New Asia in Lowell (where southeast asia used to be)
Any word on this place? They have no website but have a facebook page with menu and photos that look good. http://www.facebook.com/NewAsiaRestau...
Well, I made it over there. Kind of hole-in-the-wall type place, completely empty, and a very sweet lady jumped up when I entered.
She tried to push their lunch buffet, and I figured I'd at least take a look-see at what they had. Chafing dishes with some old looking pad thai, greasy lo mein, gloppy fried chicken in brown sauce, bright red Chinese spare rib tidbits, and an empty rice cooker with a couple grains of crusted rice in it. There was also a "red curry" (which I later tried and felt had no real curry flavor), some green beans, tom yum soup, and a couple other unmemorable items.
But then... sitting innocently in one corner.... was a ceramic bowl of prahok ktiss, one of my favorite Cambodian dishes. If you don't know what it is, it's almost like a chili, made of ground pork, coconut milk, prahok (a paste of fermented anchovy). In another smaller buffet area 5 feet away was a tray of the standard Prahok Ktiss dipping vegetables - thick shards of cabbage, and those little round eggplant. You take those raw crudite and dip it in the rich prahok ktiss. The freshness and crunch of the cold vegetables cuts the richness and spice of the dip.
She almost stopped me when I started fixing a bowl of prahok ktiss and vegetables. "You ever try that before? It's anchovy..." she warned. I nodded an enthusiastic, "Oh, yes!" Don't forget to load up on those fresh raw veggies on the other, smaller buffet table. There's also some big, plump fresh summer rolls, condiments of dried red chili powder (you can see in my pic), and fish sauce. Finally, there's a dessert of coconut tapioca pudding with lumps of taro in it.
Stick to the prahok ktiss: It was absolutely delicious. Perfectly balanced richness and depth of spicing; it was certainly at least as good as Simply Khmer's rendition. For a $7.50, this is an unbelievable deal.
The dinner menu has so many interesting things worth exploring, but if you're there for lunch, spend $7.50 on the crappy lunch buffet, ignore 99% of the items, and then gorge on some of the best prahok ktiss around.
I ended up placing an order of it off the menu, "to-go" ($13.00) as well as some sticky rice, before driving home.
When I got home, I tasted a spoon of the made-to-order prahok ktiss I'd brought home; not to my surprise, it was even better - more complex, less salty, (A tad bit oilier, but that could be because the oil settled during the 40 minute journey back to Boston.)
I had the same experience with that pathetic lunch buffet, but I never found the prahok ktiss. I love this stuff. I get it at Heng Heng all the time. I can't understand why Khmer dishes are not on the buffet. There used to be a good little Cambodian buffet at Khemara, but it's now a banquet hall. There's really nothing like that in Lowell. I would like to mention this to the owners, but it may get lost in translation. I do plan on ordering off the menu sometime.