Photo: Within the grounds of the Royal Palace.

Cambodia forum

Khmer food

Posted by mattocmd on 13/11/2010 at 12:12

My favorite part about travelling is the food - the cheap awesome local food.

In HCMC I can get pho for $1 or go to the central market and get the best seafood like a plate of grilled scallops for under $2...all cheap and amazing.

In Bangkok I can get delicious street food or go to a local restaurant and eat like a king for nothing.

I'm having a hard time in Phnom Penh. Can anyone help me out? I don't want to eat at the expensive western restaurants. I'm having a hard time finding delicious Khmer food (besides fish amok). It just all seems ordinary but perhaps I'm missing something?

Any general or specific suggestions??? Help me out, I'm hungry!

#1 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 365

Posted by eastwest on 13/11/2010 at 14:48

That is because it is much harder to find and also the hygiene standards are far lower than in surrounding countries.

A few of my favorite places in Phnom Penh:
- Fisherman Quay. On the same street as German embassy and about 100m further from Monivong on same side. Great asian/chinese seafood. Not dirt cheap but great quality and lots of local (chinese cambodian) clientele. It's a restaurant and more enjoyable if you go with someone.
- Dim Sum place. I don't know the actual name of the place but they serve great cheap dim sum (roughly $1 per plate) and I used to go there for breakfast. I think it's on 134 off the riverfront and on the corner of 134 (or 136) and the next big road that runs parallel to the riverfront (between Norodom and riverfront). Coming from the river it's on the left corner on opposite side. Tick off the things you want (can recommend the carrot/raddish cake, which is different from western thing) on the menu.
- 1 or 2 blocks away on that same parallel street (turn right on that road if you come from riverfront) is another restaurant for the evening. It's also on a corner and serves good and cheap local fare (with english menu). Opposite of it is a restaurant (you'll pass that first if you come from the dim sum place) that gets more westerners but the food is far less.
- Lemongrass. This is a "real" restaurant but they serve great authentic Khmer and Thai dishes in a very pleasant setting. It does cater mostly to tourists and expats but the food is great and not that expensive (although closer to western prices). On same street as Chiva's shack (street 130 or so) and within a block from riverfront.
- Monivong. Try this in the evening. Some stalls/restaurants there serve great roasted duck for a bargain.

Hope it helps

#2 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778


Posted by sayadian on 13/11/2010 at 16:07

There are lots of places near Psar Kandal,one end of which is practically on the Riverfront but you want the other side.Got a couple of decent restaurants in the market on that side.The road that goes up from the market there has the Angkor hotel,Street 148, across from that you can buy fried beef or chicken with salad for $2 and the draught beer is fresh but they are only open in the evening.For breakfast continue down that street 30 metres on the same side you will see a metal-basher, next door the coffee and breakfast is superb.They do a beef soup with barquette which will fill you for the day

#3 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by Indoluso on 14/11/2010 at 17:15

There's a cheap, local place near the palace, near the crossroad of boulevard Samdach Sothearos with Preah Ang Makhak Vann, if my memory is correct, where they have a barbeque outside the restaurant.The shrimps were very good, the meat was a bit tough for my taste but my friends loved it.

#4 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133

Posted by Rasheeed on 15/11/2010 at 08:13

Chinese places just off central market kill. I go to Shandong.

#5 Rasheeed has been a member since 4/11/2010. Location: Cambodia. Posts: 311
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Posted by MADMAC on 15/11/2010 at 10:30

Man, you guys amaze me. Talk about specifics.... Eastwest, I would have thought you lived in PP based on that response.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by Voyagner on 15/11/2010 at 16:52

You need to go for Khmer soup, find a khmer person to take you to a popular place, there are a bunch of them up near the new bridge, sorry don't know the names of any of them.

#7 Voyagner has been a member since 12/7/2009. Posts: 30
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Posted by Rasheeed on 15/11/2010 at 17:32

Ya, it's only recently I realized the joy of sour soup (Mchoo). Good call.

