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Food & Dining in Cambodia
 
 
 

General

As elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the quality of the food is a draw in its own right. Khmer cuisine shares much with that of both Thailand and China, although it tends to steer clear of excessive use of spices. While not the strongest link in Southeast Asia's chain of delightful cuisine, Khmer food is tasty and cheap and better than Burmese. Rice and occasionally noodles are the staples. Unlike in Thailand or Lao, spicy hot food in not the mainstay; black pepper is preferred over chilli peppers, though chillies are usually served on the side. Thai and Vietnamese influences can be noted in Khmer food, although Cambodians love strong sour tastes in their dishes. Prahok, a local fish paste, is common in Khmer cooking and may not please Western palates.

Other popular Khmer foods which may be less palatable to foreigners include pregnant eggs (duck eggs with the embryo still inside), and almost every variety of creepy or crawly animal (spiders, crickets, water beetles) as well as barbecued rats, frogs, snakes, bats and small birds.

Quality restaurants are found in all areas that see mainstream tourism, while cheap but tasty food stalls are ubiquitous around the country. Most meals are rice-based. Indian and Chinese restaurants have a healthy representation in Phnom Penh and the larger towns.

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh offers some interesting culinary treats not found elsewhere in the country. These include French-influenced dining and Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian dishes. Pizzas, banana pancakes and fried rice are always easy to find. The river front hosts everything from stand-up stalls to fine French bistros. Stalls likely lack hygienic practices: eating peeled fruit and vegetables and anything uncooked may have unintended consequences.

Amok (fish or meat steamed in leaves with coconut milk) and lok lak (grilled cubes of beef) are classic Khmer dishes that usually leave foreign diners wanting more. On the river front, Pon Lok is one of the most famous restaurants specialising in these dishes. The Hotel Cambodiana offers a Khmer buffet so diners can taste the full range of this unique cuisine with an accompanying performance of Khmer classical dance.

Once part of French Indochina, the Gallic influence still runs deep in Cambodia. French bread is sold at the markets by the basket load, and baguettes with pâté are a popular snack. For up-market dining, though, there are French restaurants to match the finest anywhere. Topaz, on Sotheros Boulevard, is widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in town. Less expensive but very atmospheric is Le Louisiane, with outdoor seating and attentive service. La Croisette is also an affordable but very appealing alternative.

The Tonle Sap, the river Phnom Penh is built along, is a centre for international dining in the city. From near the Royal Palace, a succession of restaurants serving food from all over the world to accommodate every budget stretch for about 2 km along the water front. Bali Café is, as the name suggests, primarily an Indonesian restaurant, but set on the first floor, the balcony makes it an ideal place to sit with a drink and watch the world go by even if you are not hungry. Almost next door is the Foreign Correspondents' Club, or FCC. Unlike FCC's in other countries, you do not have to be a journalist to come and enjoy the view from this stately French colonial building. Though, if there is a famous journalist, photographer or actor in town, you can bet on seeing them here sipping a happy-hour beer or snacking on international food including stuffed damper, pumpkin soup and Caesar salad at some point during their stay. Around the corner, real British hospitality, right down to the Scotch eggs and toad-in-the-hole, awaits you at the The Rising Sun.

The cuisines of neighbouring nations are of course feature prominently anywhere you go. In the restaurant strip on Sotheros Boulevard, Vietnam is represented with An Nam and Thailand is almost next-door at Chiang Mai. Upmarket Chinese food can be found at the Intercontinental Hotel's Xiang Palace, which specialises in dim sum but offers a full range of Cantonese delicacies. The road to Central Market, as well, is paved with Chinese restaurants in what has become a regular diner's Chinatown. Indian food is available for all, too – from Chi Cha Hotel to the Singaporean-owned East India Curry Restaurant to the stately Shiva Shakti, overlooking Independence Monument, where you might even find yourself dining with members of the Cambodian royal family. All three of these offer extensive vegetarian options and halal food.

There has been an explosion of international restaurants in Phnom Penh during recent years, so there are very few types of food one can't find here: Mexican food is offered at The Mex, Greek food at Athena Greek Bar and Restaurant, and even Mediterranean and Moroccan food at Riverhouse.

 

 
 

 



 


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