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Sep 3, 2008 12:34 PM

Tepthida Khmer in Lowell

Stopped at Tepthida while craving some good Cambodian food in Lowell over the weekend. The food was quite authentic and tasty, especially the dishes with prahoc in them (you have to like the fermented fish taste!). The loclac was less good than some of the other dishes. But the place is very sleek and well-decorated, and when we were there a huge, dressed-up Khmer clan came in and took over the whole restaurant to celebrate something or other, which was fun. I also liked the Khmer karaoke on the TV. I definitely recommend it if you're looking for an upscale Cambodian place.

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  1. Yum!!! Thank you, I love new asian places. I haven't tried this one. Is it new? Menu looks fantastic.

    6 Replies
    1. re: lexpatti

      I think it opened early this year. I posted about it but no one really took notice. It's on 110 near the intersection with Westford St. I thought the loc lac was really good there, and it does look like the kind of place Khmer people may go for a special occasion. I wouldn't say it was any better overall than Red Rose, though.

      1. re: Dinsdale45

        can you elaborate a little more on Red Rose? i did a board search and only found two mentions, this thread being one.

        (p.s. is the Dinsdale handle a reference to Monty Python?)

        1. re: ScubaSteve

          red rose is in pailin plaza on middlesex street. spacious interior with multiple booths and tables. obligatory paintings of angkor wat on the walls and cambodian karaoke playing on the television. attentive bilingual staff and a large menu offering standard fare

          went a few months ago. had saiko ang (grilled beef satay), bok l'hong (green papaya salad), jrok sway (green mango salad), lort cha (fried lort noodles), and somlar kari (cambodian red curry)

          i prefer the slightly homier cooking at floating rock and mittapheap but would gladly go back again to try more dishes

          1. re: galangatron

            thanks very much for the info.
            i'm in Haverhill so Lowell is by far easier to reach for me.

          2. re: ScubaSteve

            The post below is a good summary. I particularly enjoy the mango shrimp salad, fried squid, and lemongrass chicken. The people running the place are very nice. I think everything in Pailin Plaza is owned by one family and the chef(s) for Red Rose are shared with the big upstairs restaurant/banquet hall at the other end of the plaza (Pailin City?).

            Yes, nice pickup on the Piranha Brothers reference ;-)

          3. re: Dinsdale45

            Been wanting to get to Red Rose, everytime I pass it.

        2. I hadn't read Dinsdales' previous post. Looks more accessible for us gai jin because everything seems well-translated. Lots of traditional Cambodian, but about 30% Thai dishes I'd say, as well....Looks more upscale than any Cambodian restaurant around, except for Elephant Walk, but I don't really consider them Cambodian anyway....

          1. DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! As in the experience I had there last spring:


            8 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              That sounds a lot like the bits of fish bone in Prahok, and yes, lot of veggies are served raw in Cambodian food, that we may be used to cooked. It took me awhile to get used to raw eggplant used to scoop up fish paste dishes....I thought that mushroom dish sounded great when I read the menu!

              1. re: galleygirl

                Definitely not fishbones - it was a vegetarian dish. Some years ago we went to a Lowell Cambodian place that had a tasty lunch buffet - I think it was Red Rose but whenever I drive by, the location doesn't seem right. Did they ever move? The buffet items at the place we visited were either not labeled at all, or illegibly so, which scared my DC a bit.

                1. re: greygarious

                  I think you may be referring to Khemara on Westford St., which is now Hong Kong restaurant, and is only open for catered events. I used to eat at that buffet once a week or so and was fairly friendly with the owner (she sold after getting hurt breaking up a fight in the place). I really miss it and nothing has really filled that void.

                  They used to have a mushroom dish with those funky stringy 'shrooms with little buds on them. Usually pretty spicy, too, with chiles mixed in.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Is this what you had (as written on their online menu, in their Traditional Dishes section)? If so, while being a vegetable dish, it cannot be vegetarian, with the use of prahoc (fermented fish paste). I had a great experience dining at Tepthida and posted the details on your thread (linked above). Sorry your experience wasn't good!!