#8 Rasheeed has been a member since 4/11/2010. Location: Cambodia. Posts: 311
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Posted by eastwest on 16/11/2010 at 09:30

Mac,
I live in Cambodia but not in PP. I have to visit often though and get taken out for dinner often by suppliers and friends there.
Cambodian food can be great but I wish people would try a few more things apart from the soups. But I guess budget plays a big role in it.

To me the big difference is that street food here doesn't have that many stir fries made-to-order. Most local shops/eateries have a table with 10-15 pans on a table. Some of the food is great but difficulty (even for someone who lives here) is to determine whether it's fresh or left over from 1-3 days ago.

#9 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 16/11/2010 at 10:06 TF writer

For a true taste of Khmer food, grab some friends and get a tuk tuk over the Japanese bridge for a couple of kms, near the Washington hotel. There are several large restaurants on the left, usually with a whole pig or cow spit roasting outside. The menus are extensive and the atmosphere is great fun.

Other recommendations - frogs are still in season (delicious) and on the menu at lots of places. There's a great fish soup stall during the day on the corner diagonally opposite Old Market. Try the restaurant on St 136, a few doors down from the big ELT school building, between Norodorm Blvd and Central Market - it has big yellow awnings and lots of Khmer people eating there. Number 21 (spicy beef in peanut sauce) is particularly delicious! There's also another corner restaurant on St 13/St 118, close to the Old Market (not the one attached to a big hotel, just before that), with a good menu. Think this is the one EastWest was also recommending.

Finally, you can't go wrong with pork and rice for breakfast, at pretty much any street stall before 10.30am. The quality varies, as does the price, but it will set you up for a few hours. The same stalls usually serve stir fry noodles or rice porridge too.

#10 AbigailatPenhandInk has been a member since 9/11/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 179
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Posted by eastwest on 16/11/2010 at 10:24

Completely agree on that last call and it's something which I forgot.

Caramel pork is great and one of my favorite dishes in SE asia. Somehow it rarely gets tried by foreigners which I don't understand since it's also dirt cheap, tastes great and fills you up.
Must admit however that the local version is often too dry/chewy for western tastes.

#11 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by mattocmd on 16/11/2010 at 12:43

Wow, the responses are all great! Cheers!!

About those pig restaurants, is it alright for a solo traveller to eat there. I really want to try it but have only really seen large groups eating there. Any specific suggestions on what to order, a fresh roasting pig....I've got to try that!

Ok thanks again for all the help. Looks like I have plenty to work with now. No more mediocre western meals!

#12 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 365

Posted by sayadian on 16/11/2010 at 15:46

Yes, over the Japanese bridge and on a couple of kilometres and there are lots and lots of restaurants.One of the most popular is the Kadothmey.I got the card here but I don't read Khmer.Tel. is 011942360 or 012309076.
Believe me you need to book for this place as it serves the best food.I wouldn't worry about turning up alone or even the fact the menu is in Khmer, after all, this is Cambodia everything happens easy.
BTW getting a tuk-tuk there is one thing but to get back get his tel number to pick you up. or he'll probably wait for a bit extra, in fact you could invite him for dinner wouldn't cost a whole lot more.

#13 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by mahadragon on 17/11/2010 at 20:06

Check out Psar Orussey near Olympic Stadium. I stayed near here and I really enjoyed not only shopping at Psar Orussey (where I found the cutest little pencils upstairs), but the food was most definitely local in flavor and selection. It was basically all street food which I absolutely love. Most westerners won't sit at a plastic table using plastic forks and spending $1 for a meal, but one of my trips to SE Asia, that's all I did (I'm Chinese and don't care for fancy ambience). Btw - I just got back from Phnom Penh several days ago and I really enjoyed it. While I was at Psar Orussey, I ate several little snack things that I don't know the name of. One of them was
- a tapioca-like dessert mixed with bananas .25 cents,
- a donut-like pastry for .50 cents
- noodle soup with a fried egg on top .75 cents.
- another dessert, coconut mixed with rice (and some other ingredients) in tea leaves for .50 cents (being made and wrapped on the spot by a little old granny out of a cart. [img]smileys/smile.gif[/img]

I can pretty much guarantee you will find something to eat over there because during the day there were tons of street vendors all over the place.

