Taking over the former Gourmet Sausage Shop kiosk, Sreymom Lund is bringing Cambodian cuisine to the Adelaide Central Market.
Little Khmer Kitchen: Cambodian the way Mom makes
CityMag meets with Sreymom Lund – or Mom, as she’s better known – in early October, after five days of hurried renovations.
On the Sunday before our visit, Mom was handed the keys to the former Gourmet Sausage Shop kiosk in Central Market Arcade (an exceptional Gumtree find), and within hours the leftover sausages were donated to the Hutt St Centre and work began.
Little Khmer Kitchen
Shop 56 Central Market Arcade
Mon to Thurs: 9am – 5pm
Friday: 9am – 9pm
Saturday: 9am – 3pm
Despite the late nights spent converting the shop to its current state (diligently assisted by her partner, James Magnusson), Mom beams with excitement as we sit down to discuss her new venture, Little Khmer Kitchen.
Mom is already well familiar with the hallowed halls of the Adelaide Central Market; for the last two and a half years, she’s been part of the Jamface team – a job she got after working at the market’s Asian Green Grocer while studying, and where her boss pushed her to pursue her culinary aptitude.
“Because of my bad habits of talking to customers and explaining to them what they can do with all of the ingredients, it was kind of like free cooking lessons, so she said ‘I’m going to find you a new job because you don’t belong here,’” Mom laughs.
“She actually went and gave my number around to each of the restaurants and said ‘I think we’ve found a passionate person who’s probably willing to cook but doesn’t have any qualifications, is all self-trained – will you take her in?’”
Mom was hired as a kitchen hand at both Jamface and the East End’s Golden Boy and found the work less daunting than she’d first thought. After a few successful test runs as a hobby caterer, it wasn’t long before she started to play with the idea of opening her own Cambodian food stall.
“For me, it’s not just about selling the food, it’s about putting Cambodian food on the map as well. Because we’re not well known at all,” Mom laughs.
“Even if you go to bigger cities, like Melbourne, there are a few Cambodian restaurants but it’s not something that people talk about. And I believe that we have a lot to share.”
Mom’s passion for food is relatively newfound; she was born and raised in Cambodia, where she lived as an orphan before being adopted by an Australian family, eventually moving to Adelaide in 2011 after high school to study anthropology and developmental studies at the University of Adelaide.
Despite going on to achieve a master of clinical nursing, she was drawn back to Cambodian cuisine.
“I’m an orphan so I didn’t have any parents who were there to cook for me, so I was never really able to learn from someone,” she says.
“I think maybe that’s what inspired me to do what I’m doing, is just the idea of you miss so much of that childhood, of watching and learning, so I just had to recreate everything I missed out on.”
There are Cambodian cookbooks splayed across the table as we sit for our interview – sourced in Cambodia during one of her and James’ yearly trips back to the country – and it’s with palpable excitement she flips through the pages and describes Cambodia’s national dish, amok – a steamed fish curry; and kroeung, the four-ingredient spice that underpins much of Cambodian cuisine – both of which feature in Little Khmer Kitchen’s menu.
“I picked what I love to eat, and my friends as well, and I thought ‘If we really enjoy this, why don’t we share it around to everyone else too?’” Mom says.
“But then I also picked dishes that are important in representing Cambodia; for example, the fish amok itself, it’s really good to be able to serve the national dish to everyone and explain to them why it is the way it is.”
The philosophy that underlies Mom’s business is open-armed generosity – sharing food and sharing culture. It’s a perfect fit for the Central Market. And here at her Arcade stall, and long into the future, Mom will continue her campaign to elevate Cambodian food into the culinary spotlight.
“My ultimate goal in the future, if the business is not too busy, I would like to create [a Cambodian cookbook] that has the main and dessert together, because there’s always a dessert book or a main book, never one that’s got everything,” she says.
“I’ve always wanted to do that, because then you’re not just sharing it with the people who you can make it for here, but you’re sharing it to anyone.”