Tag Archives: cambodian

Leftovers: Little La Lune

A new wave of Cambodian cooking for the L.A. Times:


PHOTO by GARY FRIEDMAN / L.A. TIMES

In Long Beach’s Cambodia Town, restaurants are measured not only by the heat of their ground pork curries or the tartness of their sour catfish soups but also by the brilliance of their chandeliers and the strength of their karaoke-capable sound systems. For years, La Lune was such a place, a restaurant where birthday parties were celebrated, anniversaries were commemorated and mayoral campaigns were launched.

But in April, a fire wiped out La Lune. Losing the restaurant tore open a void in the Khmer community, one that the Saing family worked quickly to fill. Now La Lune has been refined and reborn as Little La Lune, a small-scale spinoff in a quiet strip mall with ambitions beyond its downsized dining room. Little La Lune isn’t simply leveraging its legacy; the restaurant represents a new wave, a contemporary Cambodian cafe designed for a new generation.

Little La Lune is a picture of Modernism. A bouquet of pendant lamps casts columns of light onto wine-red walls. Radiant white booths glow with a halo of backlighting. It’s a stark contrast to Cambodia Town’s biggest banquet halls, where decades-old dining rooms remain unchanged, as if being preserved for historical study. Little La Lune’s menu too has been recalibrated. Gone are the hallmarks of the banquet kitchen: no hulking lobster tails, no caldrons of Cantonese-style soup, no oversize platters of dessert. The menu instead has been pared down to the most approachable essentials.

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Cross-Cultural Tamales at Sak Donuts

It’s a quintessential Southern California story: a Cambodian couple takes over a donut shop, learns the tamale trade from an employee and eventually works those neat, polenta-like packets of masa into a menu of crullers and coffee.

Garden Grove’s Sak Donuts, hidden in a Harbor Blvd. strip mall on the periphery of Little Saigon, is as exemplary of the American eating experience as any hamburger or rack of ribs.

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Leftovers: Phnom Penh Noodle

25 years of noodles for the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

Despite decades along Anaheim Street, Khmer cooking lacks the traction of some of its Southeast-Asian neighbors. Without a defining dish with which to colonize the American appetite (think of the crusty portability of banh mi or the spaghetti-like ubiquity of pad thai), Cambodian cuisine often feels overly foreign. But what can at times seem impenetrable—plates scattered with unknown herbs and preparations that have no Western analogs—is presented so plainly at Phnom Penh Noodle that it’s not just accessible, it’s endearing.

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