                    P’set Kob ...............................................................................9.95 Grilled stuffed mushrooms, ephantium seeds and prahoc


                    1. re: nuthatches

                      Yes, that was it - but there definitely is no fish in it (galleygirl siggested it may have been fishbones), and the waiter did say that the sharp shards were ephantium shell. They were hard as rocks.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        Sorry, the menu says ephantium _seeds,_ and prahoc. Prahoc(k) is indeed a fermented fish paste, and this dish is not vegetarian. It may not have meat, but it certainly has fish...Prahoc is fermented fish paste. Some of the bones do not totally dissolve. That's the truth, Ruth!

                2. re: greygarious

                  yes I read that response and found it a bit xenophobic and hinted of someone unprepared to try different foods, I left it alone but when the comments are brought to this discussion the tone has to be remarked upon. My only comment about this place - we ate there in June - is that the prahoc dishes are being made palatable to the unadventurous.
                  Undoubtedly because of the majority of the general public who when they get the different dishes complain when they get what they ordered.
                  The food is more adventurous at the Red Rose and the other restaurant just doors away (upstairs). We can only hope that places like the Red Rose keep their authenticity and are not ruined by unprepared folks who complain when given different and radical ethnic foods.
                  Those of us who REALLY enjoy the more authentic foods can sometimes have to beg for real food trying to convince the servers that we DO really want this food and will not send it back because of this issue.

                  1. re: Janeinma

                    I'm sorry that they're toning down the prahoc at Tepthida, very sorry! I posted on that other thread (link above) about my worries in this vein. I too find it frustrating when restaurants that begin with high quality and authentic foods are pulled down by diners who are not as open as they might be.

                    Of course, no surprise I found this much the case for Thai restaurants. I lived in Bangkok back in the mid-1990s -- and before that in Seattle, at which time since Seattle is a Pacific Rim city, was on the forefront of the wave of popularity for Thai restaurants. Since my return to the states and over the years I dine less and less at Thai restaurants, because it's progressively too much of a risk that they have taken the low road to meet the expectations of non-Thai diners who can't handle hot chiles, or fish sauce, or exotic mushrooms, or durian -- those whose idea of "Asian" food is grounded primarily in Chinese-American heavy, sweet glop (which I think is lovable in its own right, in its own context). How many times I have had to ask for naam plaa prik at a Thai restaurant, when it should their standard condiment!

                    Where I currently live, in the Pioneer Valley of western MA, the situation for "ethnic" foods getting toned down is exacerbated I think by how there are too few Thais/Vietnamese/Indians etc.... to give support to authenticity -- but simultaneously many "non-ethnic" folks out this way think they love many ethnic cuisines. I take with a grain of salt any recommendation made by a Pioneer Valley diner about a Pioneer Valley ethnic restaurant as being authentic -- have heard that about atrocities such as Thai Corner in Amherst and India Palace and shudder to think that this is their idea of what Thai or Indian foods are about.

                3. After reading the posts on this restaurant a group of four of us tried it today (9/5/08) for lunch. Al I can say is Wow!! First of all the restaurant has a very pleasant interior and is spotlessly clean. Even the restrooms are nice with a stack of fresh cloth towels to use for wiping your hands. I have traveled extensively in Southeast Asia for many years now but Cambodia and Myanmar are the only two countries I haven't visited but I have to say that this is the authentic S.E. Asian food I have ever had in this area.

                  Not being familiar with most Cambodian dishes we asked the waitress to suggest things we could share. She suggested a soup to start with which was almost the same as the Vietnamese Canh Cua. It had shrimp, tomatoes,pineapple and other vegetables in a very tasty broth that had fish sauce in it. It was delicious. Then we had a beef dish that included lemongrass and Tumeric and onions. It was slightly spicy and tasted of a curry flavor. Again delicious. We also had a seafood salad that included shrimp, calamari and fish in a citrusy dressing with a lot of herbs and vegetables The last dish was called drunken Noodles and it was wide rice noodles in a spicy sauce with beef and a variety of vegetables. A large bowl of steamed rice accompanied everything.

