Nearly a year ago Lim Soulin was inspired to set up her own little restaurant in Phnom Penh after witnessing the growth of fast food chains in the Kingdom and growing concerned at the high levels of fatty food being consumed by Cambodians.
Aspiring to be the antidote to the junk food craze, she decided her restaurant JLC – so named after her husband John, her name Lin, and cooking – would be committed to promoting healthy eating, becoming one of the few outlets in Phnom Penh simply serving colourful salads and fresh fruit juices.
JLC has proved a hit among young, modern and health-conscious Cambodians.
“Nowadays, I noticed that many Cambodians like high-calorie, deep-fried and fatty foods with a lot of oil and meat. Most don’t consume fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.” the 26-year-old tells The Post, sitting in her salad bar.
Soulin has always been a fruit and vegetable lover. She is a cook who shares her passion for food on YouTube, making cooking videos that have gathered more than one million views in total.
Despite her talents in the kitchen and the success of her online cooking tutorials, Soulin never considered running her own restaurant until early last year when she successfully helped her husband shed weight through her healthy recipes.
“My husband really wanted to lose some weight, so I came up with salad recipes that I catered to the tastes of my husband who is a big meat eater,” she says.
Soulin says her husband was put off by the idea of salads as he felt they lacked taste and weren’t a substantial meal to keep him satisfied during the working day.
So instead of radically changing her husband’s diet with only fruits and vegetables, Soulin included healthy protein sources – such as salmon, grilled chicken and beef, and seafood – into her colourful, leafy salads.
To make them extra healthy, rather than using oil she would cook them by steaming or boiling.
“My husband loved the salads. After a month of eating salads and drinking fresh fruit juice, he lost 6kg down from his starting weight of 82kg.”
Following her husband’s success, the couple set off on their mission is to encourage more people to turn to plant-based meals.
“People should not eat a lot of meat and oily food. They should change their diet to more vegetables and fruits, cutting out meat to be healthy and environmentally friendly. Grilled meat, deep-fried food, and canned sugary beverages are easy and delicious, but they should consider the health risks of eating those foods and think of how bad it is for the body,” she says.
Soulin’s JLC salad bar has a homely and organic feel as it’s decorated with small flower pots, plants and green vines, the perfect surroundings for her as she prepares a red cabbage, avocado, beetroot, red onion, corn and pea salad, before adding slices of pork, shrimp and a boiled egg.
She serves many varieties of salads that range from the classic chicken salad to an Southeast Asian inspired spicy sour shrimp salad. Vegetarian options are also available in the form of a tofu salad.
Prices range from $4.50 for a large salad to $3 for a regular.
JLC also serves fresh fruit and vegetable juices straight from the juicer without adding sugar, flavour enhancers or preservatives at $2.50 each.
Her customers are both local and expats who believe in the power of healthy food. To meet the highest standards, Soulin also makes sure to source her ingredients carefully.
“The fruits and vegetable in my restaurant are from Natural Garden, the organic and healthy food retail grocer. For our meat, we only buy from local farms, not imported meat,” she says.
After nearly a year of operation, Soulin said she receives approximately 60 orders a day for her salad boxes and juice bottles.
While she knows that she is one of the very few emphasising healthy eating in Cambodia currently, she stands firm in her conviction that what she is attempting to achieve is valuable.
“Restaurants like us need to continue standing firm so that more and more Cambodians will ditch unhealthy eating habits and eat more fruits and vegetables,” she says