Detail, wedding finery, Kampong Cham, Cambodia

A Cambodian wedding is spiced with unexpected touches of color, and gilded with tradition.A big part of that tradition is a ceremonial meal that features home-style curried chicken soup, served with baguettes. When I read favorable reviews about a Cambodian restaurant in, of all places, Saint Paul, Minnesota, I crossed my fingers that I would find the soup on the menu during my stay in the Twin Cities. I need not have worried.

Cheng Heng in St. Paul – no fuss, low-key, great flavors

At Cheng Heng, the soup, a traditional preparation flavored with carrots, onions and mushrooms, comes with a side of jasmine rice instead of the baguette, but believe me, it’s the real deal. At the recommendation of personable owner Kunrath Lam, who took our order, we added a lime-sauced Nhum salad—shrimp and chicken with shredded cabbage, celery, green pepper, radishes, mint leaves and bean thread noodles.

The flavors of both soup and salad were rich and complex, spicy but not hot. The salad, with its bite of mint and layers of texture, had flair. The soup was comfort in a bowl. A pot of mild green tea to wash everything down was the perfect beverage on a blustery Minnesota night.

I enjoyed the curry specialty several times in my travels across Cambodia earlier this year, and in the outdoor teaching kitchen of Sojourn, a resort near Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, I learned to make it.

Last week’s dinner at Cheng Heng may not have come in a coconut and sporting an orchid, but it certainly scored as a food memory. In Minnesota as in Cambodia, as a dear friend of mine likes to say of good food, “the meal had a party in my mouth”.

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This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday at Lipstick and Wanderlust.

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