Instead of ordering the same, typical Chinese food on a Saturday night, there is now the opportunity to indulge in delectable Cambodian food at the Italian Market, in South Philadelphia. At Mawn Cambodian Noodle House, Chef Phila Lorn and his wife Rachel take some standard Asian and American cuisine, and deliver their own unique take on these dishes to make them their own.
Phila and Rachel have both worked in the Philadelphia restaurant scene for close to 20 years. They finally fulfilled their dream of creating their own restaurant together with their “no rules” Mawn Noodle House.
The name Mawn means “chicken” in Khmer, the Cambodian language. This might sound like a basic name to the average person, but it holds a special place in Chef Phila’s heart. Chicken was at every meal during his childhood, and it represented peacetime to Phila’s parents.
At Mawn Noodle House, as my first starter I ordered Saht Koh, which is lemongrass marinated beef ribeye on a stick with ginger and galangal. Although this didn’t compare to the other items on the menu, the meat was still perfectly cooked, and it was very well marinated.
For my other starter I had the head on soft shell shrimp, which comes with a fish sauce caramel, bird eye chili, and thai basil. This was personally one of my favorite items I tried on the menu. It contained just the right amount of crispiness, and was filled with an abundance of flavor.
Their signature mawn noodle soup was my next dish, which included Mina’s Jewish stock, poached breast and thigh, schmaltz, and crispy garlic. The exceptional quality of the broth was very noticeable, and it was a delicious match for the toppings that followed it.
In addition, I also had the night market noodles. This dish had cold wives noodles, vegan oyster sauce, chili oil, ground wild boar, jalapeno, and crispy neighborhood ramen, making a very creative meal. The mix of the crispy and soft noodles is what made this dish stand out immensely.
I enjoyed two meals under the section of Mawn Noodle House’s menu labeled “Plates”. These were the Thai crab fried rice and fried chicken.
The crab fried rice, which included garlic, scallion, and crab butter, was the best fried rice I have ever eaten. The rice was full of flavor, and the toppings made it even more divine, adding a mix of crunchiness, freshness, and saltiness all in one. This dish was so incredible I yearned for more.
The other meal under “Plates” was the fried chicken, which is one of the most significant items on the menu due to the dish’s connection with the name of the restaurant. The fried chicken came with a fish sauce caramel, thai basil, thai chili, and hull sauce. This was different from an average fried chicken because it was fried, but not breaded. I enjoyed this take on fried chicken better because it was a lighter meal than usual fried chicken.
The savory items on this restaurant’s menu were so good that I was convinced to get dessert. Each dessert looked so remarkable that I ordered both the funnel cake and the jasmine rice pudding.
I’m not usually the biggest fan of funnel cake, but this funnel cake was made from palm sugar caramel and macaroon coconut. These two ingredients transformed this dish from your average funnel cake on the boardwalk to something much greater. The funnel cake was crisp, and the macaroon coconut brought out an enormous amount of flavor.
Unlike the funnel cake which had more of a crunch, the jasmine rice pudding was extremely soft and creamy. It was filled with strawberry, mango, and blueberry sugar. It was my favorite out of the two desserts, and I would definitely order it again due to its perfect amount of sweetness.
Mawn Cambodian Noodle House gave me a different perspective on Asian cuisine, and left me feeling joyous of having a new, delicious place where I can experience and taste the creativity in Chef Lorn’s personal dishes.