A recipe for Lort Cha (Cambodian Stir-Fried Rice Pin Noodles) inspired by our visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific and Long Beach, California!
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Aquarium of the Pacific
We recently finished up a year-long membership at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and it was such a fun spot to visit with the kids.
Aquarium of the Pacific is located in downtown Long Beach with views of the Rainbow Harbor by Shoreline Village at 100 Aquarium Way. It is open daily with the exception of December 25th.
Note: These photos span from 2019-2021. Check the Aquarium of the Pacific’s website for safety guidelines prior to visiting.
The aquarium packs in so much across two stories and a large outside area (keep this in mind for sunscreen or on the rare occasion with rain).
A few highlights include glowing reefs with flashlight fish, Magellanic penguins at the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, sea otters and the giant Pacific octopus in the Northern Pacific Gallery (a focus on the Bering Sea), the Southern California Steelhead, Molina Animal Care Center with viewing windows and interactive kiosks, and so much more.
The largest exhibit at the aquarium is the Tropical Reef Habitat with 350,000 gallons of saltwater holding over 500 animals. We also enjoyed watching the seals, sea lions, and shorebirds in the Southern California/Baja Gallery.
The Lorikeet forest was particularly memorable. You can buy nectar to feed the green-naped, Edward’s, and Swainson’s lorikeets by hand in this 5,400-square-foot outdoor aviary.
We went first thing in the morning when the birds were quite hungry and they all rushed to Chad the second we went through the double doors.
At Harbor Terrace, you can also feed tiny brine shrimp to moon jellies.
Shark Lagoon and Harbor Terrace
Outside in the Shark Lagoon and Harbor Terrace, there are plenty of opportunities to learn hands-on with touch tanks featuring moon jellies, bamboo sharks, epaulette sharks, and rays.
While the kids tend to gravitate towards the outdoor areas with the touch pools and Lorikeets, the section with the Jellies is one of my favorites. The aquarium houses so many different types, all of which are completely fascinating.
Paint a Fish
Paint a Fish is a newer addition just to the right after entering the aquarium in the Pacific Vision Arts Gallery. The kids loved it so much. In this interactive exhibit, you can digitally color a fish or shark on a tablet and it will appear on a virtual coral reef projection.
We have not personally tried it, but Cafe Scuba is located on the second floor and serves salads, sandwiches, pizza, and more with views of the seals and sea lions exhibits.
Overall, the Aquarium of the Pacific is such a wonderful spot to visit for all ages. We usually spent about 3 hours here at a time. For a single visit, it could definitely have been closer to all day.
Parking structures can be found across the street (validation for the Aquarium-designated ones available at the current $8 price). Exhibits are wheelchair accessible and descriptive, touch oriented audio tours are available to check out for free at the information desk.
To pair with this post, I am including a handful of the places we have tried in Long Beach so far. There are still so many amazing spots on our list to hopefully visit before our upcoming move.
Ammatoli Mediterranean Bites
Just north of the Aquarium in Downtown Long Beach is Ammatoli Mediterranean Bites at 285 E. 3rd. Street. They focus on Levantine cuisine with fresh and creative menu items using the finest quality ingredients.
We ordered takeout for brunch, but the restaurant also has indoor dining and a small patio area along the sidewalk. Favorites included the:
- Three Way Brunch Special with choice of three brunch mezzas- we went with the Babaghanouj, Beet Hummus (such a gorgeous color!), and Batata Harra.
- Meat Manoushe’- homemade sourdough flatbread topped with ground beef, lamb, tomatoes, peppers, and special blend of spices.
- Gyro Wrap to go- lamb/beef gyro meat with roasted tomatoes, lettuce, onions and tzatziki sauce.
- Arayes- flame grilled seasoned beef/lamb Kafka pita sandwiches.
- Musakhan Chicken Roll- saj pita wrapped with chicken, caramelized onions, olive oil, roasted pine nuts, and sumac with fresh cucumber and yogurt salad.
- Mediterranean Fries Mezza- fries tossed with olive oil, garlic, lemon, and cilantro and topped with feta and Parmesan cheese.
- Housemade Plain Labne Balls.
I was also recently able to find dried wild sage here to make Shay bil Maramiya (Palestinian Sage-Scented Tea)!
