A lot of people are going to look at the Kingdom of Rice menu and have no idea what to order. Bonkea ung, bai cha kapi, bai sor, cha dtrop – these dishes might be common in Cambodia but not in Sydney.

There are only a couple of Cambodian restaurants here: Liep’s in Cremorne and a few Cabramatta stalwarts such as Battambang. Now we have Mascot’s Kingdom of Rice (KoR).

The six-month pop-up is by Merivale and the team behind Acme in Rushcutters Bay (Mitch Orr, Cam Fairbairn, Lillia McCabe and Sophia Thach). At Acme Thach – who has a Khmer background – prepared Cambodian staff meals. These, and a return to her roots in Phnom Penh, have inspired the menu at KoR.

Expect classic Cambodian-style street food such as skewers, meats cooked over the grill, noodles and rice dishes – all ideal for pairing with a beer or bottle of natural wine you can self-serve from the walk-in fridge.

Hospitality giant Merivale (Bar Topa, Coogee Pavilion, Fred’s, among many more) is hoping KoR will continue delivering the same no-frills party vibes its predecessor, the incredibly popular and super fun Mr Liquor's Dirty Italian Disco, did. It opens today (after hosting “family and friends” last night) in the drive-through bottle shop space of the otherwise unremarkable Tennyson Hotel. And before the good times roll, we caught up with chef Orr to talk about the menu and to get some tips on what to eat and drink.

Prahok k’tis
Prahok is a Khmer fermented fish paste; it is traditionally used as a flavour base for dips and soups. At KoR we turn it into a dip with pork mince, pea eggplants, coconut cream, red chilli paste and kreung [a tangy paste made by grinding spices and aromatics]. It carries that great salty, umami quality that fermented fish and shrimp pastes impart. We serve this with a plate of raw seasonal vegetables to dip into the prahok. The fresh crunch and pop of the vegetables with the richness of the prahok is a classic combo.

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A dish similar to this is served at one of our favourite barbeque restaurants in Phnom Penh, and, because prahok is one of the founding elements of Khmer cuisine, we think it’s important to have on the menu.”

Drink with: “Something like our Henness-Tea – a carbonated jasmine tea with a shot of Hennessy would wash the prahok k’tis down nicely.”

Bort ling
“This dish is inspired by the same barbeque restaurant in Phnom Penh. They stir-fry corn with baby spring onion bulbs and dried shrimp. It’s [chef] Sophia’s favourite dish, so obviously it had to be on the menu.

At KoR we make a garlic and dried-shrimp paste; this is stir-fried with corn kernels and more dried baby shrimp. We finish the dish with garlic chives. It’s a really simple dish that balances the sweetness of the corn with that oceanic flavour of the dried shrimp.”

Drink with: “A glass of Ganevat chardy would go great with this, like it would with anything, really.”

Murk ung
“This is a dish some of the aunties serve at Psar Themei [Central Market] in Phnom Penh. Whole calamari is grilled over charcoal and sauced with a scallion and pork-fat dressing. This dressing is very similar to the ginger and scallion condiment you would have with white-cut chicken. Rather than using hot oil to scald the scallions, we render pork fat and use that. This gives a much deeper and richer flavour. We also toss the little bits of caramelised pork fat that are left after rendering through the dressing.”

Drink with: “Smash a bottle Domaine Overnoy Poulsard.”

Lort cha
“This is a noodle dish found all around Phnom Penh, from Psar Toul Tom Poung [the Russian Market], to street-side shops. Lort means “noddle” and cha means “stir-fry” in Khmer. Lort cha is a mix of rice noodles that have a pretty unique shape, as well as scallions and bean sprouts. It’s sauced with light and dark soy, oyster sauce and a sprinkle of sugar. It’s topped with a runny-yolk fried egg. It’s delicious as is, but when you add tduk trey (a condiment of fish sauce, vinegar, lemon juice and chilli) it’s taken to another level.”

Drink with: “I ate this dish every day in Phnom Penh and personally I like nothing more than to have a cup of tea with it.”

Kingdom of Rice
Tennyson Hotel, 952 Botany Road, Mascot
(02) 9114 7345

Hours:
Wed & Thu 5.30pm–12am
Fri 12pm – 3pm, 5.30pm–12am
Sat 5pm–12am
Sun 12pm–3pm, 5.30pm–10pm

merivale.com/venues/kingdom-of-rice