                  The quality and flavors of the food were excellent as was the overall presentation of the food. We tried the Durian pudding and Sticky Rice for dessert. The flavor of Durian is not everyone's favorite but this was very tasty.

                  The service was very friendly too. The only very minor complaint I had was that the food took quite awhile to arrive after we ordered but this was obviously because each dish is made to order so give yourself adequate time if you decide to try it. I am almost afraid to recommend this place so highly because I hate to see it become so popular that you can't get in but they deserve high praise for what they are doing

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: RoyRon

                    She suggested lovely dishes, but they were indeed, Vietnamese influenced (the Canh Cua-like soup) and Thai; Drunken noodles is a totally Thai dish. The seafood salad is found in Vietnamese, Thai and Cambodian menus...

                  2. we were there last night (Sunday), arrived around 5:30pm and there was only one couple there. just after we were seated two parties of six arrived and with the concrete floor the sound level really came up. i think this place would be Very Loud with a full house.

                    we started with eth Kroch Chean (quail) and while it was pretty good it tasted like ordinary Chin-American chicken wings. we were looking for something more like Xinh Xinh's grilled quail. we also got for starters the Bok L’Hong (green papaya salad) which while decent didn't have the crunch of other versions we have had and the liberal amount of fish sauce used really changed the color to a muddy brown-ish green that wasn't too appealing, it was also lacking the diced prawns and peanuts cited on the menu.

                    moving on to mains we had the Mee Cha which was limp, overcooked noodles topped with velveted and fried white fish in a sweet sauce that was pretty meh. next up was Drunken Noodles which was Very Good, wide, chewy rice noodles in a spicy sauce with a goodly assortment of veg and beef slices. the Loc Lac was a true standout for me, nice light crunchy coating, highly seasoned beef chunks with some yummy fat. and lastly we got the Prahoc K'tis and i'll agree that raw eggplant is something to get used to but the dipping sauce was Wicked Good, i'd eat this alone on some of their excellent long grain steamed rice.

                    they have beer and wine. i had a couple Tsing Tao and the Chick had a glass of Turn Me Riesling that quite frankly tasted a little old, she switched to Bud light. they also pour a very week iced tea instead of water that my girl, who was not at the table when it was poured, remarked upon sitting "is their tap water brown?"

                    the bill was $70 before tip.

                    i'm looking forward to a return visit soon as Lowell is more in my near-'Hood than Boston.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                      I ate at Tepthida Khmer last evening and remarked to my dining companion that I felt like my palate was being challenged by the totally unfamiliar flavors. I meant this as a compliment, i.e., that I felt like I was discovering taste buds I never knew I had.

                      I've had limited Cambodian experiences before -- several Elephant Walk visits and time spent at the old Carambola, now the Elephant Walk in Waltham -- but I felt like these flavors were way further out there. And to summarize, I ate fish paste, and I liked it.

                      I do think they recognize the tension between "authentic" and what's likely to appeal to a more mainstream American audience, and try to balance the two. I ordered the trei chu-aem (fish in a pineapple, onion, and pepper sauce) and the server asked if I wanted the fish with bones or not. Not being a big fan of fish bones, I elected against them.

                      When the dish first arrived I got a strong whiff of fish sauce or fish paste that I initially found unpalatable but after making it through my first few tentative bites the dish was delicious ... I cleaned my plate. I didn't find my dining companion's durian shake to my liking, but maybe it will grow on me. She loved it.

                      Those with relatively unadventurous palates might like the trei amok (a beautiful dish of fish in a deep-orange coconut milk sauce, served in a steamed banana leaf) or one of the curry dishes. Both are delicious, and the flavors are a bit closer to the more-familiar Thai or Vietnamese cuisine (think lemongrass and coconut milk).

                      Frankly, I doubt many people immediately embrace flavors that are totally unfamiliar ... I think a normal initial reaction is to be a bit repulsed. I remember hating Indian food when I first tried it in the mid-90s, and now it's a favorite. I still tell people that I think the third time's the charm with Indian cuisine (i.e., you may dislike it the first two times but you'll fall in love if you give it a third try).

                      At any rate -- we'll definitely go back to Tepthida Khmer and continue our exploring with these new flavors.