Monday, January 11, 2010

Delinquent Dosas, Well-Preserved Wall Paintings and Memorable Photos

Siem Reap has a number of Indian restaurants, but Samsara, in Pub Street Alley, is the only one I noticed that specializes in South Indian cuisine (along with Northern staples, though not Swingline (groan)). The Old Market/Pub Street area, the main tourist restaurant and nightlife magnet, is crawling with restaurants, easily over a hundred I'd bet, especially if you include the outdoor noodle stalls at the market. Many of them are small places, some simple, some a little more elegant. Samsara falls into the more elegant category. I decided to have lunch there today, taking a break from my exploration of Khmer cuisine (stay tuned for a full report).

I ordered an onion dosa, opting for something smaller than the full Monty masala dosa, as I wanted to try another dish too. Unless this was a fluke, Samsara's dosas definitely need work. Mine was quite the paleface, and not nearly as crisp as it should be. The sambar, however, was very good.

I also ordered the Malabar fish curry. The sauce was great, but I wasn't thrilled with the fish. I hadn't thought to ask what kind of fish it would be made with. The taste and texture told me it was a river fish of some kind. The waitress couldn't tell me the name of the fish, but confirmed it came from the Mekong. Based on the quality of the sauces I wouldn't write the restaurant off.

After lunch I took a walk to Wat Bo, a Buddhist temple on the other side of the river. The temple itself was locked, but I walked around the grounds, chock full of stupas (but not the heavenly coffee--sorry again). I was approached by an Australian man about my age who said, "My guide book says the temple has some well-preserved nineteenth-century wall paintings. Do you know where they are?"

"I guess in the main temple," I said, "but it doesn't seem to be open."

A minute later I saw him return with an old man wielding a key, the caretaker. We entered the temple and agreed we should give an offering. One of the boxes was for a maintenance fund and another for the monks' food fund. We each dropped a dollar in the latter. On a Buddhist monk's diet, a buck goes a long way, especially in Cambodia.

On my way back to my hotel I stopped off at the McDermott Gallery, to look at the wonderfully atmospheric Angkor photos by John McDermott, who the New York Times called "the Ansel Adams of Angkor." If you find yourself in Siem Reap, be sure to visit the gallery.


Post a Comment

<< Home