Happy Herb's, as the sharp-minded of you will have guessed,
serves ganja and since the Russian market got busted
expatriates have had a reasonable excuse to go and munch
some herb for supper. Herb also does hash coffees for
brekky and will sell you a large Nescafe jar full of weed
for a dollar.
The riverfront on the Tonle Sap makes a fine place for a wander in the
afternoon. Khmer families light a stick of incense or two at the temple and
stroll down past the Foreign Correspondent's Club, maybe munch on some sugar
cane, maybe just watch the river meet the Mekong, and the Bassac fork away
towards Vietnam. The French called it the "Quatre Bras," because the three big
rivers resemble four arms.
Young Khmer blokes cruise the promenade showing off their fancy motos to
giggling young girls, and beggars limp merrily after the big NGO landrovers.
From a seat on the pavement outside Happy Herb's bistro you can get so filled
up with love you'll wear a soppy grin for days.
Happy Herb's, as the sharp-minded of you will have guessed, serves ganja and
since the Russian market got busted expatriates have had a reasonable excuse to
go and munch some herb for supper. Herb also does hash coffees for brekky and
will sell you a large Nescafe jar full of weed for a dollar.
After I'd ordered, Herb came out of the kitchen and asked, "Happy?" "Very," I
replied. No point in half-measures, I thought and pulled a spliff out of my
glasses case. Herb sat down and we began chatting.
Happy Herb's began in the heady days when the UN ruled Cambodia while they
tried to sort out some half-decent elections. Cambodia was flooded with
danger-seeking fools with astronomical wages which they squandered on drugs,
prostitutes and fine dining. Herb was taught to cook pizzas by one of this
crew, and suggested adding ganja, a traditional Khmer ingredient. (Later in the
meal a veteran of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia came over, steaming
drunk and blazing a big Sherlock Holmes style pipe. "I used to be Very
Important!" he said to a military policeman who couldn't understand English. "I
was an Election Monitor in 93!" His Khmer wife and child stood back in
Herb's always been a dab hand in the kitchen. He was his unit's cook in the
civil war, before he ran away. "I didn't want to fight," he said. As his unit
was nearing the battlefield he and his two mates jumped off the lorry and
legged it into the jungle. Because he was a deserter no one would give him a
lift, so it took him a week to walk back to Phnom Penh. He sold all of his gear
for food except for his AK-47, which he keeps to shoo away the tiny lizards
that gather around light bulbs at night. "I take out the powder from the
bullets," he says, "I leave just enough to stun the little chik-chaks."
The pizza arrived on a nice wooden platter. Herb's found a blend of spices that
complements the flavour of ganja perfectly. Anyone who's tried cooking with
weed will know that it leaves a sharp taste that overwhelms the rest of the
food. Herb's pizza has managed to tone it down with lots of creamy cheese,
oregano and some other Italian herbs.
A big thunderstorm was brewing as I ate. Trigger-happy Cambodians like to shoot
at storms to make it rain and the first few maniacs were loosing off a few. The
air became tense and muggy as it does before a storm. Suddenly the river turned
into a huge black snake which I quickly realized had nefarious designs on the
Naga floating casino. I was expecting something like this. The stream of motos
on the promenade were dopplering very oddly, giving me the sensation I was on a
magic roundabout. Equally suddenly I noticed I was sitting on a chair by a
table and a street kid was begging a cigarette. I gave him one and lit another
for myself; it cooled me right out. Gunfire echoed around the city and it began
to rain so hard the trees on the other side of the road were invisible. After
some time it stopped and I got a moto through the cleansed air and shiny
streets. Flashing fairy lights hung across the street to advertise brothels
left tracers a hundred feet long that glittered and flashed around my head.
The Cambodia Daily said in their restaurant guide "If you decide you aren't
going back to work anyway after lunch, by all means have Herb sprinkle some
happiness on your pizza, but unless you want to zone out for a couple of days,
ask for "tik-tik. (Khmer for "a little.") This correspondent asked for
"tom-tom" and was still tripping the same time the next day, all loved-up over
pastis at sunset watching the promenade again.
Verdict: An excellent meal with great side-effects. One pizza with two beers
cost £3.50 in crisp green Yankee money.