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In Kampot, the secret to noodle soup is under the sea

A bowl of the soup.
A bowl of the soup. Charlotte Pert

In Kampot, the secret to noodle soup is under the sea

At Prey Tnot village, about a kilometre along National Road 3 on the way out of Kampot, a handful of rickety shacks sell a famous local speciality: sea-fish noodle soup.

Known as teuk m’heck, the flavour of the soup is unlike any other in Cambodia.

The dish, which incorporates only a few herbs and condiments (lemongrass, Chinese ginger, sugar and salt) is dominated by the flavour of its main ingredient, the white sea fish known as kantong. While it might take a few bowls before most people develop a liking for teuk m’heck, the dish has a reputation for becoming addictive.

Restaurant owner Nak Thou prepares her version of the soup with fresh rice noodles made from scratch. “We could use instant noodles, but they wouldn’t be as soft and taste as good with the soup.” Thou said. “People come here specifically because we use fresh noodles.”

Thou spends from 8am until 3pm preparing the noodle soup and then sells it for 2,000 riel a bowl until as late as 8pm. “I have never counted how many bowls I sell, but it must be more than 100 per day,” she said.

Nak Thou makes her speciality, teuk m’heck
Nak Thou makes her speciality, teuk m’heck. Charlotte Pert

Also on the menu are fresh noodles with Cambodian soup (2,000 riel), fresh noodles with dried shrimp and chilli sauce (2,000 riel) and fresh noodles with red curry (4,000 riel), along with sugar cane juice and soft drinks.

On weekends and holidays, Thou’s shack – which has views of the surrounding mountains, trees and rice fields – is often crowded with people with a taste for teuk m’heck.

She’s modest about the quality of her product.

“I don’t know if our fresh noodle with sea-fish soup is very different from normal,” she says. “It is cheap though.”

Jae Thou restaurant, National Road 3, Prey Tnot village, Kampot.

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