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Pls help me choose 1 stop for Cambodian in Lowell!?!

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We are road-tripping thru Nashua-Lowell area this summer and I'm trying to ferret out best option for a Cambodian dinner in Lowell. 10 years ago, pre-kids, our Bostonian friends treated us to a mind-blowing Cambodian buffet lunch in Lowell, and now my Lao-born hubbie and I have engineered this summer's vacation to include a Lowell stop just to enjoy a little more authentic Cambodian! Hoping to educate kiddies as well.

Kindly share your fave Lowell must-stop locations. We are looking for authentic, and love Ma & Pa hole in the wall places. Our kids eat everything (anything with 4 legs except the table! anything with wings except the airplane!), just sans chillies. No white table cloths req'd!

If you had to choose 1 stop in Lowell for a real Cambodian meal, where would you go? Thx Chowhounders!

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  1. I think they are all pretty good. I'd give a slight nod to Simply Khmer as a little tastier and less white tablecloth. I've been meaning to do this corridor chow crawl and would add Gene's Flatbread in Chelmsford for the knife cut noodles and Meena's kitchen as places I'd love to try.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gourmaniac

      Knife cut noodles? Like the chinese kind (mandarin: dao shao mien)? YUMMY... will look it up! Used to eat those when we lived in Taipei... rib sticking grub for sure. Thanks for the tips, gourmaniac!!

    2. I would suggest Tepthida Khmer. I tried Simply Khmer recently and have to say I wasn't imprssed. It is slightly less expensive than Tepthida Khmer but the quality of the food and the overal presentation were not as good. Tepthida also has a nicer atmosphere and although the service is generally good at times it can be slow.

      15 Replies
      1. re: RoyRon

        I see Tepthida Khmer is a fave on these boards. Do you have a fave dish there? Any must haves? Best authentic ethnic places generally spotty on service (per N. American standards) and we can definitely live with that. Many thx RoyRon!!

        1. re: dameems

          the somlah kako at tepthida khmer is out of this world. i still think about that dish, 2 years later.

          1. re: autopi

            Bulls eye! But wait, what the heck is this unforgettable somlah kako... I need remedial Cambodian 101, please!

            1. re: dameems

              somlah kako is a cambodian soup made with prahok (fermented fish paste), chopped pork ribs, and lots of vegetables

              1. re: galangatron

                I'm drooling...
                Prahok sounds like Laotian "pa dek" used in green papaya salad, etc.

                1. re: dameems

                  exactly

            2. re: autopi

              Nice to hear from you Autopi. I hope the true north strong and free are treating you well. On topic, I like the Haw Mok (fish paste) at Tepthida Khmer and the spicy wings at Simply Khmer. By the way, they are about 3 blocks from each other so chow crawling between them is easy.

              1. re: gourmaniac

                OK, I can see I'm going to need bigger pants for this trip... So yummy so little time! Maybe I'll eat at Tepthida Khmer and order take out from Simply Khmer for bkft at the hotel. Gotta be better than those "continental" breakfast waffles that no one on the actual Euro continent would ever be caught dead eating!

              2. re: autopi

                ouch I have to protest tepthida khmer is cambodian for people who like white table cloths and not authentic strong flavored food. We have tried it several times and found it lacking every time, if someone likes this restaurant I balance any other of their choices as perhaps a little tame. Simply Khmer is pretty good , red rose is not bad but their prahok paste has onion pieces in it - dear god why do that...
                you could also stop in Lynn and try Thmor Da a worthy replacement for Floating rock with a staff that will chat and guide anyone through their delights.
                agree with galangatron
                red rose
                senmonorom
                phnom penh restaurant
                simply khmer
                peephup tmei
                all pretty good
                but please avoid tepthida khmer if you like honest strong tastes.

                1. re: Janeinma

                  Gotcha Janeinma! Definitely we favour the Ma & Pa hole in the wall with big flavours over the sanitized, dumbed down, "gwei lo" food spots anyday. Too bad Lynn is out of my way (Quebec via NH to DC).