#14 mahadragon has been a member since 17/11/2010. Posts: 6

Posted by sayadian on 17/11/2010 at 22:51

mahadragon
You are right.The food in and around the market is excellent especially those sweets.Where did you stay?Can you recommend a good place as the lakeside is gone,I hear.I'll be in PP in a couple of weeks unless Bangkok holds me up

#15 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by Rasheeed on 17/11/2010 at 23:51

Near Psar Orussay, Tat GH on street 125 is not a bad place. That's where I stay, if that means anything.

'sheeed

#16 Rasheeed has been a member since 4/11/2010. Location: Cambodia. Posts: 311
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Posted by Indoluso on 18/11/2010 at 01:08

It's true that the lake side looks like rats and bugs may go around, but we experienced a great sunset there!

#17 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133

Posted by sayadian on 18/11/2010 at 01:40

Indoluso
What's the status at the lake.Have the GHs gone? Has it been fenced off?
Love to know what's going on.

#18 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by mahadragon on 18/11/2010 at 10:30

Hi sayadian, I stayed at Fairyland Guest House which was down the street from Orussey Market. It's real close to Chan Trea Guest House if you know where that is. I would highly recommend Fairyland, only $13/night w/AC and it was very clean and modern looking. 3 computers downstairs for you to use and two of them had fans you could use to blow the mosquitoes away.

#19 mahadragon has been a member since 17/11/2010. Posts: 6

Posted by mahadragon on 18/11/2010 at 10:41

Hi sayadian, I stayed at Fairyland Guest House which was down the street from Orussey Market. It's real close to Chan Trea Guest House if you know where that is. I would highly recommend Fairyland, only $13/night w/AC and it was very clean and modern looking. 3 computers downstairs for you to use and two of them had fans you could use to blow the mosquitoes away. There's Guest Houses all over the place here. I was actually gonna stay at Chan Trea but as we made our way over there we passed by Fairyland and I immediately said, "Over there! I wanna go over there!" (think Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack talking to the captain of his boat). I made my way over, looked at one of the rooms and was immediately sold. Very underrated Guest House. Chat Trea looked much older but only $7/night, limited english.

#20 mahadragon has been a member since 17/11/2010. Posts: 6

Posted by Indoluso on 18/11/2010 at 21:05

Hi! Not at all, you have plenty guesthouses and some restaurants, although I know nothing about quality. I found that the quarter has its charm with all those little streets. I didn't stay in that area so my information is based on what I imagine after seeing the place. We asked our tuktuk driver to take us to the lake and he took us to Guesthouse "No Problem". We stayed there to have some drinks while whatching the sunset, which was nice, although the atmosphere was a bit "underground". We had a look into the rooms, which were very basic. As the guesthouses with view over the lake are built above water I imagine it must be filthy, rats and bugs might get anywhere, I think.

Hope that it clarifies you!

#21 Indoluso has been a member since 22/12/2009. Posts: 133

Posted by sayadian on 18/11/2010 at 22:36

It had it's charm (the lake and sunset) but since they've probably finished filling it in by now I doubt there is much of that left.It has it's characters and some nice bars.Is the Magic Sponge still operating and the little coffee stand around the corner from the Square which serves the best Vietnamese coffee in PP?

#22 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 25/11/2010 at 09:02 TF writer

Sayadian - the Magic Sponge is still there, but under new ownership. It's smaller than it was - the pool table has gone! The previous owner has now got a guest house in Kampot called the Magic Sponge, complete with mini golf course.
The coffee shop was still there a week or so ago, but rumour has it that the businesses have finally been given their eviction notices, so Lakeside as we know it only has a few weeks left. The lake is very small now, more of a pond, but still amazing sunsets.
For anyone else reading this who's in PP - get down there now before this little piece of PP travel history goes for good!

