Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tasty Thai with all the spices but at low prices



Tasty Thai with all the spices but at low prices

The Seafood Noodle Salad features glass noodles with tomato, minced pork and squid.
The Seafood Noodle Salad features glass noodles with tomato, minced pork and squid. Heng Chivoan

Tasty Thai with all the spices but at low prices

Thai food may be ubiquitous throughout Phnom Penh, but Keo Lykoum, 21, and Heng Chamraeun, 22, are determined to bring something new to the table.

“Many places [in Phnom Penh] offer both Khmer and Thai food,” says Lykoum. “But we thought—how about only Thai food? Most Thai food [only] places have high prices, and most Cambodians can’t afford it. So I thought about having quality and low prices [for our restaurant].”

Built on the savings of the two business administration students at Pannasastra University, the restaurant has been running for about a month and a half, and is already doing brisk business so far.

They credit their background as children of businesspeople, and their early entrepreneurial start, with setting them up for success. Lykoum started working at the age of 12 as a salesperson at his aunt’s electronics shop, and then worked in a phone shop when he moved to Phnom Penh.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Owners Chamraeun (left) and Lykoum. Heng Chivoan

He also became a money lender on the side. Chamraeun, on the other hand, opened an online shop, selling “everything”, according to him. The savings they had from their previous jobs allowed them to open De Map in Boeung Keng Kang I.

According to Lykoum, the pair began by travelling Thailand to study the food. There is no provincial focus to the cuisine but, having grown up on the border between Cambodia and Thailand, Chamraeun was exposed early on to Thai food, and now creates the recipes at the restaurant and judges the authenticity of the food.

“One of the most important things is: ‘Can my customers accept this taste?’,” he says. This is the barometer that both partners use in determining whether their creations work—whether the flavours will appeal to locals.

Among a sampling of dishes tasted by Post Weekend, the standout was the Fried Octopus with Salt Egg ($3.75), which is topped with a delicious tomato-based gravy. The Seafood Noodle Salad ($3.25) features glass noodles with tomatoes, minced pork and squid.

Running the restaurant is done alongside their studies, and it leaves them with little free time. Their biggest challenge, rather than the lack of time, is the competition.

“Customers don’t trust us because [our food] is cheap,” Lykoum says. It’s the stereotype that good Thai food has to be expensive, compared to the average Khmer restaurant, that they are pushing against, which they say has been an uphill battle.

With bright blue walls and light-bulbs hanging above each table, De Map is a welcoming and unpretentious space, though Lykoum and Chamraeum say down the line they hope to expand.

“A restaurant should be bigger, with a big parking lot, and our own [building],” says Iykoum. “Someone asked me: ‘Why do you name it a restaurant? It’s only a small shop.’ But I think [calling it a restaurant shows] our dreams.”

De Map is located at #37 Street 310. It is open every day from 9:30am until 10pm.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Cambodia planning new border checkpoint at Thma Da

    Cambodia is looking into the possibility of opening a new Thma Da Border Checkpoint with Thailand to boost trade and tourism. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said on December 4 that Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a technical working group