Chow fun rarely gets much shrift on Cantonese menus. The dish is typically wedged into a sidebar with the obligatory chow meins, egg foo yungs and fried rices. Its preparation is often similarly slapdash, with flavorless vegetables and noodles so limp they might have just returned from a stroll in a rainstorm.
So it's a revelation to sample the Cambodian version of the wide noodle classic at Sam Ung's Phnom Penh Noodle House. Ung serves soups which are enthusiastically sought out by eaters who can't face another bowl of pho, and excellent sticky sweet chicken wings spliced with jalapenos, but the mee katang belongs on every guest's must-eat list.
Mee katang is terrifically popular in Cambodia: Like chow fun in China or pad see lew in Thailand, the dish is a mess of slippery rice noodles, scrambled eggs, meats and greens. Phnom Penh takes care with every element: The sheerly-sauced noodles are appropriately chewy and the beef - should your protein predilections run toward the barnyard - is beautifully seasoned and grilled. The vegetables are fresh and crisp.
But the dish improves enormously with a dollop of Phnom Penh's house chili paste, goosed with garlic and dried shrimp paste. Although it's sold as hot sauce, the paste is only vaguely spicy. What it delivers instead is a blast of sophisticated salt that smooths out the dish's flavors and perks up the greens. To-go customers can order a second helping for 25 cents: That's a quarter well spent.