Miguel Jerónimo tries the Malay delicacies of Wau Restaurant and gets addicted to roti canai. Photography by Enric Català.

We arrive at the unpretentious restaurant with a craving belly, two rows of simple tables and chairs – a couple of them outdoors – greet us. This place is all about the food.

Anyone who has travelled through Malaysia knows: Malaysians love their food. From the nasi lemaks in the morning to the rendang beef curries at night, in addition to all the snacks in between. The special mention goes to the roti canai in combination with teh tarik, which is exactly where we started.

Roti canai is a typical south-Indian flat bread that is ubiquitous in Malaysia and Singapore, served with a delicious vegetable curry to dip in. For $1.25 per piece, it’s a mouth-watering textural heaven. Don’t feel shy to get dirty because the best way is to eat this is with your hands. Teh Tarik is the traditional pulled drink made with black tea and milk that historically hails from India but is loved throughout Malaysia. For $1.50 it makes the perfect companion to roti canai.

Next up was nasi lemak, somehow translated to fat or rich rice due to being cooked with creamy coconut milk. It’s the most common dish for breakfast but it makes a decent lunch or dinner. As well as the rice, the dish includes a piece of chicken, small fried anchovies mixed with roasted peanuts, sambar (spicy Malaysian and Indonesian sauce), a small salad and fried egg.

The mixture is a festival of flavours, with the secret found in the juxtaposition of textures: the tenderness of the chicken versus the crunchiness of the anchovies and peanuts, the soft dryness of the rice versus the moisture of sambar. A tummy-filling option costing $4 with chicken and $3 without.

Also recommended is the stir-fried turmeric chicken (starting from $4) and a variety of seafood, such as shrimp and squid, cooked with soy sauce, paprika, spicy sauce or fried as tempura. Some Cambodian food is also available, from beef loc lac and oxtail soup, to whole steamed fish with lime or garlic and sweet and sour soups.

One dish that caught our attention was the wrap with eggs ($4), a massive omelette roll filled with chicken, onion, tomato, bell pepper, carrot and more scrambled eggs. To finish the meal, nothing beats a tongkat ali coffee ($1.50), which is brewed with Malaysian ginseng.

The final verdict is clear: we will come back for the roti canai, which we suspect has high addictive properties. And despite the proximity between the two countries, it’s a shame there aren’t more gastronomy exchanges between both. As manager Na Fiyan says, “There aren’t many Malaysian restaurants in town, so even when an official delegation comes from Malaysia we are the ones making the catering at the embassy, or they bring them to eat here.”

Operating for more than 10 years, Wau Restaurant is a solid option for those addicted to rotis and curry.

103A Street 63, Phnom Penh.
Tel. 081 887 090.
Open daily, from 7am to 9pm.