March 8, 2018 | Arts and Culture
losing yourself in a cambodian secret recipe
According to Yelp, Angkor Restaurant does not accept Bitcoin, as of the date of publication.
You are in Providence, Rhode Island. You are at Fox Point. There are a lot of coffee shops over here (see Vol 21, Issue 1’s “Browntown Beans and Brews”). It’s pretty cold, or maybe not at all. In fact, it’s been 70 degrees all week. But it’s February, so in theory you are cold. You seek soup.
You are in Angkor Restaurant. You are here for medicine soup. You might have the flu. (If you have the flu, go home—the rest of us do not want your flu, but we will send you some soup.)
The other things on the menu are also good, great even. You will enjoy them. Perhaps some spring rolls and an order of green curry with beef and eggplant will set you right. Or a big dish of bee bong, Vietnamese rice noodles with crushed peanuts, herbs, cucumber, bean sprouts, and chicken won’t do you wrong. But remember, you are in here for medicine soup. You might get an order of scallion pancakes for the table, because you should always get an order of scallion pancakes for the table. But at Angkor, those things better be followed by medicine soup.
There’s no medicine in the way of a CVS aisle—don’t bother bracing yourself for a shot of creamy grape or drinkable orange Motrin. At Angkor, the soup is the type of medicine you hate-read about on wellness websites while stress-eating Oreos in the library. Words like “restorative” and “healing” come to mind. Whether or not you’re on board with “wellness,” or even understand what that actually means, try this soup.
Here, medicine is a deep bowl of hot, spicy-sweet, almost thick tomato-based broth. Buried within are chewy, crinkly ramen-like noodles—choose the “wheat noodles” from the menu—waiting to be mixed into the verdant handful of fresh herbs floating atop the soup. Some shrimp is mixed into the broth. You dig in with chopsticks to scoop up a large mouthful of noodles and the savory steam spills into the air to clear out your sinuses and your wintertime woes. What is it, exactly? Bay leaf? Cardamom? Galangal? The muted sound of announcers on the TV hanging in the corner near the kitchen commenting on the Olympic ice dancing competition?
Here, decor is six formica tables with a wood pattern slapped on top, and one unidentifiable plant by the door. Climate control is a ceiling fan. Company is yourself because, while take-out orders fly out the door, it’s unlikely that more than one of the six tables is filled. But as you sit tucked into the table nearest the window looking out at the Portuguese Catholic church across the two-block stretch in Fox Point known as Traverse Street, your trip to Angkor is entirely an experience of their excellent, un-inimitable, rich, and arguably famous medicinal naam yaa soup.
Sure, you will always crave your mother’s chicken soup, but then on another level, with a fiery passion, you will crave this. I’m not sure it can even be called a craving. It’s a calling, begging type of flu-season-feeling. Luckily, it’s not too far from campus, and they deliver. Go, as long as you can just forget about the fact that your ex’s ex-dealer used to live in the apartment upstairs.