’ve ordered the squid before and it was a little on the chewy side and the spareribs were a little dry. The chicken wings have been perfect almost every time. What makes these dishes so addictive is the secret family recipe they use for the batter. The batter is always crispy and light and the seasoning is a combination of salty sweet flavours. The fried garlic bits mixed in further enhances the complexity of the flavours. The deep fried chicken wings, squid, and spareribs are all served with a side dish of fresh lemon and pepper dipping sauce. For those that want the extra tanginess, the dipping sauce gives it the extra burst of flavour. For me, I don’t even think the sauce is necessary. I usually enjoy my wings without the sauce. I would say that these Phnom Penh Deep Fried Chicken Wings are some of the best tasting chicken wings I’ve ever had!
My other favourite dish is the Fillet Beef Luc Lac on Rice with Egg or Bo Luc Lac ($9.50) – #35 on the menu. Bo Luc Lac literally translates to “beef shaking” and hence, this dish is commonly known as “Shaking Beef”. The Luc Lac refers to the “shaking” that takes place during the preparation when the beef gets tossed in the wok and not the quivering of beef slices on the plate. There are multiple versions of this dish at Phnom Penh. You can get the Fillet Beef Luc Lac on Rice (#34) without the fried egg or even the Fillet Beef and Salad (#87) without the rice. For me, I like the version with the fried egg on rice the best. That’s because I like to take the runny egg yolk and mix it in with the rice and beef to give everything a silky texture. At Phnom Penh, they use fairly tender cuts of beef to prepare this dish. The beef is sliced thinly and tossed in a slightly sweet sauce containing soy, garlic, and fish sauce. Don’t let the pictures fool you! At first when I saw a picture of this dish, I wasn’t interested in trying it. I thought it was similar to the teriyaki beef stir fry that you can get in the regular food courts. After I read multiple posts about it and my friend recommended it, I decided to finally try it. After I tasted it for the first time, I’ve been hooked. I order this dish now every time I go to Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh is definitely a gem in Vancouver. There are no other Cambodian or Vietnamese Restaurants in the Vancouver area quite like it. The food is consistently good. They have a huge menu covering both Cambodian and Vietnamese cuisine. The service is adequate and prompt, which is all I really ask of at a place like this. Despite the huge lineups during the lunch hour, the line actually more fairly fast. I typically like to go early before the rush or during the non-peak hours if I don’t feel like lining up.
Phnom Penh Restaurant
244 E Georgia St.