Friday, November 23, 2007

Cambodia's best

As one of Cambodia’s first generation of international chefs, Luu Meng is hailed as the top Khmer chef, having spent eleven years learning and perfecting his trade, first at the Hotel Cambodiana and then at various hotels for the Sofitel and Sunway groups. His contemporary style is forged on the traditions of old but now brought up to date utilizing the full range of herbs and spices, meats and vegetables, creating his own culinary delights using specific Cambodian ingredients like prahok, a fermented fish paste, whilst striving to achieve and balance the four basic Cambodian flavour elements: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. He was brought up in the kitchen, his mother ran a Phnom Penh restaurant before 1975 and his grandmother was also a chef. Whilst his mother influenced his cooking, he was trained in the traditional French style and cut his teeth at the Cambodiana and in Malaysia with Sunway. He returned to become head chef at the Sunway in Phnom Penh before opening his own restaurant, the elegant Malis, in November 2005. Still only 34, he is the director of operations at Topaz, which offers sophisticated French cuisine, he heads the Terrace restaurant at the new Anise hotel and has just opened a new Thai eatery and a coffee shop called Cafe Sentiment as well. His plan is to open another half dozen coffee shops in the next twelve months. His reputation in Cambodia is growing quickly - if Luu Meng lived in the UK, he would have a string of his own cookery shows already under his belt and would be a household name. In Cambodia, the name of it’s best chef is still known to only a select band.

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