A popular breakfast
What we say:
One of the most popular breakfasts you’ll find in Cambodia is kuy teav (another, of course, is my much-loved bai sach chrouk).
Kuy teav is a simple noodle soup that most urban Cambodians prefer to buy on the street rather than preparing at home. (If you want to make it at home, see Narin Seng Jameson’s recipe in Cooking the Cambodian Way). Jameson recounts how before the Khmer Rouge era students would gather at Psar Chaa to eat kuy teav. “Instead of going home, we went to the open-air food stalls at the Old Market in the center of the city to eat this hot and steamy soup in the already hot and steamy weather,” she writes.
Kuy teav is a noodle soup made from pork or beef bones and rice vermicelli, and topped with fried shallots, green onions and crunchy bean sprouts. Usually pork and fish balls are added, but beef kuy teav is also available. There’s a Phnom Penh version (called kuy teav Phnom Penh, or hu tieu Nam Vang in Vietnam) that features liver, blood, intestines and tongue. On the side, you’ll get a spicy red chilli paste, pickled chillies and vinegar. If you like, you can add a seasoned, hard boiled egg to the mix.
It’s believed that kuy teav was invented by Chinese immigrants in Cambodia, or Kampuchea Krom, an area in Southern Vietnam that was once part of the Khmer Empire. Whatever the soup’s actual provenance, Cambodians claim the soup as their own and are offended when it’s compared to Vietnamese pho. For the record, it is similar to pho, although the noodles are thinner and the broth is darker and sweeter.
You can find kuy teav being served all day at all of the local markets and at stands that dot the sidewalks until around 09:30 each morning. I like the ones being sold in the food area of Central Market. A bowl will set you back between 4,000 and 6,000 riel depending on the options that you choose.
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