#23 AbigailatPenhandInk has been a member since 9/11/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 179
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Posted by sayadian on 25/11/2010 at 16:18

Abigail
thanks for the info but I'm a little bit confused about the Sponge.The owner who went to Kampot went ages ago.Then,ah for the life of me his name escapes me, but he has long dark hair and a beard took over.
I'm glad some of it is standing.I know a lot of the locals around there and didn't want to lose touch.I'll be there in PP early December so lets hope the usual slow Khmer way of doing things means 'the evictions' take a long time.

#24 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 26/11/2010 at 13:26 TF writer

Sayadian - think there's been more than one owner of the bar on Lakeside since the previous owner opened the Magic Sponge guesthouse in Kampot about a year ago. I got back to PP in June, and there seems to have been a couple of different managements since then. Believe the latest incarnation is French-run. The Drunken Frog has closed, the Lazy Gecko's moved and La Dolce Vita is moving to St 172, but some familiar faces still around.

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Posted by sayadian on 26/11/2010 at 17:43

I don't know if you know Ali across from the coffee shop.I hope he's still there.Do all the bong thoms still hang out at the coffee table?
It'll be a shame to lose such a rich tapestry of crazy life when it's gone.If only people could see past the squalor.
where are all the English teachers going to live?
:-)

#26 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by sayadian on 26/11/2010 at 20:52

....and where will Ann (weav) drink!!!

#27 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 28/11/2010 at 15:53 TF writer

A lot of the teachers and other long termers have already moved out, though some haven't gone far! Last time I was there for coffee, there was still a nice crowd shooting the breeze - as relaxed and friendly as ever.
I went down one evening this weekend, and things are happening more rapidly. Several of the guesthouses have closed, and those still open have shorter decks than they did. The Happy was still busy, but no sunset deck any more. Number 10 completely decimated. It's really bad for the people who were living in the wooden houses that weren't businesses, many were filled in with mud, others have been half-heartedly knocked down.
This was a really special place that has seemingly had its day in the form that we knew it. We were lucky to spend time there, in the unique mix of people.

#28 AbigailatPenhandInk has been a member since 9/11/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 179
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Posted by sayadian on 28/11/2010 at 22:39

The Lazy Gecko has gone to Street 258.I'm trying to think where exactly that is.Can't be far from Independence Monument.Hope it's not next to the infamous White House!
I've got a few Tel. numbers so I'll be finding out more next week when I arrive to say hello to Fat Sam in KK.I wonder if you know Robert the German, he's probably been there longer than most and has his coffee there most mornings and afternoons.Bin used to own the coffee place but she finally got her visa for Canada.The Vietnamese woman who has it now is just as nice.I hope I'm in time to catch her. What about the girls in the hairdresser? What will life be like without that little microcosm!

#29 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by sayadian on 28/11/2010 at 22:57

What about the Indians where can I get a good curry now if they've gone from the lake?
I know there are places near Psar char but can't remember the street.

#30 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by giblet on 29/11/2010 at 15:10

Inside Psar Kandal are a bunch of good, extremely cheap food stands selling noodle soup and rice and pork or chicken with pickled cucumbers. Early-ish morning.

As others have said, pre-made market food is usually to be avoided. I eat it a lot (not by choice) and although I've never gotten sick, it's usually not the greatest both in terms of taste and hygiene.

There are a ton of small coffeeshop like restaurants (haang bai) that have some prepared food out front but always cook food to order as well. They almost always don't have menus and many don't have anyone that speaks much English, but if you are willing to be giggled at a bit, you'll be able to figure out how to get something delicious.

sat moun - chicken
sat chruk - pork
sat ko - beef
bai - rice
mee - noodles
char - stir fry

#31 giblet has been a member since 29/11/2010. Posts: 39

Posted by piranha on 4/12/2010 at 17:38

is it veg?

