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Feb 13, 2010 04:51 AM

Arlington -- Ghin Na Ree -- Let's ask for Cambodian specialties!

Denizens of Ghin Na Ree, did you know that the man who runs the place (the dad) is from Cambodia?

Yesterday, I asked the daughter what the four men at the table next to us were eating, and if they were Thai (because they didn't look Thai to me). They were slicing a small bowl of fresh hot chilis as if they'd be eating a lot of them, with some fresh lime quarters. They got a couple of crispy fish, and a big bowl of vegetables with tofu, rice, and some large pile of fried dumpling-looking things (I was *trying* to be inconspicuous as I spyed).

I was told that they were Cambodians (friends of her dad, or knew her dad), and then she told me that her dad was Cambodian. I told her that the restaurant should offer Cambodian specials sometimes. Don't you agree?

(Hmmm, now I'm going to investigate Cambodian food , and noodle around to find something they may prepare "off menu." I might suggest they try a Cambodian "specials" board, a lá Hong Kong Palace). I know little about Cambodian food; but I'm talking a wild guess that it is ferociously hot since I saw those men with all those chilis.

They are nice folks, and I like to give them business. The food is fresh and plentiful, and at a good value, in my opinion. Here is their website:
I'm going to take another look to see if there are any "Cambodian" influenced dishes on the menu.

here's another link of Khmer food:
when you click on the recipes, you can see photos, too. some really interesting combinations. (hey crab lovers, look at this tamarind crab recipe: ).

Ghin Na Ree Restaurant
2509 N Harrison St, Arlington, VA 22207

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  1. Excellent idea! We were there yesterday too; a bit later than you, probably, as the lunch crowd had thinned out.

    We really like this place, particularly the lunch specials, which cost less than $7.00 for a cup of good soup, a spring roll fresh out of the fryer, and an entree that often is too big to finish. (Good as leftovers the next day, though.)

    But I don't think Cambodian food has been available in Arlington/Falls Church for the past 20 years (since the demise of a little Cambodian place in the Rosslyn strip where Pho 75 is.)

    Next time I'm at Ghin Na Ree, I'll make the same pitch you did.

    (I wonder if Bangkok Blues could bring back the Laotian specialties it once had in an earlier incarnation.)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gonzocook

      i think we might be able to persuade them that they don't have to stick with "just thai" food -- because people are willing to explore beyond that increasingly mainstream food.

      it's one of the best lunch deals around.

      1. re: Gonzocook

        Last time I was at Ghin Na Ree for lunch, they offered only lunch specials, not the whole menu. I thought the lunch, while very cheap, was abysmal. The most dumbed down food imaginable. But it has been a while.

        I have eaten there numerous time for dinner, though, and the value and quality can be outstanding. A world of difference from lunch. Especially the spicy beef salad and the shrimp wrapped in wonton skins. Entree sized appetizers.

        The idea of cajoling them into making Cambodian food is great.

      2. Keep us posted, if they do a Cambodian special for lunch I would love to know. I never really found Cambodian food that I really liked when I was there, except for one or two dishes in Battambang, so I would like to try a few of the owners favorite dishes.
        Time to break out the travel journals and see if I can remember what those pork dishes were at White Rose in BB...

        2 Replies
        1. re: Ziv

          Like Ziv, I've never encountered Cambodian food that was anything special, nor have I ever met anyone who else has eaten in Cambodia who was excited about the food there (including the few natives I know who had traveled elsewhere and thus had other things to compare it to). Can anyone more familiar with the cuisine suggest some good Cambodian dishes that, if a good source of Cambodian food were to be found, I should try out?

          1. re: sweth

            There is an enclave of Cambodian restaurants in Long Beach, CA. If you were to post your query on the LA Board, you might get a bigger response.

            I hear there is an even bigger enclave in Cambodia, in which case the Southeast Asia Board might be fertile ground.

        2. It would be nice to try Cambodian. I've been working through Indian while having another path through Sri Lankan, and the ties both have with Thai are interesting. Then there's the Sino-Indian link. So with Cambodia situated in the region, but btwn southern Thai and Vietnam, what will come forth?

          Note: While not having traveled to Thailand, I seem to prefer Northern Thai, which lessens interest in Cambodia a small fraction. But I do prefer So. Vietnamese pho.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Dennis S

            would love to hear of your views on sri lankan cuisine links to thai food.

            1. re: alkapal

              My Sri Lankan path is interesting - a boarder with my MIL is Sri Lankan and cooks often. They're in Germantown and I'm in Reston, so it's a 6-times a year kind of deal. However they all (inluding MIL) went to Sri Lanka last month.

              In talking with them, those with Thai heritage, and those with Indian heritage say similar things about Sri Lanka. To sum up, it fits what you'd think - that aspects of each hit the shores of the island and the islanders did what they want to with each aspect.

              I personally haven't delved into Sri Lankan save for the dishes the boarder makes - but we have trouble communicating about finer points.

              In the spices MIL brought back, there are some of the more traditional Indian curries, cardamom and a chili I haven't explored, but there is Coraka, which an Indian friend doesn't fully know about, and I can't find much info on.

              To sum up, I can see how it draws from both but is its own.

              1. re: Dennis S

                try looking up "goraka" -- a tart citrus-fruity taste. mostly tart.

                sri lanka was colonized by many more countries than thailand... including portugal, england, the dutch, and had much more spice trade from arabian & other muslim countries and persia. interesting melange in the cuisine.

                1. re: alkapal

                  I couldn't find too much by a few searches. Interesting with the Portugal front - the main Indian friend I referenced is married to someone with a Portugese background.

                  1. re: Dennis S

                    In the west, goraka is more commonly called "gambooge" or "gamboge", or "Malabar tamarind", so searching for those terms might also be more fruitful (no pun intended). Tying everything back together in terms of the cross-pollination of cultures in Sri Lanka, it's worth noting that both the name gambooge and the scientific name of the plant (Garcinia cambogia) come from the name of the country where one cultivar of the plant was most prominent: Cambodia. (More on the etymology of the plant here: .)

          2. This brings back memories of my engagement party in the 80's. It was catered by my MIL's Cambodian housekeeper's husband, who was an excellent chef in this style. I remember the Cambodian chicken being wonderful, and some soup with baby octopus, but that's all.