Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oh Cambodian, Where Might You Be

The search for Cambodian food in New York City continues. After some short but basically exhaustive internet research on the Cambodian community in New York, I made a guess that if there was Cambodian food to be had, it would be in the Bronx along Fordham Road. You can see my earlier post and the map showing how much time I had on my hands here.

I took a trip up there after work on Tuesday. As I walked along Fordham Road near the D train I quickly saw that the stores were all pretty high-rent places - national chain stores, fast food joints, and local powerhouses like Jimmy Jazz. A mom and pop restaurant isn't likely to be able to pay that rent. On the west side of the Grand Concourse, the stores get a little more local - cell phones stores, pizza joints, and bodegas. But still no Cambodian food. I couldn't find anything but Goya in the bodegas.

I must have looked lost, as I was soon greeted with "hey guy - whatcha lookin' for?" When I said Cambodian, my good samaritan just looked bewildered. But then I started getting some interesting leads. First I stopped in at St. Rita's youth program, which does a lot of work in the Cambodian community. The staff there told me that there was a Cambodian grocery a few blocks away, above the park on University. Very excited, I walked there, but it turned out to be a Vietnamese grocery. The owner pointed me towards Jerome Ave just south of Kingsbridge, where he said there was a larger Asian grocery that was owned by someone who is Cambodian. Once at Phnom Penh Market (2639 Jerome), the owner confirmed that she was Cambodian but said that they didn't sell any Cambodian food, just Thai and Vietnamese. This is the point in my fantasy where I would get invited to their house for some home cooking, but alas, that didn't happen. I also went and peeked into Phung Hung across the street (2614 Jerome), but their food appeared to be just Vietnamese. They were closed, so I couldn't investigate further, but this place might deserve a return trip.

Sadly, it seems that there is no Cambodian food to be had in the five boroughs. It almost (almost) makes me sad that the place in Fort Greene has shut down. It seems that I'm going to have to content myself with driving a few hours to Apsara's in Providence for their nime chow. Translation: heaven.


John-Paul said...

How funny. I myself have been lamenting the lack of Cambodian food in NYC for years -- an uncharacteristic travesty, seeing how many cultures NYC represents effortlessly -- and recently I have had cravings for it that have caused me to rescan the foodscape, as it were. I didn't come up with anything either; kudos to you for checking out that area of the Bronx, which I had read is a small but burgeoning Cambodian enclave.

The one thing I was able to find is *one dish* -- yep, just one -- at a Chinatown Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant on Bayard named Bo Ky. If I heard her correctly, the owner said her husband was a Vietnamese from Phnom Penh. They serve a single rice-noodle soup with pork, bean sprouts, scallion, and other stuff. Good, but hardly mind-blowing. The table condiments are creative, though, including fish sauce and two kinds of homemade chili (not the typical bottled stuff, a la Sambal Oulek), so you can improvise.

I'm lucky enough to have relatives near Boston, so while visiting them this weekend I made time to go to Floating Rock in Revere. Well worth the trip. Their pickled fish in curry was distinctly Cambodian and just luscious.

Good luck.

John-Paul said...

Mentioning Boston brings to mind another way in which my home town trumps NYC: Armenian food. It's too bad we're mostly missing that too (unless you can advise otherwise). :)

Brooklyn Ramblings said...

John-Paul, thanks for the Bo Ky lead - I'm looking forward to checking it out. As for the Armenian food, I don't know much about it, but I'll keep an eye out. We should start a list of cuisines that are surprisingly missing in NYC.

Anonymous said...

See, I googled nime chow and arrived here. I drive to Providence from Maine just to see my we can go to apsara and get the nime chow.