Amokalypse Now: frizz restaurant

frizz, Cambodia’s only Dutch-owned (and capitalization-free) Khmer restaurant is located on the strip of restaurants that I tend to avoid: Phnom Penh’s riverfront. I don’t avoid them because they’re at all bad or even targeted at tourists. I just seem to have fallen prey to the habit of eating inland and then heading riverwards for a digestif. As hot season approaches, so does the urge to chase the riverfront breeze. frizz is notable amongst the Tonle Sap-facing properties for both serving Khmer cuisine and for having Khmer vegetarian options on the menu.

frizz restaurant fish amok

On ordering, the waiter kindly informed me that the fish amok ($4) would take twenty minutes to be made fresh, which gave me ample time to have my sneakers appraised as dirty by the local bootlicks, buy a newspaper, be harassed by the limbless and destitute, and try on some sunglasses from the passing vendors. We engaged in a lively discussion on whether scraping the bottom of the barrel and atomising the market counts as entrepreneurialism.

The amok was topped with a huge slug of coconut cream beneath which lurked a large portion of fresh snakehead fish fillet and a chilli-heavy spice paste. None of the essential slok ngor leaf to be seen but a decent mousseline consistency. A previous amok from frizz had been steamed solid into a circular puck of curry and turned out onto the plate, thus bearing an unfortunate resemblance to an inverted can of coconut-flavoured Whiskas (“Gives his coat that Cambodian shine!”) but this version was nowhere to be seen.

Owner Frits Mulder also runs a day-long Khmer cooking class presided over by one of his staff, which is well worth it for food tourists and expats alike because it is the only Khmer cooking class in town. I took the class over two years ago and enjoyed it, more for the opportunity to bone up on my local herb knowledge on the morning market tour rather than the cooking itself.

Location: 335 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh.

6 thoughts on “Amokalypse Now: frizz restaurant”

  1. “Gives his coat that Cambodian shine!”

    I will send you the invoice for having the coffee cleaned out of my laptop; as reading that line made it shoot out of my nose and all over it.

    Lord Playboy

    P.S. have you tried the mini bite-size fish amok that they do at Khmer Surin ?

  2. Yes. I’ve eaten the amok at Khmer Surin often but the quality there seems inversely proportional to the number of tour buses parked out the front. I’ll be covering them in the weeks to come.

    Last time I ate there with some Khmer friends a few tourists took photos of us eating. I hope that when they get them processed that they’ll notice me giving them the finger.

  3. Is it me or am I just stingy? When I was traveling in Siem Reap, it struck me that eating out in Cambodia is not cheap. For Khmer food in restaurants, I am paying US$ price, that is $4-$5 for appetizers and $6-$10 for entrees (seafood is obviously more expensive!). For the kind of money spent, I could eat very very well in Malaysia.

    Your amok is $4. So is it expensive or is it reasonably priced for Cambodian’s standard?

  4. Thanks Phil for your review. Suppose I have to – once again – urge my cooks to exactly follow the recipe of my late chef, who in my opinion was the Queen of Amok.
    One thing in your review struck me:
    “A previous amok from frizz had been steamed solid into a circular puck of curry and turned out onto the plate”
    I have never seen amok being served that way at my restaurant. Are you sure that was at frizz?

  5. Frits – Positive. It was in mid-September 2006. Steamed solid, presented with the banana leaf unwrapped but beneath the amok. Oddly, it’s what got me thinking about the variations on amok and the reason that I reviewed frizz first. It too was good and it wouldn’t be fair to review a restaurant on the basis of a single sitting.

    Rasa – frizz is reasonable for a riverfront meal and head and shoulders above its nearby competitors. You can get an amok for about half as much (or less) but once you drop below about $2 then the quality starts to suffer.

    Cambodia is much cheaper than anywhere I’ve eaten in the region but it depends on where and what you eat. In Siem Reap (and many other Cambodian towns) there’s a bad habit of overcharging foreigners. I can read some Khmer script on menus (i.e. I recognise a few words rather than read) and often the Khmer bit at the back is two to three times cheaper than the English part for exactly the same meal. It used to make me angry but now I’ve really stopped caring.

    Eating at the markets anywhere tends to result in meals that are below $1 and usually close to the 50 cent mark. My weekly vegetable bill for two usually comes to less than $4.

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