Last year we enjoyed the affordable, Vietnamese-meets-Thai style grub at Cheng Heng, a Cambodian restaurant on University Avenue. But a recent return trip got our hearts pumping for bachelor #32 on the menu: the Curry Fish ($9).
Also called amok or ho mok, this curry is sometimes considered Cambodia’s national dish. Just one bite of it unlocks a steamy cavern of flavors that slowly reveal themselves like turns in a winding passage.
Cheng Heng’s version is equal parts sweet and savory. The bowl of custard-like yellow salmon is steamed in banana leaves and swollen with a rich coconut curry that absorbs and enhances the ultra earthy characteristics of the fatty fish. Something terrific and boozy, like roasted tomatoes, gives the milky sweet curry an extra heady quality, and kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass add a streak of zing. Then tender stalks of bitter Chinese broccoli cut the luxury in a great way. We’re talking a flavor orchestra, here. It’s marvelous. And hot. And under 10 bucks! National dish, indeed.
Cheng Heng, 448 University Ave W, St. Paul, MN 55103; 651.222.5577