                  1. re: dameems

                    thmor da is in revere

                    1. re: galangatron

                      Thx galangatron! Way too far for me... maybe next trip!

                  2. re: Janeinma

                    Two more tiny places to recommend. One is Mekong on Broadway, the other is Heng Heng on Branch. The latter is a "fast food" place with prepared dishes that rotate daily. Usually 3-4 soups and 4-5 stir-frys/salads to choose from. Also fried rice, pad thai, banh mi, and bubble teas. VERY cheap. The owners are really nice. Once I was short of cash (they only take cash) and they told me to take the food and pay them another day. I came back in an hour with a big tip.

                    1. re: Dinsdale45

                      That is service! Love the quick take away!! YUMMY. Thx, these are super useful tips, Dinsdale45... Any idea what the hours are like at these little spots? Could be a good late dinner to take back to hotel if kids (or Mom & Dad) are cranky, I'm thinking.

                      1. re: dameems

                        I don't think Heng Heng is open past 7PM. Actually, there's a place across the street called "Yummy". The food is a little less accessible to a non-Cambodian, but they have spring rolls and mini-prepared meals to go. These guys close around 7-8, too. Mekong has regular hours.

            3. red rose
              senmonorom
              phnom penh restaurant
              simply khmer
              peephup tmei

              13 Replies
              1. re: galangatron

                Galangatron, this is awesome and I will check out the posts/menus for each. Did you list them in order of your faves (ie. if you had to pick just one would you choose Red Rose)?? Thanks for sharing! If anyone is heading to Toronto I can provide superb ideas for Asian eats here in big TO!

                1. re: galangatron

                  i'll add viet thai to this list.

                  we were thoroughly unimpressed with tepthida khmer, and went on rec's via this board. the table linens did not make up for the horrible service, deathly slow food service, horrendous noise level in a place not even half-full and food not 1/2 as good as places mentioned above. add that it's also more expensive and we will just spend our money elsewhere.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Thx hotoynoodle! Does Viet Thai have a pan-asian menu (ie. are they Cambodian chefs doing everything?)... any special faves to recommend we try?

                    1. re: dameems

                      the menu at viet thai is, as you probably guessed, vietnamese and thai

                    2. re: hotoynoodle

                      Yea we went to tepthida khmer only once but never ate. Walked out after waiting too long and listening to too much noise for a mostly empty room.

                      I like viet thai but have not figured out what to order there to get strong flavors, everything i have got has always been relatively mild.

                      We like simply khmer alot. The spicy wings are great!

                      1. re: hargau

                        I went to Simply Khmer specifically to try their "famous" hot wings. IMHO they were some of the most over rated Asian style wings I have ever had. Heavily battered, over cooked with a sticky sweet tasy somewhat spicy sauce. In a word, Yuck! I would not say that any of the other things we ordered had "strong authentic flavors" either. Overall pretty mediocre except their servings are large and prices are low.

                        1. re: RoyRon

                          RoyRon, you are a man after my own heart. I want it the way the chefs would make it for themselves/their own peeps. A big plate of something I don't really want to eat is not value to me!
                          So what's your fave Cambodian dish in Lowell?

                          1. re: dameems

                            In spite of other opinions I still like Tepthjida Khmer. I really enjoy their Loc - Lac and always order the beef version. I also like one of their soups which reminds me of the Vietnamese Can Chua because it has tomatos and chunks of pineapple in it. I usually order this with shrimp. Their version of "Drunken Noodles" are also quite good and although not typically Cambodian they do taste great.

                            1. re: RoyRon

                              OK, now I have to go scour my local Vietnamese Pho place for Can Chua on the mneu....

                          2. re: RoyRon

                            To each their own.. I love those wings. I have no idea if they have anything to do with authentic or not, they remind me of Country Sweet Chicken Wings from when i used to live in Rochester..

                            I also love the ground chicken with lemon grass. The deep fried squid is amazing. The beef loc loc, etc. etc.. have not had anything i didnt like.

                            If you are on facebook you can see many good photos of some of these dishes. http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?se...

                            1. re: hargau

                              Hey you can't please 'em all. Good link! Thx hargau... Rochester is just swimming distance from us here in Toronto!

