Cambodia hotels have their own restaurants and most guesthouses can offer a small dining area. However, be sure to venture out and discover Khmer cuisine for yourself. In Phnom Penh you will find everything from Thai, Japanese, French, Italian and Chinese to Vietnamese, Indian, Nepalese, Mediterranean and, of course, Khmer cuisine. Siem Reap too now has many more restaurants offering international cuisine. Whilst Sihanoukville's specialty is seafood. Some of the cheapest and tastiest food in Cambodia is served at road and streetside stalls too small to even have a name!
Our Cambodia restaurant guide below will tell you all you need to know about food and cuisine in Cambodia. A fine Cambodian meal is the perfect way to end the day after a long day of shopping for a krama or souvenir. We have also provided more local information and suggestions on where to enoy a meal in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville.
Khmer cuisine resembles that of Thailand and Laos, especially in its abundant use of coriander, mint leaves and lemon grass. Overall it is less spicy than Thai food, but there are dishes with some real heat.
More unique to Cambodia is prahoc - a spicy, pungent, fermented fish paste condiment very popular with Cambodians but difficult for most foreigners to tolerate. Some popular Khmer dishes that are a must for gastronomes are khao phoune, a dish made with fine rice noodles in a coconut-based sauce, and trey aing which is grilled fish, pieces of which are eaten wrapped in lettuce or spinach leaves and dipped in a fish sauce condiment with peanuts.
Rice is the staple and freshwater fish from the Tonlé Sap or Mekong River is the most popular source of protein, with chicken, pork and beef being far less common. Tropical fruits are abundant including pineapple, mangoes, durian, jackfruit, mangosteen, rambutan, bananas and coconut.
Popular drinks include soda water with lemon and sugar, coconut juice and an alcohol made of fermented palm sugar. Tukaloks are smoothies made of fruit, sugar and often an egg but you can request less sugar - they can be very sweet - or no egg, if you don't need the extra frothiness.
Some of the best and cheapest places to eat and to sample authentic Khmer food can be found at local markets, and snacks, desserts, fruit and drinks can often be gotten from individual stalls or walking vendors.
As opposed to neighbouring Thai and Vietnamese food, there aren't many books about Cambodian Cooking available. 'The Best of Friends The Restaurant' cookbook has received good reviews and ican be found at all Friends outlets in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville as well as Monument Books in Phnom Penh. If you attend a Cambodian cookjng class you will also be provided with recipe sheets after completion of the course.
Tipping is neither customary nor obligatory in Cambodia hotels and restaurants, but always graciously appreciated as local salaries are very low. You usually do not need to tip in upscale restaurants or where there is a service charge on the bill, but feel free to reward excellent service.
You also have the option of 'dining with a conscience' by patronizing any of Cambodia's cafes and restaurants run and owned by aid organizations. The proceeds from the restaurant go toward their humanitarian operations and their staff are often disadvantaged or poor Cambodians receiving skills training in the hospitality industry.
When in Cambodia, keep an eye out for 'The Best of Friends The Restaurant' cookbook which is for sale now at all Friends outlets in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. All proceeds of this book go to support Mith Samlanh projects.