The Last Appetite

I was hoping that my last post on this website would be an embittered rant against Cambodia, its malign and kleptocratic government and its local people like the last jaded hurrah of most expatriated writers as they leave Asia for richer climes. George Orwell wrote a whole book about it. Even Christopher Hitchens loves George Orwell. Coincidentally, Christopher Hitchens also wrote a whole book about that.

I can’t bring myself to do it though.

There is still too much more to write about Cambodian food and it just can’t be whittled down to one impassioned and bilious tirade. Over the past few thousand years of Cambodian food, there have only been three recipe books in English ever published on the subject and two more in French. When the global Khmer community email me for recipes for their favorite foods, I’m sorry that I haven’t covered a hundredth of Cambodia’s food and drink. Nor have I ever directly weighed in on any of the weightier issues facing Cambodia.

Thanks to everyone who commented, linked, sent me both fawning and abusive emails and asked me why I’m writing about Grape Nuts or hamburgers in Cambodia when there is something “authentic” to be eaten. Cheers to the food writers and chefs who got me started and kept encouraging me to write more widely, improve my photography and publish offline. Two years ago, I would have called you crazy if I’d been told that I could make a living out of making snide comments about trash beer and Third World food.

I started this website with a clear objective (food in Cambodia, Cambodian food) and don’t want it to become a blog about food in Cambodia and wherever else I live. So it’s an open-ended goodbye to Cambodia and Phnomenon. I’ll certainly be back and have no intention of closing the site, ever. In the meantime, I’ll be writing about food in the manner that I’ve become accustomed at The Last Appetite.

Phnom Penh Microbrew

Man Han Lou Gold Beer, Phnom Penh

I leave Phnom Penh for a month and a half to discover that firstly, there is a microbrewery that has been in operation for four months and secondly, that it is located not more than 200 metres from my house. There is some injustice that I leave Cambodia in a few days time.

Man Han Lou Restaurant, a gargantuan Chinese-Khmer eatery south of the Monivong-Mao Tse Toung intersection, has extended their lower level to include a mash tun and five shiny stainless steel fermentors for brewing four different beers: a pale ale (Gold); an amber ale (Red); a porter-cum-stout (Black); and a Green beer of unknown class. Their setup looks clean and temperature-controlled behind glass at the back of the bar. At night the restaurant is hard to miss, being lit in blue fairy lights like a low-rent Smurf casino.

The pale ale (Gold) is a cloudy change from the crystal clear local brews. It’s light on the hops and malt but unlike every other Cambodian beer, you can actually discern that hops and malt are used in its manufacture. The Black is a neutral stout at the bottom end of the alcohol range. It’s no Extra Klang. For a stout, it makes for easy drinking and a great beer to convert the non-stout drinking masses to the concept that stout can make for a top tropical heat tipple. Both the amber (Red) and the Green beer are undistiguished, which does beg the question of what colorant is used in the Green and for what purpose?

Price: Man Han Lou Gold Beer, US$2 for 400ml, others $2.50

Location: Man Han Lou Restaurant, 456 Monivong Blvd, Phnom Penh