Despite the considerable distance between the two countries, Cambodian and Filipino cuisines have more in common than you might think.
This is probably why La Madame, a restaurant in Phnom Penh, is a popular meeting place for the Filipino community in the Kingdom and locals too.
“The food culture in Cambodia is similar to the one in the Philippines, so I decided to bring the taste of home to the Kingdom since cooking is my hobby,” says co-owner Anne Christine Waje.
Waje has been in Cambodia since 2012, working full-time job as an English teacher in an international school. Together with her Filipino friend, they started La Madame in 2016. It’s an eatery for lunch and dinner that has an excellent ambience.
“La Madame was initially a Khmer restaurant because my business partner was married to a Cambodian.
“Then we realised that a lot of our customers were actually Filipino, so we decided to turn La Madame into a Filipino restaurant. After all, there are already too many restaurants here offering Cambodian food,” Waje says.
Located in the expatriate-favourite neighbourhood of Tuol Tompoung I, La Madame serves 30 traditional dishes and desserts.
For maximum convenience, customers place their orders using tablets.
Before starting La Madame, Waje says she had no experience managing restaurants, but she did have a passion for cooking.
“This is my first experience running a restaurant. I like cooking, so I prepare some of the dishes in the restaurant,” she says, explaining that Cambodians particularly love the dishes that have beef, grilled chicken or pork.
We scroll down the menu using the tablets. Prices range from $3 to $15.
A popular one, Waje says, is Beef Bulalo, which can be shared with friends and accompanied with plain rice.
Similar to Cambodian beef soup, Beef Bulalo is a light-coloured soup made by cooking beef shanks and bone marrow until the collagen melts into the clear broth.
The $15 dish typically includes leafy vegetables, corn on the cob, scallions, onions, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce.
Pancit Palabok ($6) is a noodle dish with shrimp sauce topped with cooked shrimp, boiled pork, crushed chicharon, tinapa flakes, and fried garlic.
Another dish in their menu that could easily be Cambodian is Tilapia ($12), which is served with rice.
Considered a comfort food, Sinigang Na Baboy ($6) are pork ribs served with vegetables and tamarind-flavoured broth. It’s hearty and delicious on its own but can be served with steamed rice.
Pancit Bam-I ($7) is a noodle dish from Cebu. It is a combination of Canton and Sotanghon noodles.
For a crispy choice, clients can savour Filipino spring rolls ($5) served with steamed rice and sweet sauce.
Adventurous souls that want to take their dining experience to a new level can try sizzling Balut ($5), which looks slightly less shocking than the fertilised duck eggs that food vendors sell in Cambodia.
Ensaladang Mangga ($3) could be mistaken with a Cambodian sour snack served with fermented chilli shrimp paste.
For dessert, the Filipino version of French creme caramel is $3 a pop while Filipino shaved ice ($3), served with a mix of sweets known as halo-halo, is just perfect for cooling down in this tropical climate.
Waje says 20 per cent of patrons are Cambodian while the rest are a mix of Filipino and other nationalities.
“Some locals think our food is very similar to Khmer food but, after they try it, they usually say it is a little different,” she says.
Waje, who plans to stay in Cambodia for 10 more years, says she may change the restaurant’s name in the future to better reflect the food they serve.
“I want to rename it W&B Bistro Manila because I want to stress the authenticity of our food by using the name of the capital.”
La Madame is located at #5BC, St 440 corner with St 135, Sangkat Tuol Tompoung I, Phnom Penh. Opening hours are 11am-10pm. For more information, call 011 258 111.