                          3. re: hargau

                            Funny, we went to Tepthida Khmer for the first time today, and left without eating after waiting for over an hour. The really amusing part is we ended up at Simply Khmer after doing a quick errand en-route, and seated at another table were a couple whom we had just seen in the dining room at Tepthida Khmer; so I guess this must be a pretty common problem....

                            1. re: qianning

                              We went to Simply Khmer last night too, excellent as usual. Place was packed too. Good for them.

                      2. The Southeast Asian restaurant serves food from all countires in SE Asia. They do a lunch buffet. I bet that is where you went years ago. It is still great.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: professor shorthair

                          It is? We used to go every week for years but then after the grandma (cook) passed away, the food really dropped in quality. The buffet was usually empty and cold (not even turned on) and the food wasnt spicy anymore. After 3-4 let downs, we gave up. At one point, I even heard they were going to sell it... Has it gone back up hill?

                          1. re: hargau

                            I just had takeout last week. The kid said that Grandma went back to the old country and took her recipes. They no longer make the Mieng Lao (pork in lettuce leaves) because she won't tell them how to make it. This used to be my favorite restaurant. The dishes I ordered were so salty (and I love salt), that I wound up tossing them. The papaya salad was drenched in fish sauce with a few tomatoes, the larb gai had no complex herbal flavors, the beef gratiem was all heat and salt, even the chicken satay was too salty to enjoy. All this and they still took 45 minutes to make it, when I was the only one in the place on an early Saturday night.

                            I also recommend the 5 places mentioned by Galangatron, especially Red Rose. There's also a little place on RT110 between the Gaelic Club and Bangkok Market called Neak Meas.

                            Has anyone ever been to Pailin City Restaurant? The woman who owns the attached market once took me up there (she was impressed that I was buying all these Asian ingredients), and it was full of Cambodian businessmen in suits. It was no web presence, though. No reviews, no website. Odd.

                            1. re: Dinsdale45

                              ohhh i thought she died! About a year or so ago they were closed for several days with no sign or anything. Next time i went they said they had a funeral/death and she was gone...

                              1. re: Dinsdale45

                                Non-web places are usually the most worth making a trek for, IMHO!

                                If they are old country Asians, they might not want to fess up Grandma's true fate and concoct a story that makes the biz look like it's all good.

                                1. re: dameems

                                  Actually, maybe Pailin City is an "event-only" place that caters the big Cambodian/Lao weddings/graduations/parties. There used to be a nice little Cambodian buffet on Westford St. that turned into one of these places. It only opens for events.

                                  1. re: Dinsdale45

                                    A lady at the Pailin Market said the Pailin Restaurant (to the left of the market, not the right), should be opening in the coming months.

                                2. re: Dinsdale45

                                  i always thought pailin city restaurant was a function hall

                                3. re: hargau

                                  Grandma's rock! We are lucky enough to benefit from 2 grandma's, still cooking for us... now that is love! Too bad about SEAsian buffet. If that was the place it was rockin', especially on the spicy front!! And packed with young Cambodian lads as I recall....

                                4. re: professor shorthair

                                  avoid the southeast asian restaurant at all costs

                                  1. re: galangatron

                                    What are your recent experiences? I really want to keep going there, but I feel like it may be a lost cause.

                                5. All the Cambodians I work with get take out from Red Rose.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: whs

                                    ooo, inside scoop! Thx whs!!

                                  2. Wanted to reinvigorate this discussion after searching the boards and finding that this topic is spread out over several different threads. I discovered Tepthida Khmer and have gotten takeout there 3 times - I really love their dishes, especially their Beef Loc Lac. Have also enjoyed their Crispy Chicken Wings and their Seafood Pineapple Fried Rice. Are there other Cambodian restaurants in Lowell you would recommend for takeout? Anything better than Tepthida Khmer? I like Tepthida Khmer's location because it is relatively close to Target.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: spectra21

                                      I'd still take Simply Khmer over Tepthida. I also went to Red Rose recently, and they've either stepped up their game or changed management. Nice batch of Loc Lac, I thought.

