Love letter to Phnom Penh
When the temperature finally drops to 28 degrees and we all breath that big sigh about it being almost over (the Phnom Penh heat), there are lots of reasons to eat Indian snacks. I'm talking about a quick, made to order, deeply satisfying, just fine to be on the go, bite to eat. What India is famous for. The dosa.
Dosa are simple. You buy only one. That's because it's a fully integrated food experience. One hot, hand-held wrap filled with savory pleasure; broken into smaller hand-held bites each dipped in chutney and sambhar and shoveled into your waiting lips. For me, dosa are one of life's magic moments. But like some other simple pleasures (some erotic other not), little things mean a lot. Good dosa defy the laws of physics. They begin with a paper thin pancake light enough to almost see through. Yet sturdy enough to use as a fork, knife and spoon all rolled into one. Sort of like the best silk.
Now if you know Dosa (like I know Dosa) your baseline standard is a folded semolina pancake. Fine-grained and tasting smooth and slightly buttery (actually ghee-ey, if I can coin a term.) I’m sure you get lots of these in your town. This is just fine and good and will serve you well.
Until one day you hit a whole other Dosa level. I'm talking about walking, tuk tuking, biking, jogging, astral projecting or literally running out of gas on Streets 51 and Sihanouk in Phnom Penh. Here, at The Dosa Corner your base-line will become a distant memory. Your expectations will flower. New light will enter your dosa world.
Remember the fundamentals, but forget your preconceptions. Here the Rava Dosa redefines things. It's a long, long way from smooth. It’s a finely spun, golden doily latticework, into which is suspended a whole bunch of sweet green curry leaves, coarse black pepper and subcontinent spices. All sitting there, waiting to be delivered with just enough ghee for that totally fulfilling mouth-feel we all know and love. Mouth feel. Enough said. And this is the beginning.
The Dosa Corner product sits in a thali tray of 3 home-made chutneys and sambhar. Now one could spend some considerable time talking about chutney and sambhar. But then this review would be accused of spoon-feeding. Many a thesis has been written about chutney and sambhar. And if I was one of those lucky souls stuck and mind-blocked in the middle of my chutney/sambhar thesis. And I came upon the Phnom Penh Dosa Corner. Many of my early conclusions would need to be reexamined. And my thesis advisor would (correctly) order a re-write.
And because I am (proudly) Toronto, and a firm believer in living reasonably dangerously, I will hold my peace about that Dosa Corner sambhar and those chutneys, and leave it to your personal voyage of discovery.
My only advice is to not believe a word I say. Dig deep for the 2.5 bucks. Take the high road down to Sihanouk Blvd. Just past the National Monument. And discover new meaning for great snack food.
And one more thing. There are service smiles; kitchen efficiency. And that precipitous climb up those metal stairs will offer you a really clean washroom for your Dosa'ed up fingers as they enter recovery from the experience.