Cambodian food may not be as well known as the cuisine of neighbouring Asian countries, however food lovers will have plenty to tuck into. Often compared to Thai food, Cambodian cuisine combines the spices and coconut flavours typical of Southeast Asian cookery with the presentation flair of French cuisine (being a former French colony).
Lemongrass, galangal (a type of ginger), kaffir lime leaves, tamarind, and the fermented fish paste prahoc, are some of the most commonly used ingredients. Rice is a staple dish, as are noodles which are often eaten for breakfast. No visit to Cambodia is complete without trying the national dish called amok – monkfish or cod seasoned with turmeric, ginger, garlic, and chilli, wrapped in a banana leaf and then steamed in coconut milk.
Amok, traditionally with fish, is Cambodia’s national dish. Image source: Amok Restaurant Amok Restaurant Facebook
While many restaurants cater to tourists by offering Western menus, there are plenty of delightful Khmer restaurants to choose from.
292, Street 214 Samdac Pan (west of Joseph Broz Tito Yougoslavie), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(near Street 63 Trasak Paem)
+855 12 882 679
Situated off the busy Monivong Boulevard, eating here is a lively experience thanks to barbecues over which diners can cook their own prawns, beef, etc. It’s very popular with locals too, which is always a good sign. Dishes are mostly US$2 – $3.
19, Street 240 Oknha Chhun, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(between Streets 41 Norodom and 19 Ang Yukanthor)
+855 23 220 956
Diners can eat alfresco on the large balcony at this restaurant in the Cambodian capital. The menu is typical Khmer cuisine – noodles, curries, and fish – with plenty of ginger and coconut flavours. Try the steamed fish with vegetables, or the prawns in soy sauce. Most dishes are US$5.
Friends The Restaurant
215, Street 13 Ang Eng, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(between Streets 172 Ly Yoak Lay & 178 Ang Makhak Vann, north of National Museum)
+855 12 802 072 www.friends-international.org/shop/restaurants.asp
Food here may not be authentic Khmer cuisine but this is a refreshingly upbeat restaurant where all the staff, formerly homeless youngsters, are now receiving hospitality training thanks to the work of the Friends International charity.
Western food and Asian options appear on the affordable menu, as well as cocktails and Angkor beer. Curiously, a trip to the toilets reveals large bowls overflowing with condoms, as Friends attempt to do their bit to stem the AIDS epidemic.
north end of Pub Street Alley (or The Passage), Siem Reap, Cambodia
(near Street 2 Thanou, Old Market area)
+855 63 965 407 www.restaurant-siemreap.com
Amok Restaurant is named after the famous national dish, and rightly so as different types of amok are on offer – try them all in the degustation. Also featured on the menu is the zesty banana flower salad (though having its origins in Vietnam), lok luk steak, yam soup, and a range of fresh fruit shakes. There are often special deals – a main course and a drink for only US$4.50.
Banana flower salad, image source: Amok Restaurant Facebook
The Blue Pumpkin
Hospital Street (or Street 2 Thanou), Siem Reap, Cambodia
(near the Old Market)
+855 63 963 574 www.tbpumpkin.com
This sleek and modern restaurant wouldn’t look out of place in London, New York, or any of the world’s capitals. The all white décor and comfy seating attract young students and foreigners who come here to use the free wi-fi.
Cool cocktails and a mixture of Western and Asian foods make up the menu. Prices are reasonable, however admittedly not many Cambodians eat here. Worth a visit if you’re after relatively plush surroundings.
155 Taphul Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia
+855 89 590 864 www.salabai.com
Another charity-run training restaurant dedicated to helping disadvantaged youths. Meals are prepared by the students, and as this is pretty much a school, it’s only open for breakfast and lunch. The menu varies according to the students’ programme, but lunch is only US$6 – $8, and the money goes towards training.
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