>> Phnom Penh Noodle Shack | Eat the World Los Angeles

Monday 7 January 2019

Phnom Penh Noodle Shack


EDITOR'S NOTE: An updated version of this article (06 December 2023) is available as part of the Free Friday Favorites section of our Substack page. Check that out here:
Surrounded by Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, the food on visits to Cambodia always seemed a bit underwhelming after eating in one of these other countries. Even at street-side noodle stands, somehow the full flavors and spices of the region seemed toned down by Khmer cooks. Many restaurants in the United States are even less special, never really giving Cambodian food its full range of possibilities.

Interestingly, Phnom Penh Noodle Shack in Long Beach is most certainly the best, even better than any meal eaten on trips in Cambodia. Just north of Anaheim Street and the heart of Cambodia Town, this noodle shack which started as a much more modest family affair in 1985 is a needed kick in the teeth for harsh feelings against the cuisine.

Now a thoroughly redesigned and modern space, the walls are still covered with photos of years past and the family and community that were all a big part of its creation.

The Phnom Penh noodles ($7.25, above) are the house special, a wonderful bowl of pork and shrimp with noodles. The pork meat comes in thin slices and ground, and also includes liver and stomach. While supplies last each day, you will receive another bowl with a large pork bone in soup (below) that you can use as desired with your choices.

Suck that marrow out no matter what you do with the broth.

Noodles are served dry so that you can create your own bowl with both the broth and any number of the condiments available on every table, from house-made Sriracha-type sweet chilis to fish sauces to pickled green beans.

It will probably be impossible to go another meal here without an order of the loat cha ($8.95, below), stir-fry tear drop noodles cooked with beef and shrimp that is irresistible.

Not knowing who Mo was did not stop an order of Mo's special noodles ($7.25, below), another bowl full of sliced and ground pork but this time accompanied by beef balls. This can be adorned as desired as well with the bone broth and condiments.

Since the 80's, this restaurant has been known as the place to go for Cambodian breakfast as well. A more recent visit was able to sample the combination seen on many tables during previous meals here: long deep-fried bread sticks known as cha quai ($1.25 each, below) paired with one of seven kinds of rice porridge.

Sometimes spelled cha kway and direct descendants of Chinese youtiao, the Noodle Shack's versions of these are unbelievably soft and fluffy with a slight crisp on the outside.

Don't pass up spending a quarter on a side of condensed milk, which makes for a calorie-filled sweet dip that seems like a match made in heaven.

The most popular combination is of course one of the restaurant's rice porridges. Having a bowl of this and a stick of cha kway is like being transported back to Phnom Penh, the only things missing are the motorbikes whining down the street behind you on your plastic stool.

A crowd favorite is the Mo's special rice porridge ($8.25, above), full of ground pork, slices of chicken, and beef balls. Many of the same background ingredients that are used in the noodle bowls are here too, although flavors are more subtle in richness. Add some of the bean sprouts, squeeze a bit of lime, and use one of their hot sauces if desired.

Breakfast is served.

Rows and rows of condiments.


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