Khmer food in Phnom Penh

What we say: 3.5 stars

Every time I have visitors from out of town I rack my brains trying to think of the perfect place to take them to eat and sample the local fare. Khmer cuisine, with its fermented fishy flavours, can be difficult for those who aren’t familiar with it, and many local restaurants only serve a few things, making it difficult to satisfy a large group with multiple preferences. But never fear, it is possible to fall in love with Cambodian food in Phnom Penh!

Amok the night away at K.

Here are a few places that I usually end up taking guests who are new to Khmer cuisine.

Romdeng

If you’re interested in eating for a cause, Romdeng is part of the NGO Mith Samlanh, which trains and employs former street children. Romdeng specialises in traditional Khmer dishes from the provinces and gives you a chance to try some of the more adventurous Khmer dishes like deep-fried tarantulas and red tree ants in a atmospheric and hygienic environment. Lots of other dishes on the menu will appeal to a more traditional palate.

74 St 174, Phnom Penh
T: (092) 219 565

K’nyay

K’nyay serves up traditional Khmer dishes in a stylish environment. Their dishes are made with higher-quality ingredients than what you’ll find in local restaurants (and the prices reflect this). It’s a great place to try Cambodian dishes without having to worry about the cleanliness of the kitchen and they also have vegetarian and vegan options on the menu.

Suramarit Blvd between Sothearos Blvd and St 19
T: (023) 225 225; (092) 665 225

knyay.com

The Empire

A newcomer to the Khmer food scene, The Empire was opened recently by an English-Cambodian couple who have perfected Khmer dishes that suit a Western palate. You’ll find classics like fish amok and Khmer curry made sans prahok and with just the right amount of spice. They also have steak nights every Thursday, in case not everyone in your group wants to try their delicious Khmer options.

#34 St 130, Phnom Penh.
T: (089) 383 817

facebook.com/khmerempire

Ahoy! Banh hoi at Russian Market costs just $1.

Russian Market

The Russian Market, or Psar Toul Tom Pong is a must-see for anyone new to Phnom Penh. But it’s not just a shopper’s paradise: a large food hall sells num ban chok, banh hoi and other local specialities for those looking to experience “real” Cambodian eating. Lots of tourists mean that the food sellers speak a bit of English, but the prices aren’t higher than what you’d pay on the street.

Intersection of Street 440 & Street 15

54 Langeach Sros

54 Langeach Sros (or “Fresh Evening”) is a Khmer beer garden restaurant that is always a hit with visitors. It’s cheap, there’s a menu in English and the grilled pork ribs are out of this world. They also have a number of intriguing tree-ant dishes, frog’s legs and fish amok. And with jugs of Angkor beer at only 9,000 riel, you’ll be able to eat and drink to your heart’s content for less than $5 a person.

15AEe St 178, Phnom Penh.
T: (012) 829 758

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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