Muan Ang & Bok Lahong
By: Moul Jetr ( June, 2001 Volume 1 No.2 )

The craze for grilled chicken with papaya salad is now sweeping Phnom Penh. Better known to the locals as Muan Ang and Bok Lahong, this combination is often served with steaming glutinous rice baked in a neatly woven straw canister. In the evenings, swarms of people cross the Chroy Changvar Bridge (Japanese Friendship Bridge) for a serving of tasty, delicious Muan Ang and Bok Lahong from the restaurant strip of Preak Leap. The aroma of this local specialty in the air has an almost magical power. All restaurants in this "foodland" across the bridge serve this magical meal. On this side of the Tonle Sap, however, there is a cozy corner of the street unofficially known by most as French Street that serves this magical dish as well.
This is the "Beer Garden" managed by the Sharaton Cambodia Hotel at 5 French Street, officially known as Street 47, near the famous Wat Phnom. This comfortable hideaway is open from 5 pm to midnight daily throughout the year. Ms. Prak Bunnary, 26, master chef at the Beer Garden said that she serves only young chicken weighing less than 1.2 kilos each. This is to ensure that the servings are tender. She prepares the sauce to a special secret formula, ensuring the texture and taste of her chicken remains succulent and moist. She believes this is why her restaurant is always packed. "A testimony to the success of my personal formula," she beamed.

Dishes are all very reasonably priced: A skewer of chicken liver and gizzard is only 1,000 Riels; a skewer of chicken wings 1,500 Riels, a leg and thigh 3,000 Riels and a half chicken only 6,000 Riels. She explained that her most popular dinner combination was the grilled half chicken with Bok Lahong (Papaya salad) and a portion of glutinous rice served in a palm leaf canister. This set costs just US$2.50.
She added that her regulars come for her special sauces as much as the chicken and spicy salad. There are two types of sauce to satisfy her customers' palate: One is a Cambodian favorite nicknamed the 'triple-gem' - a sweet, sour and not so spicy mix. Then there is another variation nicknamed "Thai Explosive", which is also sweet and sour but much spicier because of added chilly mix to satisfy her Thai and other foreign customers. When pushed to reveal her secret formula in the preparation and seasoning of the chicken pieces, Ms. Bunnary smiled. "Besides the seasoning process, so much depends on chef's patience and skill. The seasoning ingredients are just ordinary soy sauce, white garlic, white pepper, oyster oil and lots of patience in handling the grill. It is a gift, I suppose."
Mr. Sim Dara, Resident Manager of the Sharaton Hotel who has been with the hotel since 1994, dropped in by the Beer Garden and seemed pleased with his staff of 12 well-trained personnel in neat uniform. The five grill-chefs donned surgical white while tending to sizzling pieces of chicken meat on two separate grills and all the seven waitresses were beautifully clad in classical Khmer attire.
"This is also a great place to sip beer, chat with friends and enjoying people-watching", said Mr Dara happily. "The Beer Garden has been serving Muan Ang and Bok Lahong for a good many years but it has just become more and more popular recently perhaps because the dishes have only improved with time and experience and word of mouth is bringing more customers here to enjoy the dish. Besides, Sharaton Beer Garden is having a special promotion during this period. We are offering a buy two get one free deal when a customer orders beer to go with the Muan Ang. Usually US$3 for a jug (four mugs), if a customer buys two jugs for US$6, we offer a third jug free."
The Beer Garden processes and sells between 30 and 40 kilos of chicken daily from Mondays to Fridays and about 60 kilos of chicken on weekends. Besides grilled chicken and papaya salad, the garden also serves Khmer, Thai, Chinese and European cuisine upon request. For guests who prefer to dine in air-conditioned comfort, the restaurant has an upstairs facility that can host about sixty guests comfortably. For those who prefer the open, the picnic tables at the Beer Garden can easily host about 100 guests. Should you drive, the hotel has a car park with security guards to allow you to dine with peace of mind.