After viewing the sunrise at Angkor Wat, we continued our day trip in Angkor Archaeological Park near Siem Reap, Cambodia. Breakfast at the Kool Hotel’s restaurant was included in our stay there, so we could go back there for breakfast and taking some rest before continuing our day again. But since our tour is a private tour (which means we could change the itinerary if we like since we have the tour guide and driver with us already for the whole day), our tour guide Vanna suggested an alternative of getting the breakfast at one of the restaurants near Angkor Wat, and then continued our trip for the day from there. That would save some time by not going back to the hotel first. We thought that was a good idea. It did mean spending extra money for the breakfast, but it also allowed us chance to get a variety in our meals there as we already had one at the hotel’s restaurant the day before.
There were several restaurants located in the area right across from the entrance gate to the Angkor Wat complex. Given their strategic location, they cater mostly to tourists and I’m sure the price was higher than what you would get at restaurants in Siem Reap. We decided to go with one that served more local flavors, traditional Khmer breakfast dishes. Particularly, I was interested in trying out the Khmer’s version of rice porridge called bobor. I read about it in the guidebooks, and it was particularly intriguing because the word bobor sounded very much like the Indonesian word for rice porridge, bubur. Vanna knew of one of the restaurants that had the dish on the menu, so that’s the one we went to.
As we walked into the restaurant, a young Cambodian boy, must be around seven to ten years old, approached us with a bag full of bootlegged guidebooks to offer to us. He said, ‘Guidebooks, sir? I have several.. on Angkor Wat… Lonely Planet…’ I looked at him and politely said ‘No, thanks’ while shaking my head. He then smiled and said, ‘If you change your mind, come and buy from me, ok? Have a good breakfast…’ I said thanks and we continued entering the restaurant.
We ordered our breakfast and then waited for the food to be prepared. There were several other groups of tourists and locals in the restaurant. They seemed to enjoy the food. When I looked outside the restaurant, I saw the bookseller boy outside hanging out with some of his friends waiting for other tourists to come. Coming from Jakarta, that wasn’t a new experience of being offered goods at the parking lot by people on the way to restaurants. But I thought it was interesting that this Cambodian kid at such a young age already learned English quite well to conduct business (and very likely that was not learnt from taking formal language classes), and the gentle and positive mannerism I think well represented the Cambodian culture as ‘the land of smiles’, and it’s a good technique for someone in sales / business. I just hoped that the boy would have a chance to go to school and get educated, and not getting stuck to working from such a young age.
Our food finally arrived. I ordered a bowl of bobor with salted fish, omelet, and pickled vegetables as toppings. Kristi ordered a rice noodle dish with seafood. My bobor came with the toppings served on a separate plate from the bowl of rice porridge. The rice porridge was a bit on the watery side; it was closer to what I had in Indonesia (bubur) than the thicker ones I had in the US (Chinese congee). And the toppings are very much similar to what we would use in homemade bubur in Indonesia, so the taste of this dish was so familiar to me.
Kristi’s rice noodle soup was somewhat similar to the ‘bun’ dish in Vietnamese cuisine. Given its location in between Thailand and Vietnam, I think that’s one of the unsurprising thing we learned about the Khmer cuisine. There are some similarities with the cuisine from the neighboring countries, but there are also some things that make it unique.
The photo below is my bowl of bobor with the toppings already added to it. Our table was very close to the entrance, and we had natural lighting from outside, which made it great to do food photography.