                                      1. re: justbeingpolite

                                        I was told Red Rose did change owners.
                                        Spectra Simply Khmer is MUCH closer to target than Tepthida. maybe you have the 2 confused?
                                        I like SImply Khmer the best.

                                        1. re: hargau

                                          Isn't Simply Khmer down the street from Tepthida? I tried Red Rose recently as well and enjoyed it. I think all three are pretty good. I also prefer Simply Khmer. Tepthida has nicest interior and their prices are in line with the other two though portions are smaller. Does anyone have others to try?

                                          1. re: gourmaniac

                                            take a ride through the highlands and you'll find a bunch of good cambodian restaurants. senmonorom, phnom penh restaurant, le petit cafe, peephup tmei, heng lay, etc

                                            1. re: galangatron

                                              What's the deal with Le Petit Cafe? I walked in there once and it looked more like an older Asian members-only club than a restaurant. I'm never turned off by dicey establishments, but this one gave off a "not wanted" vibe.

                                              1. re: galangatron

                                                Thanks galangatron: Are these better or just different? Any particular dishes you might recommend? i trust your judgement.

                                              2. re: gourmaniac

                                                Hehehe Yea my "MUCH" is about 1/2 a mile closer.. Never actually drove from one to the other but just checked google.

                                        2. dameems,
                                          just noticed your note about your Lao hubbie,
                                          You know there's a Laotion restaurant in Lowell? Phien's Kitchen. Changed owners recently but the menu and quality have remained good (as far as I can tell)

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: justbeingpolite

                                            So glad to see this thread still lives on... nice one Spectra 21. I regret to say that even though I was passing thru the area this summer, I did not make it to Lowell. Just me and kids tax free shopping at the new Merrimack outlets. Lao-born hHubbie did not accompany due to work deadlines. And we also got a invite to hang in NYC w/ friends so did that instead. Not that Lowell doesn't rate! And I'm sure we would've had way more adventurous food at Phien's Kitchen, etc, but will have to wait for next time. Just no fun without hubbie saying, "almost as good as my mom's". But thanks for thinking of us, justbeingpolite!

                                            We did end up hitting a little Lao cafe in Greenboro NC later in our trip. Love chowhound... Foodie heaven in every way!!

                                          2. Hi all, thank you for all the helpful replies. Dameems - it was you who started the thread, so thank you!! No, I did not get Simply Khmer mixed up with Tepthida - I just didn't know about Simply Khmer! That will be my stop the next time I visit Lowell and go to the Target. :Can't wait to try it!

                                            1. Finally got takeout from Simply Khmer! I was really pleased with the food we got. A little underwhelmed by the stir-fried pig intestine dish, but really enjoyed the pork with tofu dish and the hot wings. We also ordered the loc lac, chicken with mixed vegetables, and a fish soup. Staff was very friendly and polite. Thanks for the feedback here and look forward to trying it again!

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: spectra21

                                                Underwhelmed how?

                                                1. re: KWagle

                                                  hargau has the right pork/tofu dish I enjoyed so much. I believe it is called Cha Sach Jrouk w. Tofu on their menu (though I just ordered in English over the phone "pork with tofu"). I was underwhelmed by the stir-fried pig intestine dish because I didn't think it was that flavorful - the staff had told me that I could also order it deep fried - not sure if that is better or whether the dish had an off-night. I've enjoyed pig intestines cooked in Hong Kong style restaurants before, so I had been looking forward to the Cambodian take on it. Oh well. Looking forward to trying other Simply Khmer dishes for my next take-out order - let me know any other suggestions!

                                                  1. re: spectra21

                                                    The chicken dish in my photo is one of our favorites. It is called Cha Kroung Sach Moun

                                                2. re: spectra21

                                                  I think that intestine dish is one they featured on Bizarre Foods.
                                                  Was the pork/tofu dish the one they call Tofu with Porks? finally ground pork with tofu triangles and peppers. That is one of our favorites.

                                                  1. re: spectra21

                                                    Reminds me i have a photo. tofu w/ porks in the background and our favorite chicken dish in the front.