vegansaurus!

12/09/2008

Review: Angkor Borei!  »

Angkor Borei is a Cambodian restaurant in the Mission on the edge of Bernal Heights. Its location has no bearing on this review, except that I would probably not have patronized it as many times as I have were it not so close to my homes, past and present. It’s really lucky the Mission has such a wide variety of restaurants, because I have to tell you, most all of the decisions I make are location-based. Being extremely lazy means if a place is not within walking distance, I may never go to it. Shameful, but true. Maybe if I were employed again and my employer were buying my Fast Pass, I would have reasons to be out every day in different neighborhoods with the means to get wherever I wanted, and the occasional cab wouldn’t feel so much like hemorrhaging money. TOO BAD.

Thankfully, there’s Angkor Borei, within walking and delivery distance (depending on the time, weather, and your ability to leave the house for comestibles). Every time we eat here, or order from here, all I want is the peanut mock duck, in curry with tons of lightly cooked spinach, and made of heaven. C’est si bon, the peanut mock duck. Usually curry, be it subcontinental Indian or or Thai, riles my vengeful stomach into a day-long rage, but not the peanut mock duck’s curry sauce; it is perfect in every way, and I love it so.

Of course there are loads of other tasty Cambodian dishes for you to love, especially the appetizer that involves you filling raw spinach leaves with combinations of ginger, peanuts, toasted coconut, red onions, chili, lime juice, and a mysterious but vegan Chef’s sauce. Make sure to ask for the vegetarian version, otherwise it comes with dried shrimp, bleh. You can ask for a demonstration if you fail to understand the concept of putting some small pieces of food and sauce inside a larger, flatter food item, and eating it as though it were a tiny taco.

The last time I was there, as part of a Vegansaurus eating occasion, we ordered the seasonal special pumpkin curry with tofu and asparagus, which was the best pumpkin curry I’ve had anywhere, and here is why: instead of making a regular curry with pumpkin chunks, they added pumpkin to the curry base, and then served the whole thing inside a big piece of pumpkin, which acted like a bowl that held (and spilled) the delicious curry over a larger china plate.

As soon as we realized that the entire dish—as in, the curry and the pumpkin shell—was edible, there was a great flashing of spoons and stuffing of faces and suddenly the pumpkin curry plate was entirely empty. If you want this dish—which you should, because it is so, so tasty—you ought to call ahead to see if they’re serving it, as it was on the specials menu.

I suppose other people order other things, but mostly I like the peanut mock duck, the spinach leaves, and the (vegetarian, obvs) crispy crepe. Oh, that crispy crepe is a delight as well. Yesterday I tried the hot and sour soup with mock chicken for the first time, and everyone else seemed to like it very much but it was not really to my taste, especially because of the huge, pyramid-shaped chunks of tomatoes that came in it. I really dislike tomatoes in this form and they put me off the entire soup. Also there were a few roots I could not identify as being in/edible, yes my ignorance is my responsibility but acknowledging that doesn’t make me suddenly find them appealing. Mostly, though, the tomatoes, which of course are not traditional Cambodian produce and in my opinion had no business grossing up this fine soup. By “fine” I mean “how children describe their school days to their parents,” because as I said it wasn’t really to my liking. Also, everyone else seemed to really enjoy the dried bean curd (tofu skin, I believe) in turmeric sauce, and the mock chicken in a red curry with bamboo shoots and green beans, but the tofu skin did not make me happy so much as make me think, Goodness, this is slimy, and I was too full to eat any of the red curry, so at the end of that meal, my favorites are still my favorites. They’ve won awards for the peanut mock duck, though, so even if you think my tastes are limited, at least they are pedestrian so you don’t have to be afraid of them. HAR HAR.

Regardless, go to Angkor Borei, eat delicious vegan Cambodian food, feel a weigh lifted from your shoulders because you do not once have to say NO FISH SAUCE, let alone loudly enunciate each syllable and/or actually learn how to say and write NO FISH SAUCE in the language of every country whose cuisine uses fish sauce, because sometimes you can say it a million times with a million pleases and still your food will  arrive stinking of a million carcasses and you know you have been betrayed. This has never happened at Angkor Borei, though, because they understand what “vegetarian” means, so we are all safe. Really.

The staff is very friendly and attentive, and they never let your water glass go empty. The little candies that come with the check are tamarind-flavored. Their most recent health inspection score is 93. If I weren’t full now, I’d wish I had leftover peanut mock duck to mix up with rice and devour as a late-night why-aren’t-I-asleep-dear-god-what’s-wrong-with-me snack.

[spinach photo via yelp; pumpkin curry photo by Laura]

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