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The day the vegetarians didn't have to ditch the dumplings

By: Expat Advisory Posted: January-01-2006 in
Expat Advisory

t's never easy being a vegetarian in a foreign country. Even if you learn to say "Knom ot che nam sach tee" in your first week, the concept of avoiding meat (and especially fish!) sometimes require a little explanation. Fortunately, Phnom Penh's range of restaurants means that the meat-phobic among us can still have a social life and enjoy some of the amazing food that this country has to offer (just don't try to ask whether anything is made out of fish sauce... it's just easier to be in denial until you get home).

I've been jealous of some of the delicious-looking dumplings that my meat-eating friends have been scoffing down across the city. So at a recent visit to Lian Rong Dumpling Hall with a big group, I was very pleased to see vegetarian dumplings featured on the menu. No drooling over my friends dishes' whilst I made do with my rice and eggs tonight! We were able to enjoy vegetarian versions of everything the meat-eaters ordered and more - vegetarian dumplings, vegetarian fried noodles, braised mushrooms and Dumpling Hall's specialty, scallion (spring onion) pancakes. There were several other vego options available on the multi-lingual menu -including tofu, eggplant, rice, noodles, egg and seaweed dishes - but I just couldn't go past the dumplings.

They didn't disappoint - deep fried, so probably not the healthiest regular option, but there were green vegetables involved so it has to be good for you - right? And stuffed with a delicious combination of leek and egg, they were full of flavor, which is all that matters at that time of night. Steamed dumplings are also an option for the slightly more health-conscious.

The vegetarian fried noodles came with a wide range of vegetables, and were also flavorsome and satisfying. The braised mushrooms with rice were the least exciting dish that we tried - the dish was served with more capsicum (or green peppers, depending where in the world you are from) than mushrooms and the few mushrooms that did make it onto my plate appeared to be of the canned variety rather than fresh.

The flavor of the scallion pancakes more than made up for my disappointment with the mushrooms. I am sure people who actually know something about Chinese food will accuse me of blasphemy, but to my uneducated taste buds, they were the perfect Asian equivalent to garlic bread. The refreshingly sweet watermelon provided at the end of the meal was a welcome bonus.

Overall the dinner was a little oily, but both the vegos and the carnivores left feeling very full and satisfied. "Vegoquarians" are also well catered for, with a range of prawn, eel, squid, crab and "goby" fish dishes. Best visited in a group so that you can try a range of dishes, the atmosphere at Dumpling Hall is busy and bustling, thanks to the friendly wait staff and plenty of chatting Khmer and foreigner customers. And all for less than $2 per person, including drinks - I'll definitely be back. Vegetarian dumplings for lunch anyone?

You can find Lian Rong Dumpling Hall on Monivong Boulevard, about half a block further north from the New York Hotel, just south of Street 154.

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