10 scallops for US$2 – it beats shelling out


10 barbecued scallops on the shell, for US$2, at Khin's Shack, Serendipity Beach, SihanoukvilleTen barbecued scallops for US$2. That’s correct, just 2 bucks. Barbecued on the shell and topped with a strong seasoning of salt, pepper, chopped spring onion and crunchy fried garlic. Served with a small dish of a spicy, clear condiment, this is definitely “grown ups” food, and the flavours are full-on, biting, and take no prisoners. You’re not likely to stumble on this cuisine treasure, called Khin’s Shack, without good local contacts. The customers are locals and Cambodians on holiday rather than overseas tourists, as Khin’s Shack is at the eastern “locals end” of Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

10 barbecued scallops on the shell, for US$2, at Khin’s Shack, Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville

Khin's Shack at the eastern "Cambodians end" of Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Khin’s Shack at the eastern “Cambodians end” of Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia


The centuries old pop-up beach bbq

She stops by the water in the late afternoon, sets down her portable bbq – an old metal basin holding  a bamboo bucket of smouldering coals, and wire grill – and cooks a batch of baby squid, fish and chicken pieces on bamboo skewers. Half an hour later, she shoulders her bbq and food, balanced on each end of her long bamboo pole, and slowly heads off into the twilight to sell to tourists, to local workers, to anyone who will buy…

Beach bbq vendor, Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Beach bbq vendor, Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia






Where it all started in Sihanoukville

Coasters bar/guesthouse, Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia A tranquil beach scene at Coasters Resort, on the north-west side of the speed ferry wharf, Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville. I am told by seasoned visitors that Coasters was one of the first bar/guesthouse venues built, and this was the original stretch of beach that attracted tourists. On my next visit, I will pack my proper snorkel/mask/fins and underwater camera, because there appear to be some interesting submerged rock areas along this point.

Coasters bar/guesthouse, Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Pigging out on Chinese New Year

It’s the Chinese New Year in Cambodia.

This Sihanoukville store owner and his family are inviting passersby to celebrate with free cups of beer, steamed rice, pieces of barbecued chicken, and slices from a whole roasted pig, including the choice offal bits. He tells me the pigs are roasted for about 4 hours, 5 at a time, in a huge oven. This goodwill gesture is a costly exercise for a small Cambodian business, but he says it will bring him good luck. In Asia, I mostly stick to vegetarian and seafood unless I’m dining in 4-star luxury such as Accor or Starwood. However, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion today, I gratefully and humbly accept a slice of pork. It is juicy, and the crackling skin is done to perfection. I’m in pig mode… now for a beer at Porky’s Bar on Serendipity Beach.

Sharing roast pig, chicken and beer on Chinese New Year, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Sharing roast pig, chicken and beer on Chinese New Year, Sihanoukville, Cambodia


Playing musical notes earns dollar notes

I hand some US$ to this blind bloke and his little girl. It’s a payment, not a donation. He plays music on his stringed instruments, as she leads him by a short rope and collects money in a small, plastic bucket. I’ll happily pay entertainers, but I don’t give money to beggars, except the elderly who no longer have the means to earn and have been cast aside. Like everywhere, Cambodia’s Sihanoukville has regular beggars – in particular here without a limb because of land mines – working the tourist routes. Giving them a dollar does not help them. Only their society, and the Government, have the solution. And let’s eradicate military land mines…

A blind musician and his little girl earn money money on Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

A blind musician and his little girl earn money on Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville

Tom yum. Want some?

Lunch is Khmer seafood tom yum with steamed rice. I love bouillabaisse and I love chilli, so this brings it all together. Aromatic and tasty, this one is heavy on lemon grass, with portions of squid, octopuss, and three large prawns de-veined but unshelled and with heads. Maybe locals eat the heads, as not much is wasted in this part of the world. This Khmer tom yum is the goong nam sai, or clear soup version. I Thailand I had the tom sum goong nam khon style, which has unsweetened condensed milk to make it creamy.  Cambodian rice is short grained, sticky and with a strong flavour. It would make good dessert rice. I would like to soak the steamed rice in the tom yum juice, in the fridge overnight. That would infuse the delicious flavours, and then serve the rice as a salad, or warmed with papadum or naan bread…

US$4, at Cosmopolitan BBQ, on the eatery strip on the main road parallel to Serendipity Beach, Sihanoukville.

Khmer seafood tom yum, Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Khmer seafood tom yum goong nam sai (clear broth), Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Sit back, relax and do your bit for the local economy

Serendipity Beach massage: Mother massages my hands while daughter massages my feet. I don’t care if it’s girlie, it feels good and the US$ go to locals who get off their bums and work very hard every day to supplement the family income. The daughter has completed her expensive high school education, which the mother paid for with beach massages. The beach masseuses and trinket/anklet/wristband vendors seem overdressed in long sleeve cardigans and pants. They told me it’s to preserve their “white skin” because they don’t want to be suntanned. It’s the opposite to why most female tourists are lounging on the sun drenched beach…

Beach massage, Sihanoukville

Beach massage, Sihanoukville