Fried Heng Hwa Bee Hoon 兴化炒米粉
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After a long day at work, my friends and I hopped into a rented car so we could get out of town for the weekend. Only this time instead of a rented car, we were able to hire a driver to take us to our destination in his old car, driving at a dizzying speed. Sitting in the front seat, I was worried he was going to run into a vehicle or incoming pedestrian, but like most drivers in his part of the world, he seemed to always know what he was doing. Also, instead of suburban houses and highways, we saw lush fields of rice paddies and farmers eying their cattle and children. I should mention my friends were from Belgium, China, and France and our weekend getaway was Kampot, a river town located three hours south of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
After the driver dropped us off to our destination, we heard of a dockside restaurant located by a river, which specialized in Kampot pepper crab. Kampot pepper is a distinct green pepper cultivated in this particular area of Cambodia. They have the appearance of bright green berries, but each one packs a snappy little punch. We hired a tuk tuk driver to take us across the bridge on his motor-carriage to the restaurant, Ta Eou. From the outside, Ta Eou looked like a stick-assembled hut jutting out from the river. Inside, families and friends were sitting together eating seafood and drinking beer. Fans were placed throughout the restaurant to allow customers a chance to escape from the humidity.
We sat down and promptly ordered the fried crabs. When our plate of Kampot pepper crabs arrived, our mouths were watering with delight. They were so delish. The crabs were savory and the addition of the local peppers gave the dish an extra kick. It made the effort in taking apart the hard shells worth it. I remember my cohort of multinational friends hungrily feasting on the crabs with our beers in tow. We toasted to our efforts in working hard at our jobs and enjoying our time in a small riverside town. In some ways, it was a familiar sight: Four friends came together for a casual weekend getaway and were toasting happy-hour style after a long week at work. Yet it couldn’t be more foreign.
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