What to eat
It’s easy to hit the best dishes just pointing out at what attracts you most. Though if you prefer a more ‘systematic’ approach, try some of the basics listed below and found almost everywhere in Phnom Penh.
Small chive pancakes served with a sweet and spicy fish sauce are num kachay – a perfect snack when you need to have some fuel during sightseeing in Phnom Penh.
Meaty souls, do not miss sach ko chomkak, which are skewers of beef cooked over hot coals. These ones are especially delicious in a baguette with chilli sauce.
For something more substantial, mi char, or fried noodles with meat and vegetables, is a top choice.
One cannot survive without kuy teah in Phnom Penh – this noodle soup is enjoyed by locals any time of the day, but especially at breakfast time. It’s usually made with beef or pork bones, rice vermicelli, shallots, onions and bean sprouts.
There isn’t one particular place to find good street food, stalls tend to be scattered throughout the city. For a greater choice in one place, try either the Central Market (Phsar Thom Thmei) or Night Market (Phsar Reatrey).
Food stalls can be found throughout the city, selling a variety of cheap local delicacies.
However, it’s important to remember that food poisoning is fairly common in Cambodia, so you should take care when choosing where to eat. Always check the cleanliness of a street stall, make sure the food is piping hot and try to choose dishes that are cooked in front of you. Try to avoid seafood – save it for Sihanoukville, – crushed ice and lukewarm foods. Well, do not tell us we have not forewarned you, eh? And now forget it all and indulge into what hawkers and dirt cheap street restaurants have on offer.
Phnom Penh has a number of fantastic restaurants and cafes throughout the city. Whether you want to eat traditional Khmer, French, Italian or Chinese, Phnom Penh has it all. The following are just a small selection of recommended eateries to visit.
For a great culinary experience in an atmospheric setting try Romdeng at #74 St 174 (open daily from 11am till 11pm). Located in a beautiful colonial villa, Romdeng serves a variety of Khmer dishes. Specialities include baked fish amok, tiger prawn curry and for the adventurous – deep fried tarantula! Like lots of restaurants in Cambodia, Romdeng helps train street kids to work in the hospitality industry. Main course prices start from US$5.
Another decent choice is Malis at #136 Preah Norodom (open daily from 6am till 10.30pm). Renowned as one of the leading restaurants in Cambodia, Malis serves excellent new age Cambodian cuisine in a beautiful garden setting. Menu highlights include beef in bamboo and goby with Kampot peppercorns. They also offer a decent and reasonable priced selection of breakfast sets. Main course prices start from US$6.
French and Italian restaurants are abundant in Phnom Penh. Many are run by European expats and thus offer quite an authentic experience as does Van’s Restaurant at #5 St 102 (open daily from 11.30am till 2.30pm & 5pm till 10.30pm). Van’s is a fine dining French restaurant located in one of the grandest buildings in Phnom Penh. Dishes are presented beautifully and menu highlights include langoustine ravioli and sautéed beef with Kampot pepper. Main course prices start from US$15.
For some European faves with a Cambodian twist try Friends at #215 St 13 (open daily from 11am till 10.30pm). Even if you only have a short trip planned, make sure to pay a visit it. They specialise in European-Cambodian fusion cuisine, some of which is served tapas style – perfect for sharing. They cater well for vegetarians and serve a great selection of smoothies and juices. You’ll also be contributing to a good cause as they help train kids to work in hospitality, just like Romdeng. Main course prices start from US$6.
Coffeehouses & cafés
A wide choice of coffee shops & cafés makes the obsession of locals with coffee obvious. Feel Good at #79 St 136 Daun Penh (open daily from 7.30am till 8pm) & at 11B St 29 Tonle Bassac (open daily 7.30am till 3pm) is where supposedly you’ll find the best coffee in town! They now have two shops, both of which serve breakfast and lunch in addition to freshly roasted coffee. Menu highlights include the smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel and the huevos ranchero (Tonle Bassac shop only).
If you have any special dietary requirements, head to ARTillery café at St 240 ½ alleyway (open 7.30am till 9pm Tue–Sun, 7.30am till 5pm Mon). They cater for vegetarians, vegans and those with gluten allergies. Their menu is built around fresh, organic, locally sourced produce. Highlights include the summer salad, and the spiralised courgette ‘pasta’ with tomato sauce. Main course prices start from US$4.