#32 piranha has been a member since 3/12/2010. Posts: 18

Posted by piranha on 8/12/2010 at 20:01

anybody?

#33 piranha has been a member since 3/12/2010. Posts: 18

Posted by giblet on 8/12/2010 at 22:01

piranha: your question isn't very clear. Is what veg?

#34 giblet has been a member since 29/11/2010. Posts: 39

Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 13/12/2010 at 22:47 TF writer

Vegetables is 'bon-lai'. No idea what vegetarian is, though, sorry. Try 'art sait', which is 'no meat'. It'll get you by ...

#35 AbigailatPenhandInk has been a member since 9/11/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 179
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Posted by faineg on 16/12/2010 at 10:27

One more addition to the "good cheap Khmer food" list: Check out Prom Bayon on Street 154, just before you hit Norodom Boulevard. It's very much a real-deal Khmer beer garden and the food is great. Don't miss the grilled sirloin steak or the beef lok-lac - the "English" style, at least in this case, is better. If you're into it, they do excellent fried eel as well. And of course there's plenty of Angkor beer and violent Western movies to watch while you eat.

I doubt anyone's going to think you're particularly odd for eating alone in Phnom Penh . It doesn't appear to be much of a cultural taboo - I do it all the time. And the caramel pork is definitely tops and easily available. Pretty much everyone has a delicious pig carcass turning on the spit by around 6:00 PM. The trick is getting reasonably far away from Sisowath, which definitely is expensive backpacker chow central.

A friend and I got lost on a moto a little ways past the French Embassy and the Raffles and stumbled into what looked like a great little food/street stalls district. Another place to look would be near Tuol Kok market. Grab a moto (preferably with a friend, it can get a bit grotty down there late at night) and see if anything strikes your fancy.

I like Frizz and the Sugar Palm on Street 240 for upscale Khmer food that won't terrify the hygiene-conscious among us. There's always a couple of diplpmat couples and groups of culturally conscious backpackers in there. Good, authentic food, decent prices, both really nice places to just chill out - including free wifi and a healthy selection of cooling beverages. I like the Sugar Palm's amok best. It has a nice souffle thing going on.

Indian food? There's plenty of good places lurking around downtown. I've been really pleased with the quality of Indian food here. I like Phnom Penh Indian. Friends like Mt. Everest - I haven't been there myself.

A yellowpages directory for Indian food in the PP is here: http://www.yellowpages-cambodia.com/categories/1/kh12860

#36 faineg has been a member since 4/11/2010. Location: United States. Posts: 8
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Posted by Bman1986 on 16/12/2010 at 13:31

I ate at a place called Bojangles on the riverfront a couple of times and really liked it. It has a good selection of Khmer food as well as a few western dishes. Was quite a good spot to meet fellow backpackers as well.

#37 Bman1986 has been a member since 15/12/2010. Posts: 5

Posted by sayadian on 16/12/2010 at 16:58

Not Phnom Penh but I've just visited Koh Kong.There's a Khmer place there called Paddy's and the food is some of the best I have tasted in Cambodia.Just hang a left at the roundabout if coming up the main road towards the market.A really friendly guy too.

#38 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by AbigailatPenhandInk on 25/1/2011 at 11:11 TF writer

..... Replying to this post got me thinking about all the delicious and/or interesting things I eat on the streets here. The list is too big for this message, so I've posted it on my blog - at Penh and Ink. Would love some feedback on what people like off this list - it includes pork and rice (of course!) but also nougat, green papaya salad, corn cakes, fruit shakes ...

#39 AbigailatPenhandInk has been a member since 9/11/2010. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 179
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Posted by megmuhle on 1/2/2011 at 21:45

Posted from within Vietnam.

The best place we ate in all of our 30 day trip in Cambodia was Trei, in Kep. It's in the crab market, a new restaurant opened just this year...prices are the same, maybe a little cheaper than the others and the food and service is AMAZING. A MUST EAT!

#40 megmuhle has been a member since 1/2/2011. Posts: 1


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