Best Restaurants 2020

Sunshine Noodles Stirs Modern Influences into Cambodian Food

The pop-up serves up a contemporary yet homestyle take on Cambodian cuisine—equal parts family history and who chef Diane Lam is today.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton October 6, 2020 Published in the Fall 2020 issue of Portland Monthly

Sunshine's Phnom Penh Noodles, tamarind shrimp cocktail, and Cambodian coffee.

Image: Michael Novak

Get it while you can: Sunshine Noodles, the brainchild of former Revelry chef de cuisine Diane Lam and David Sigal is slated to last only until January 2021, the end of its five-month “residency.”

On the patio of North Portland’s Psychic Bar, the pop-up serves up a contemporary yet home-style take on Cambodian cuisine—equal parts family history and who Lam is today. She grew up in Southern California eating her grandmother’s cooking, which was inspired by the mélange of cuisines in Cambodia prior to the Khmer Rouge, the 1970s Communist takeover marked by genocide and antidissident brutality.

“She was a pretty wealthy woman, and then with the Khmer Rouge coming in, she basically lost everything,” Lam explains. Before the totalitarian regime suppressed the influence of foreign cultures, Lam says her grandmother ate all kinds of food—none of which she had to cook herself due to her social status. “She was exposed to Chinese food, Vietnamese food, French food—and so when it came time for her to cook for her family for the first time, she discovered that she was a natural-born cook.”

One such dish: thick, handmade spelt noodles served with French-style vegan tomato and maitake mushroom ragout, sprinkled with Maggi seasoning. There are also more traditional Cambodian dishes, like kuy teav Phnom Penh—a noodle dish she serves without broth during the summer and plans to serve as a soup during the winter—and somlaw machou, a spicy tamarind seafood soup with rice noodles. The ever-changing menu also makes room for Sigal’s playful approaches, from chile relleno banh xeo to potato chip salad edged with grilled cabbage, wasabi ranch dressing, and candied cashews. Not Cambodian at first glance—but Cambodian in flavor and spirit. “I do make Cambodian food, but it’s very specific to who I am,” Lam says. “It’s a reflection of my family’s war-torn past and my grandmother’s cooking.” 3560 N Mississippi Ave,

Show Comments