Eat this: Mamapen, Cambodian down the pub

The Prince Arthur pub in London Fields now plays host to this Khmer cuisine-focused popup, with chef Kaneda Pen offering both dine in and take out options. 

19 March 2020
asianbarbecuefood-to-gopubsrestaurant openingsharing plates
image credit: Mike Griffiths
  • The Gist: Neighbourhood Cambodian popup with emphasis on skewers and sharing plates
  • The Chef: Kaneda Pen
  • Location: The Prince Arthur, 95 Forest Rd, London E8 3BH
  • Food in 5 words: Khmer street food BBQ feasting 
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How did we get here?

In difficult times such as these, what better than a sense of community to get us through the day to day. And that’s exactly what the recently reopened North East London pub The Prince Arthur have gone for with their choice of relaunch food offerings, taking on Cambodian popup Mamapen to tap into growing trends for sharing, caring and lesser-known cuisine exploration.

“We spoke to a lot of different chefs about taking full responsibility of our kitchen,” said pub landlord Jonathan Mercer, “but really felt an affinity with the guys at Mamapen.

“They share a lot of our same values about the strength of community and having a good time. It’s not traditional pub food but we all believe that sharing dishes are what a pub should be about.”

Fronted by chef Kaneda Pen, who transitioned into top-level kitchens from being a global media strategist and trading director in the city for over a decade.

A huge advocate of Khmer food (traditional Cambodian, which takes influence from Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines), Pen’s menu is small but punchy, with street food staples and curries from the Southeast Asian country’s capital city Phnom Penh (and beyond) championed.

What’s different about it?

image credit: Mike Griffiths

There’s not much in the way of Cambodian in the UK’s eating out scene at present but, considering the clear rise in consumer interest with lesser known, often regionally channelled Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, Mamapen’s arrival could mark the start of further Khmer presence (certainly in the capital).

Pen’s menu currently has seven options, with tofu knots with chilli oil and peanuts and four types of Khmer style BBQ skewers – beef, pork, chicken and king mushroom – sharable street food options.

All the meat skewers are marinated in kroeung, a Cambodian spice/herb mix with similar qualities to Thai curry pastes.

“Every Khmer household has their own recipe, and colours and textures will vary dependent on the direction of the dish,” said Pen.

“Our recipe is most similar to Yellow Royal Kroueng, heavy in fragrant lemongrass and gaining its colour and earthy bitter notes from turmeric.”

Vegans and carnivores alike can tackle their sour pineapple curry with sweet potato and pickled mango while their braised beef dish hails from Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh.

Jasmine rice, house made pickles and their signature steak sandwich round the menu off, all of which are available as takeout options – highly relevant considering the ongoing global situation.

You’ve got to try…

The Mamapen steak sandwich - medium-rare bavette, kewpie mayo, Asian chimichurri and pickles inside a hot, buttered, crusty roll.

Sparkie also likes…

Their hand cut pickles – pickling is absolutely huge in the Cambodian street food scene, which could translate well in the UK considering diners are becoming increasingly enamoured with the flavour of fermented.

Go if…

Your pint requires something more than a bowl of chips.

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