Phnom Penh Noodle Shack
Phnom Penh Noodle Shack was actually one of our first meals after moving to Los Angeles and oh what a wonderful place to start. Located in Cambodia Town at 1644 Cherry Avenue, the restaurant first opened in 1985 with a focus on spreading the awareness of the incredible food and culture of Cambodia with others.
We tried the Phnom Penh Noodles (house special noodle soup), Loat Cha/Lort Cha, Cha Quai (fried bread stick), and Nom Sa-Kieu (fried meat bread). While the Loat Cha was my favorite (and inspiration for today’s recipe), every single bite we tried was amazing and so full of flavor.
They also have a sister restaurant in Cerritos, California- RiceString Noodle Shack.
Sweet Retreat Donuts
Sweet Retreat Donuts was another one of our first stops after moving to Los Angeles. Located off of the Pacific Coast Highway near Cambodia Town, this shop has a fun variety of doughnuts and drinks.
The Strawberries and Whipped Cream Filled Donut Sandwich was a particular hit. Currently, they offer an option for vegan cake doughnuts daily and vegan raised doughnuts Friday-Sunday.
Rasselbock Kitchen and Beer Garden opened in Long Beach in 2016 and focuses on German food with a modern twist. They also have over 35 German and Belgian beers, homemade Sangria, and a variety of German and Californian wines.
For lunch, we enjoyed the Rasselbock Schnitzel (breaded and sautéed pork loin with garlic cream sauce and fried egg), Whiskey Schnitzel, and Beer Flight.
Gusto Bread is a Panadería Orgánica found at 2710 E 4th Street and they feature 100% Masa Madre (Sourdough) pan and pan dulce.
The Hueso was a favorite with the kids. This New World long bread is naturally leavened with chewy texture and thin crisp crust. We picked the pull apart wheat stalk shape, but traditional epi loaf also available.
Other favorites included the Concha (Mexican sweet bread with cacao sugar cookie frosting), Doña (twice baked concha with almonds and jam), Orejas (ear shaped pastry with hibiscus), Polvorón (crumbly cookie with walnuts), Café de Olla (Mexican coffee with canela and cane), and Oatxata (oat drink with rice, cinnamon, and cane).
Knead Donut & Tea
Knead Donuts & Tea was another delicious stop for us at 3490 E 7th Street. This small shop has an amazing selection of beautifully styled specialty doughnuts, Vietnamese coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá), tea, croissant sandwiches, and smoothies.
They are currently open Tuesday-Sunday and there is a small parking lot on the side of the building.
Uncle Fung Borneo Eatery
Uncle Fung Borneo Eatery is tucked within a shopping center at 5716-A E 7th Street and was a perfect stop for lunch. Their menu is filled with a variety of comforting noodles, rice plates, soups, chicken satay, and tea.
I tried the Chicken Satay Rice (seasoned and skewered grilled chicken with peanut sauce and curry rice) with Roti Prata (fried pancake with curry sauce) and Teh Tarik.
Nomad Asian Bistro
I was introduced to Nomad Asian Bistro during a lunch with Karen of Karen’s Kitchen Stories a couple of years ago and it was such a wonderful meal! The restaurant is located in the the Marketplace Long Beach outdoor shopping plaza at 6563 Pacific Coast Highway with plenty of parking and surrounding shops/restaurants.
My absolutely favorite was the Three Flavor Handmade Chow Mein (the noodles were so so good- stir-fried with vegetables, egg, and soy seasoning), but I also loved the Thin Sesame Flatbread, Scallion Pancake, and Spring Rolls.
Cinnaholic recently opened their Long Beach location earlier this year at 5305 2nd Street Suite 103. They feature a variety of 100% vegan gourmet cinnamon rolls with fun flavors and plenty of “create your own” options, plus cookie dough, cookie cakes, brownies, dole whip, and coffee.
I especially love the local touch with unique combinations specific for Long Beach in addition to the classic flavors. The kids decided on the LBC (Long Beach Crave) and The Pike.
The Baby Buns are also perfect if you are looking for something a little smaller- 3 mini buns with one frosting on the side (I chose maple).
Looking for more places to visit in Los Angeles?
- Homemade Udon Noodles and Los Angeles: South Coast Botanic Garden
- Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
- Rocky Road Cookies and Los Angeles: La Brea Tar Pits
Lort Cha (Cambodian Stir-Fried Rice Pin Noodles)
To pair with the post, I wanted to try making Lort Cha (លតឆា, Lot Cha, Loat Cha) at home so I can continue to remember the amazing flavors after we unfortunately have to move away from the area next year.
