A far cry from the serene temples tucked away in the jungle thickets, Cambodia’s capital is a roaring razzamatazz to overwhelm the senses. Motorbikes and tuk tuks whizz around the streets. Markets bustle with colour and chatter. The skyline is punctuated with rising spires and the sizzle of street food. The mighty Mekong yawns lazily as it cuts across the urban sprawl. And wide-eyed backpackers and well-heeled tourists can be found snapping photographs of the silver pagoda.
WHERE TO EAT IN PHNOM PENH
Foodies prepare to salivate: Cambodia travel is a tantalising experience for the tastebuds and nowhere captures the adventure of eating quite like the capital of Phnom Penh. From silky fish swimming in coconut milk to gorgeous grilled squid, and even fried tarantulas – whether you are an intrepid eater or looking to tuck into heart-warming favourites.
Here are the most delectable foods to dine on in Phnom Penh…
For Traditional Tastes – Kampot Crab
Caught between the salty sea of Kep and the pungent Kampot pepper fields, it’s no wonder that the world falls over itself to taste Kampot Crab. Soft and sweet flaky crab doesn’t have to travel far before being brightened by the unripe green peppercorns plucked from the fields. When you fry the succulent white meat with the tongue tickling corns, chili and a heady dose of garlic you have an edible experience that is nothing short of spectacular.
Our Favourite: Malis Restaurant
Address: 136 Preah Norodom Blvd (41), Phnom Penh 12301, Cambodia
Venture Far Insight: A trip to the Kampot pepper fields (or even just picking some up from the market to take back home) is a must for those traveling in Cambodia. Laced with flavours like lime, jasmine, and eucalyptus – Kampot pepper goes beyond the grind.
For Sublime Street Food – Nompang Sak Koh
The sandwich sellers lining the street outside the market still have that joie de vivre left over from the French, especially in the form of the Nompang sak koh. The crispy baguette is stuffed with blackened lemongrass barbequed beef, sweet pickled vegetables, and lashings of drizzled chili. Phsar Chas, also known as the Old Market, this is the best spot to stop for a pocket friendly lunch on the go. When you are feeling more than peckish, you can combine the delectable French baguette sandwich with rich turmeric based Khmer yellow curry for a truly complementary experience.
Our Favourite: Phsar Cas – Street 13
Address: Street 13, Phnom Penh 12203, Cambodia
Venture Far Insight: When you get tired of beef, you can move on to the Nompang trey khaw, which is oily sardines simmered in tomato and served with pickled carrots, papaya and cooling cucumber.
For Adventurous Eaters – Tarantulas
Even those with a stomach of steel may quaver slightly at the sight of those eight-legged hairy beasts sizzling before being skewered. Believe it or not, fried tarantulas are a beloved dish in Cambodia. With a texture akin to caramel and with the crunch to match, tarantulas may be an acquired taste, but intrepid eaters will be amazed at what a good dipping sauce can do.
Be sure to order tarantulas with black pepper lime sauce and follow up with the other Khmer bites to try; such as crunchy crickets, froglets, and pickled morning glory. If those crispy tarantulas, sweet silkworms, fire ants, and crickets have been calling then Romdeng is the spot to sample. The chic little restaurant offers a more elegant setting than the pavement for sampling some of Cambodia’s more intricate flavours.
Our Favourite: Romdeng
Address: 74 Oknha Ket St. (174), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Venture Far Insight: Pair with a lemongrass and tamarind mojito for the ultimate exotic experience – or to wash the legs down as quick as possible.
For Beautiful Bowls – Fish Amok
Nowhere screams living in the tropics quite like being served lunch in a pretty banana leaf bowl. The fish amok is one of Cambodia’s most beloved dishes and if done right, then one bite will leave you weak at the knees. The flaky white fish is steamed in an emerald green banana leaf before being simmered with rich thick coconut milk laced with delicate flavours of kefir lime, basil, coriander and fragrant lemongrass.
The whole thing just begs to be lovingly slurped down. Fresh local produce without a drop of MSG, devour your amok sitting smack bang in the middle of a beautiful lush tropical garden. Eleven One Kitchen invites you to breathe deep when the capital chaos of Phnom Penh gets too much.
Our Favourite: Eleven One Kitchen
Address: 123 St 460, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Venture Far Insight: This is a dish you are sure to fall head over heels with, book a space at one of the longest running cooking classes in Phnom Penh at the Frizz Restaurant and learn how to curate this Cambodian wonder at home.
For Cambodian Ceviche – Lap Khmer
Forget Peru and Mexico, Cambodian Ceviche is where it’s at. Thin slithers of beef are cooked ceviche style as they stew in zesty lime juice. Afterwards, the soft as milk morsels of meat are dressed in lemongrass, diced shallots, green beans and green pepper. Add a glug or two of fish oil, a handful of garlic, and a generous scattering of Asian basil and you have a dish that sings, especially when paired with a cold beer. Those who like it hot can heap on the chilis. Throughout the years the Foreign Correspondents Club has formed the meeting spot for journos, adventurers, and locals who wanted to come together, crack a beer, share stories and chow down.
Our Favourite: Foreign Correspondents Club
Address: Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Venture Far Insight: Those dining at the FCC can pair their Lap Khmer (which comes gently grilled for those who don’t like it raw) with the sour-hot green papaya soup. Slurp noisily as you share tips with other travellers.