Phnom Penh: The Crispiest Chicken Wings in Town
244 East Georgia Street, Vancouver
I’ve been coming to Phnom Penh since I was a kid so it’s great to see this place rise in the ranks to become one of Vancouver’s best restaurants. They do serve the crispiest chicken wings I’ve ever tasted. Phnom Penh’s countless awards, everything from Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards to Golden Plates line the small lobby wall. And for all of you Anthony Bourdain fans out there, he has eaten here before and autographed a take-out menu on the wall.
However, I suppose also due to Phnom Penh’s popularity, the menu prices have raised since I was little. So much so that the person I was dining with exclaimed he was not going to pay a ‘hipster tax’ on pho, he’d rather eat pho at a ghetto joint. So we ended up ordering a mixed egg noodle that came without broth but with a wide variety of meats – seafood and slices of pork and tripe with a sweet and salty soy and oyster sauce blend.
This dish is also served with rice noodles but we prefer the egg noodles since they soak up more sauce. The meats in this dish were all very tender and flavourful, even the shrimp! The sweet and salty sauce is very filling though, even I had to share this dish, and for those of you who know me, I’m a bottomless pit!
Our next dish was the famous butter beef. I didn’t spot any giant chunks of butter floating in the dish but I think the name could also refer to the amazing smooth and silky texture of the meat. I’ve been coming to Phnom Penh for years but have never tried this dish. It was because I don’t actually enjoy beef carpaccio. I’ve tried it a billion times at wine and cheese receptions and I end up spending the rest of the night gulping red wine to get rid of the taste.
I still haven’t figured out the identity of each and every one of the herbs and spices in the butter beef but the combo of cilantra, garlic and a strong soy and vinaigrette marinating the nearly totally raw butter beef made it so amazing, I really couldn’t stop eating it. I almost ate half the dish all by myself. The texture of the extremely rare beef was exactly like tissue thin skin, the pieces in the middle part of the dish were the best, soaked through with the marinade, juicy and moist. I can’t believe I didn’t try this sooner.
Now onto these glorious wings. I haven’t figured out their secret recipe but these are literally the crispiest wings I have ever eaten. And I have eaten a lot of chicken wings, they’re my primary vice. Phnom Penh’s wings come to the table piping hot, fresh from the fryer and dressed in just a few sprigs of cilantro with tomatoes on the side.
The first bite is crucial, that satisfying crunch of the crispy skin and the moist and tender meat underneath is an unmatched sensation. You can tell that I really take my chicken wings seriously. Seasoned simply with just salt and pepper, and probably gallons of MSG, these wings did make me thirsty for the rest of the afternoon but it was worth it.
To quench some of my thirst, I tried to order Phnom Penh’s famous mango slush. Unfortunately, they don’t serve it any more. Maybe it’s only a summertime item. So I settled for a lychee slush which was just as tasty. And there were real pieces of lychee in the bottom! The drink was sweet and refreshing and a perfect pairing to the crispy, salty chicken wings.
We also ordered some traditional Vietnamese iced coffee which is served with the French press still dripping coffee into a glass with condensed milk. A glass of ice is also provided. I’ve always thought the most fun part about this order is preparing the coffee myself. When the press has drained, the coffee is to be poured over ice. We decided to add the ice into the coffee glass though, since we’d waste less coffee that way. Then a simple stir to mix up the condensed milk, coffee and ice, and the drink is ready! I actually add a teaspoon of condensed milk to my daily morning coffee so Vietnamese coffee makes me feel right at home. It’s sweet, smooth and kind of reminds me of coffee ice cream.
Our last dish was Combo B on the menu, a platter of traditional Vietnamese and Cambodian appetizers: rice noodles, rice rolls filled with pork, spring rolls, Vietnamese ham and a prawn ball wrapped around a sugar cane.
The vietnamese ham was pretty neutral in flavour compared to the salty chicken wings. It’s made of a pork meat blend, and tastes a lot leaner than it looks.
The rice rolls are filled with some salty scrumptious pork and herb filling.
I’m not the biggest fan of rice noodles but it’s a great addition to this platter to balance out the flavours and textures.
I’ve always loved the prawn ball on this platter, it’s crispy on the outside with soft prawn meat in the middle.
My absolute favourite item on the platter are obviously the spring rolls. Just as crispy as the chicken wings, these rolls are the perfect bite size pieces too.
Filled with minced pork, vermicelli, herbs and spices, these little spring rolls are dangerously addictive and wildly delicious.
This revisit has reconfirmed Phnom Penh as one of my top 10 favourite restaurants!