This dish tosses together wonderfully chewy short rice pin noodles with a savory and sweet sauce, garlic chives, and blanched bean sprouts. Adjust flavors to taste. To serve, I topped the Lort Cha with toasted crushed peanuts, thinly sliced green onions, fried egg, fried garlic, and chili sauce (use Chrouk Metae if available).
I made the Lort Cha with sliced chicken thighs since that is what I usually have on hand, but you can also use beef, pork, shrimp, other protein, or simply omit it and the marinade ingredients. Allow the chicken to marinate for about 15-30 minutes to help develop the flavor while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Have everything ready before you start cooking since it will all come together quickly.
If using refrigerated rice pin noodles, microwave or blanch briefly before adding to the pan. This will help soften and break up the noodles so they don’t tear apart.
Rice pin noodles (លត, short noodles, silver needle noodles) are short pieces of rice noodles with a thicker center and tapered edges. I have been able to find them in Los Angeles in the refrigerated section of markets with Southeast Asian ingredients such as 99 Ranch Market and Westminster Superstore. If unavailable, What to Cook Today has a great recipe on how to make the noodles at home.
Garlic Chives are group of chives with a mild onion and garlic flavor. The leaves are larger and more flat than the Western variety and have delicate white flowers. They are also available in markets with East/Southeast Asian ingredients and some larger grocery stores (often sold in bundles). If unavailable, you can swap for green onions.
Fish sauce is a condiment created by slowly fermenting fish (generally anchovies) in a salt water mixture, then pressing to produce a thin liquid. It has quite the strong smell, but provides a savory and salty umami flavor. Brands from different countries will vary a bit in taste and quality. It can be found in some larger grocery stores and markets with Southeast Asian ingredients.
Dark Soy Sauce is also known as sweet soy sauce, black soy sauce, or thick soy sauce. It is available in markets with East/Southeast Asian ingredients or on Amazon at a higher price: Pearl River Bridge Superior Dark Soy Sauce.
Palm sugar is created by boiling down the sap from a sweet palm tree until nearly solid with a light golden color. It can be found in markets with Southeast Asian ingredients in tablet form or in containers. If unavailable, swap for light brown sugar.
Lort Cha (Cambodian Stir-Fried Rice Pin Noodles) Recipe
Adapted from What to Cook Today
Lort Cha (Cambodian Stir-Fried Rice Pin Noodles)
- 8 ounces (227 grams) boneless, skinless chicken thighs thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon (7 milliliters) fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch or tapioca starch
- 1/2 teaspoon palm sugar
- 5 ounces (142 grams) bean sprouts
- 1 pound (450 grams) rice pin noodles
- 1-1 1/2 tablespoons (15-22 milliliters) fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons palm sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and minced, plus more if desired to make fried garlic
- 1.8 ounces (50 grams) garlic chives cut into 1 1/2 inch (3.8 centimeter) pieces
- 2-4 Fried Eggs
- Thinly sliced green onions
- Toasted and ground peanuts
- Fried garlic
- Chili sauce Cambodian Chrouk Metae if available
To prepare the chicken:
- Place the thinly sliced chicken thighs in a medium bowl.
- Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, cornstarch, and palm sugar.
- Toss to thoroughly coat and set aside for 15-30 minutes.
To prepare the Lort Cha:
- Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Add the bean sprouts and blanch for 30 seconds. Remove from the water and set aside in a colander to drain.
- Either blanch the rice pin noodles in the water until softened enough to separate or microwave briefly (1-2 minutes) until softened.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, palm sugar, dark soy sauce, and soy sauce. Set aside.
- Place the vegetable oil in a large wok or pan over medium high heat.
- Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute (I sometimes add a couple extra cloves of minced garlic and fry until golden, then set aside to top as a garnish for more flavor).
- Add the marinated chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and cooked through.
- Toss in the softened rice pin noodles and the sauce to thoroughly coat.
- Once the sauce thickens to coat the noodles and everything is heated through, toss in the blanched bean sprouts and garlic chives.
- Once combined, remove from heat and serve immediately with a fried egg, green onion slices, ground peanuts, fried garlic, and chili sauce.