Cambodian Nachos, Pt. I

In the summer of 2006 I traveled to South East Asia with my ladyfriend. In between sweating and looking at temples, we found some truly “off-the-beaten” path nachos.

Yesterday I had some nachos at Ivy Bar in Siem Reap, the town that serves as the point of entry for anyone visiting Angkor Wat. They were probably on top 15 of all time list — I’m not exaggerating. The chips were surprisingly excellent, the cheese was whitish and sauce-like but considerably more culinary than a fast-food cheese sauce (more like a rue), and the salsa was simply an exceedingly fresh medley of tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. (Side note: What is the appropriate salsa choice for nachos? Too flavorful or spicy a salsa might just be better served on its own. I find that with the heaviness of nachos sometimes some tomatoes, onions, and chiles do the trick. That said, a thin, liquidy restaurant style sauce or pico de gallo is always excellent.) What took the nachos from just being surprisingly fresh and well-built given the surroundings to being exemplary in a global sense was the chicken–ground and spiced in a way that gave it a distinctively Asian flavor. This might be an interesting avenue of exploration for the future.

An important aspect of nachos is what kind of residue is left on the plate when you finish. In this case, it was a deliciously smooth pool of cheese sauce, spices, and oil. My girlfriend got angry at me for aggressively running my finger through it and licking it off, but I explained that it is always reasonable and imperative to attack the residue with your bare hands.

Even though this area caters almost exclusively to tourists visiting the temples at Angkor Wat, I still found nachos in Cambodia to be an exotic discovery. I also had some very solid nachos on the Malaysian island of Langkawi. Again, they benefited from very fresh, basic salsa. Overall, I’ve decided that nachos in Southeast Asia are far better than those on the East Coast. Furthermore, beers here only cost 45 cents.

— August 9, 2006