Eating oysters in Phnom Penh

What we say: 3.5 stars

You’ll forgive me for not immediately realising that Phnom Penh is an oyster town. It’s not next to the sea and there doesn’t seem to be a word in the Khmer language for oyster. And yet there’s an oyster culture in Phnom Penh, with locals and expats alike enjoying oysters on the half shell all over town — most come in from the seaside towns of Sihanoukville, Kep or Kampot, but the more expensive ones are brought from Vietnam. (And if you’re looking for super-fancy oysters flown in from Normandy, try Van’s Restaurant).

Oysters served Khmer-style: with tamarind, chilli sauce and fried garlic, plus lots and lots of beer.

From the most to least posh, here are some of the best places to enjoy raw oysters in Phnom Penh:

Sonoma Oyster

Named after the Napa Valley town that has never produced a single oyster (but is swimming in excellent Sauvignon Blancs), Sonoma Oyster aims to be the high-class oyster joint in town, and is the place to go if you’re looking for more than just a low-grade Kampot mollusk. They serve regular oysters on the half shell, oyster shooters, oyster Rockefeller, tempura oysters, rock oysters topped with Norwegian smoked salmon and sour cream… you get the idea, they’re big on oysters. Six oysters on the half shell — imported from Vietnam — will set you back $7.95. They also have lots of other seafood options as well as wine pairings.

159Eo Street 278, Phnom Penh
T: (077) 723 911

Sovanna BBQ

They aren’t a seafood restaurant, but you’ll often find oysters as big as your fist at Sovanna BBQ. How they get oysters that are so much bigger than any oyster I’ve ever seen before — and whether or not that’s even a good thing — is a mystery, but they sell them for between 6,000 and 9,000 riel depending on the weather and their supply, which comes from the Sihanoukville area.

2C St 21, Phnom Penh
T: (011) 840 055

Fish and Chips

This Street 51 eatery claims to be open 24 hours, making it the only round-the-clock oyster retailer in town. I can attest that they serve oysters until at least 02:00 — they offer a dozen oysters on the half shell for a mere $6 or 2,000 riel each, served with fried garlic, tamarind leaves and a spicy chilli sauce. If you’re looking for a place to sit and enjoy cheap beers and cheap oysters, this is a good pick.

Street 51, across from Howie Bar, Phnom Penh

Heaven: enjoying oysters on a busy Phnom Penh street corner.

Woman selling oysters out of Styrofoam coolers

Serving the cheapest oysters that I’ve yet to find in Phnom Penh, a young woman sets up shop around dusk for a few hours and slings raw oysters to a customer base that consists mainly of schoolgirls and motodops for a mere 1,400 riel apiece. She’s got a couple of tables and stools so you can enjoy your snack with the supplied tamarind leaves, fried garlic and chilli sauce while watching the day turn into evening.

Corner of Street 13 and 130
T:(097) 265 5909; (011) 346 419

About the author
Previously, Lina has been based in Oakland, California, New York City, Dublin and London. Lina spends most of her time thinking about food, travel and synthpop. She's currently based in Siem Reap.
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