Siam Reap is just outside the Angkorian village home to Angkor Wat a UNESCO site that attracts tourists from all over the wold to visit each year. Visiting the temples is only a 15min motorbike ride away from town and after a busy day feeling like an explorer bellies are in need of refueling. Cambodian food is known as one of the oldest cuisines called ‘Khmer’. It’s renowned for its elegant presentation and harmonious flavours and textures in each dish. The food is simple, fresh, seasonal and each region has its own fare. All dishes have fresh herbs & local spices and often edible flowers in them.
You will also find many other cuisines in Siam Reap like French, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese and Western. I have made some recommendations for you to try some of the local dishes along with the best Indian in town and Cambodian BBQ.
Phsar Chas, Old Market
The Old Market in the center of town is home to many souvenir stalls yet if you step off the street in the morning from Street 9 side you will find the locals have set up a food market inside selling fresh produce, meats and dried spices. The market use to be the main hub of fruit and vegetables until the new market got built several years ago. Outside on Street 9 there are a selection of small eateries that have local food for sale. This is a great place to pick up some fruit or even some dried mango and peanuts for your day trip out to the temples.
Old Market, Street 9
Phsar Leu Thom Thmey, New Upper Market
Clockwise: sugarcane juice, mixed vegetables, cucumbers & daikon & pineapples and dried fish.
The New Market is where all the locals now go to shop for their food as the old market is now overrun with tourists and souvenir shops. This place is busy all day long. On the on the other side of the street there are a few good places to eat and get a bowl of soup. In the market you will find anything you may need from fruit and vegetables to fish and meats. Inside there is also a jewelry section, dried goods (biscuits, lollies and noodles), toiletries, shoes, herbal medicines – they have it all.
Like most markets they are the busiest in the morning where you will feel like you have been caught up in the crowd. The Khmer people are very relaxed about life and you will find this through out your stay here. So you wont find any elbowing to get you out of the way. Great market to see how the locals live and shop.
Clockwise: burnt sugar donuts, baguettes,mushrooms, snake beans & broccoli and jicama (yam)..
Fish ball and beef noodle soup
New Upper Market, Route #6, east of town.
Rice is the staple food of Cambodia served with every meal. Around Siam Reap there are many rice paddies with numerous varieties of local rice. If you have a sweet tooth you must try the local sticky rice. We got ours on the way to Beng Melea on the road side. With numerous stalls to stop at our driver chose one. Choices were with mango, black bean, black bean and mango. Our car was filled with the small of the bamboo and the coconut sweet rice. Roy and I like our slightly chewy and golden (burnt). We were charged $1 each as we were tourists.
Green pawpaw salad is another dish that frequents many street carts in town. Our local pawpaw salad man puts small crabs into the salad along with the many spices and sauces. It was quite spicy with chili and the small crabs were very fishy not to everyone’s taste but still worth trying.
There are many hole-in-the-wall places to eat in the streets around Siam Reap. Large pots on display concealing their contents or hot boxes keeping things warm. Small family businesses with the women cooking for the locals and their families. Meals are around $1 each and served with rice.
Khmer Cakes are another food that can be found on street vendors carts in the back streets of Siam Reap, often sold with taro spring rolls, and fried taro chips like the one below which is coated in sesame seeds too.
The Khmer cakes are sweet yet savoury, made with taro, mung beans and a few preserved bits of fruit on top to give it a sweetness. They are delicious and well worth trying, great for a little snack to tie you over to your next meal.
Durian is another must try. The complexity of its flavour unlike any other fruit. To me it tastes like pumpkin and onion ice-cream/custard. I don’t mind a bite or two but can’t stomach the whole fruit. The fruit is expensive even for locals I think we paid about $6 for a small one.
Siv Long boasts a Western Menu though you don’t realise that at certain times of the day it is packed with the locals eating soup. We decided to try out some of the soups ordering above a chicken noodle soup (Roy) and I had the pork fat noodle soup below. They were both delicious the broth was chicken and both were subtly flavoured mine was very gingery. We also had the choice of adding more condiments to flavour our soups.
This is the best soup we ate here in Siam Reap – so don’t go and find something similar go and visit this little family run establishment and be rewarded with the tastiest soup.
The Sugar Palm
The Sugar Palm restaurant is in the second floor of an old wooden house fitted out beautifully. This place a recommendation from other travelers who had eaten here and raved about it. We were all here to try the fish amok as apparently around town it has been crowned the best. The souffle like pot of lightly spiced fish was very unique texture and taste wise and well worth trying.
We ate here a couple of times as they had real spirits in house like bombay saphire and whisky. Oh a little word of warning if you are going to have the fish amok be prepared to wait for it as they make it fresh. It takes about 30min so get your order in early, sit back and enjoy a few cocktails and crispy spring rolls.
Another must try is the calamari with khmer black pepper – so delicate and it was everyone’s favourite dish at the table.
Grilled Eggplant w Pork $6, The Sugar Palm plate, Khmer Crispy Salad with Pork $6, Crispy Spring Rolls.
Khmer pepper squid.The Sugar Palm Taphul Road +855 63 964 838
Cambodian BBQ can be done on the streets or if you are a little adventurous about sitting on crates on a busy side street this restaurant do a really great job. We ordered the degustation menu which had ten types of meat to be barbecued. They were; squid, shrimp, beef, fish, frogs legs, goat, kangaroo, crocodile, chicken and ostrich. You can also choose five meats for the BBQ for $16.
The barbecue sits over hot coals and has a piece of pork fat on top to render down and helps to make the meat not stick and of course add plenty of flavour. The dish has soup around it which was made with chicken broth, we were given noodles, vegetables and mushrooms to cook in the broth to accompany our barbecued meats. Our table was rather full sharing two plates of meat and endless vegetables and noodles. We were all give three dipping sauces to dunk our meats in. The plates are set up for two or more people to share – it was really fun and surprisingly quick the process of cooking and eating.www.restaurant-siamreap.com
The Soup Dragon
The Soup Dragon restaurant sits on the corner of pub street and has two stories of seating so those who want to escape the chaos below can retreat upstairs. With a very extensive menu that crossed Asia and catered for picky westerners we all chose a Vietnamese dish for our dinner. The two standouts was Roy’s roll your own rice paper rolls which came with pineapple, mushrooms and chicken. The other that everyone should try is the pork chop and rice which has lemongrass, little chili and cooked over coals. So tasty and the servings are all very generous. Well worth a visit – I hear the pho here is pretty good too. The ladies with us also recommend trying their home-made Mango Ice-Cream.
A favourite for us for an afternoon snack or lunch was Indian. Masala dosa was eaten more than any other dish while we were in Siam Reap for ten days. We found this restaurant the best in town for masala dosa as well as their curries. All the curries were exceptional and the owners were authentic in presenting the real taste of India. Kerala Restaurant has two locations one in Alley West and the other opposite the hospital – one on each side of Pub Street.
Masala DosaKerala Restaurant Old Market area, Ally West
Angkor What – Pub Street
For a cheap beer and some exotic tasting cocktails pub street is the place to go. The Angkor What bar is the bar that gave the street its name the first bar for westerners to drink and party at. These days the lack of comfy lounges compared to the others in the street it doesn’t look so appealing for quenching a thirst after visiting the temples for the day. Yet I hear that its the still a great venue for late night partying.