Campbell: Chez Sovan

Oh me oh my, I had this post in the draft section since March 30th??? At least I had intended to post soon after I ate out, I just.. didn’t! Can we say WOW!? Posting 2 days in a row!??

I took my brothers J, M and M’s gf Mo to Chez Sovan on our way back from The Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz. I love Chez Sovan and hate that it’s so far away for a quick pop in dinner. Luckily I have Battambang Restaurant in Oakland for all my Cambodian food needs (aside from my Mom!). It’s a spacious spot with its own parking lot in the front. I always easily miss it and usually have to drive pass it once or twice before I pull in. This is not because I’m Asian and a woman, but because I always miss the sign! Honest! When you do find it and get seated, it immediately feels comfortable. Typical looking for an Asian restaurant, but the food is extraordinary, being Cambodian, I love the subtle layering of flavors that immediately explodes in your mouth into indescribable unctuous bites. Am I waxing poetic? Yes, a bit! When I get asked what Cambodian food is exactly and how it compares to its neighbors, I always take a moment to consider it. The western world is familiar with the flavors of Thailand and Vietnam, I understand that we’re known for mainly for the tragedies that happened in our country in the 70s, so I always take the opportunity to explain our food and culture. I would describe Cambodian foods as being rich in flavors and subtle nuances of prohok (fermented fish paste), focused on balancing salty, sweet, sour and spicy , similar to Thai as far as layering flavors, but isn’t dependent on chili flavor, also uses tons of fresh herbs like Vietnamese. This is how I view Cambodian foods personally, opinions might vary depending on what we grew up eating.

We got there a little after 2, it was quiet as I knew it would be on a weekday, after lunch but before dinner. A young woman waited on us and in the backgrounds, the cooks were talking loudly telling another girl what to pick up at the grocery store. It made me laugh and my waitress told me to ignore them. I understood everything that was said, I assured her I didn’t mind. It felt like home, when your mom and auntie are in the kitchen not arguing, but speaking loudly because it’s what happens when you get older!

I didn’t realize it was Mo’s first time eating Cambodian foods so I special ordered a vegetarian Cha Krueng Tofu for her, it’s not on the menu but they made it with no hesitation for us. Love that! Krueng is essential for our cuisine, a paste made of lemongrass, galangal (a cousin of the ginger with a more floral taste), garlic, turmeric and kaffir lime leaves as the base. I like to add shallots and chilies to mine. We also ordered Cambodian iced coffees, Somlaw Sach Jrouk K’tis, Amok, Bok La Hong, Trey Chean Choun, steamed jasmine rice and steamed brown rice. The food was awesome and we finished everything that was set in front of us.

Cambodian Iced Coffee

Bok La Hong (green papaya salad)
Fresh Papaya mixed with green beans, tomatoes, carrots & peanuts with special sauce
Crunchy and refreshing with pops of chilis throughout.

so gorgeous I needed a closer shot!

Amok Trey (fish Amok, Cambodia’s National dish and a favorite of J and I, love this dish so much!)
Coconut milk, collard greens, lemongrass, kaffir, galangal & fish sauce, steamed in banana leaf.
A lightly curried fish mousse that has to be tasted to be described. I can’t speak enough about my love and devotion to this dish.

Somlaw Sach Jrouk K’tis (Pork and Coconut soup)
Pork ribs, pineapple slices, coconut milk & spices, topped with basil

Trey Chean Choun (Fried Fish)
Deep fried fish fillet with ginger, ground chicken, cilantro, salted beans, shallots and vinegar
They use fillet here, but I prefer it with a whole fish. When I was younger, my Mom would make this (without the ground chicken) and as we finished eating one side, my father would exclaim loudly as he flipped the fish over “golap pan dei!!!!!” causing us kids to giggle and clap loudly. “Golap pan dei” is translated literally to “overturning the earth” meaning earthquake.

Cha Krueng Tofu (Tofu stirfried with Krueng spices)
not on the menu but was prepared for us as requested. Love that! It was also incredibly delicious!

Chez Sovan
2425 S Bascom Ave
Campbell, CA 95008
(408) 371-7711
http://chezsovan.webs.com/

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