Honestly speaking, I am not a food expert but I hope to share with you the places that I dined, the food that I tried in Cambodia, specifically in Siem Reap. One thing to note is that Siem Reap’s attraction is not only the temples of Angkor, but also its food choices which seems to be aplenty.
This is the last out of my 3-part article which will be all about the food! If you missed my other two parts of the article, they can be found here:
Scenes of Siem Reap
; which shows the different ambience and scenery of Siem Reap, both day and night, in the city and out of the city.
The Temples of Angkor
; which tells the exciting story of our visit to the famous temples of Angkor such as Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom and many more!
Before I proceed, let me introduce to you two very common dishes that is Cambodian that you must try; Fish Amok which is a curry dish which is prepared by steaming it in a banana leaf, and the Beef Lok Lak which is a stir-fried marinated beef usually accompanied by lettuce, cucumber and tomato with some house sauce. Basically, the easiest way for me to describe Cambodian cuisine would be; a merge of Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.
You might be interested to read the views of my food blogger friend Thanis’ here.
I have divided this article into two logical sections: RESTAURANTS and CAFES. ‘Restaurants’ in the context of this article refers to places where it would be suitable to have lunch or dinner whereas ‘cafes’ refers to places that are good for having a short rest from the heat of the day.
Please refer to these two maps for the locality of each place being mentioned:
Map: (Left) Detailed view of Siem Riep city’s main town proper. (Right) Location of places further from town. Orange Circles represents restaurants while Green Squares represents cafes.
In the maps above, the restaurants that we dined at are represented by the orange circles. Some of the restaurants are located just within the city limits, so they are just very short tuk-tuk rides which shouldn’t cost you more than USD 1.
1. Little Kroma (84 Wat Dam Nak Street)
Little Kroma is a very humble local coffee shop located at Wat Dam Nak Street, just behind the Wat Dam Nak Primary School.
This little coffee shop gets to be my first on my list not because it was the cheapest out of the other restaurants that we’ve been to, but their freshly home-cooked local Cambodian dishes is definitely worth a mention.
I can guarantee you that it’s fresh as we could see them chopping and preparing all the ingredients in their kitchen as we waited and then the heavenly aroma that makes its way into our nose receptors.
Picture: (Left) A typical Coffee with Milk, quite thick and sweet compared to our normal Malaysian flavours. Nevertheless, it’s a nice change from the usual. (Right) Nom Pao (steamed pork buns) are also slightly different from the Chinese ‘Pao’ such that the bun’s texture is thicker and dense (personally I prefer our lighter chinese buns) but the fillings were generous with the pork meat, which had a little hint of black pepper. The generous fillings really won it for me.
Cambodian Kuy Teav (Beef Noodle Soup). Tasty clear broth and rice noodles equivalent to that of the Vietnamese ‘Pho’. Not surprising since southern Vietnam was part of Cambodia once upon a time.
Khmer Curry. It’s more of a sweet curry than the spicy hot curry I’m familiar with.
Cambodian Fish Amok. ‘Amok’ refers to the process of preparing the food by steaming the curry in banana leaves. This dish took awhile to prepare but definitely worth the wait.
Cambodian Beef Lok Lak. Stir-fried marinated beef,served on a bed of lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Fried Flat Noodles. Similar to the Fried Wet Tomato Kueh Tiaw in Malaysia.
Fried Rice. Definitely my favourite dish there! It’s one of the most unique fried rice I have ever tasted, certainly unlike the usual fried rice that I’m familiar with. Must try!
2. Genevieve’s Restaurant (Sok San Street)
Genevieve’s Restaurant is located in town on Sok San Street which is not too far from the main Pub Street.
It is one of the many restaurants in Siem Reap that provides some of its profits for the benefit of the locals and local non-profit organizations (NGOs). 10% of its profits is divided between the staff, while another 10% is given to 4 local charities, and the remainder of the profits are distributed to a school or community project in Siem Reap.
Fried Squid with fresh Green Pepper.
Khmer Style Curry. This is my favourite dish among those that we ordered. The curry was so tasty we finished it to the last drop.
Beef Lok Lak with Rice set.
Fish Amok with Rice set.
3. Mamma Shop (636 Hadgang Street)
Mamma Shop is an Italian restaurant located at Hadgang Street, just opposite of where my favourite café The Little Red Fox Espresso is also located. Mamma Shop is opened by an Italian who has settled down in Siem Reap with the aim of keeping the Italian food and culture alive and at the same time, giving back to the community by contributing to the lives of the less fortunate children.
The restaurant is small and humble, but don’t let that fool you. Their food is simply delicious. I would say it’s one of the best Italian restaurant’s I’ve tasted before in my life. I suspect that the secret to the deliciousness is because every dishes are home made!
Ravioli al Pomodoro. Homemade raviolli filled with spinach, ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese served with tomato sauce.
Spaghetti al Ragu Bianco. Spaghetti with beef and parmesan cheese.
Prosciutto di Parma e Rucola. Pizza topped with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parma ham, rocket salad, parmesan cheese and oregano. This is my favourite, the generous amount of ham won it for me!
4. The Square 24 (Street 24, Wat Bo Area)
The Square 24 is a fine dining restaurant that serves Khmer cuisine. They say first impressions always count, which is probably what the owners of this establishment was aiming for. The attention to details put into the whole setup and interior deco is just amazing. Vegetarians will be delighted to see that they have a special section in the menu just for them.
From the moment you walk in, the place gives out an ambience of class and style. The first word that came out of our mouths were ‘Wow’.
When it comes to the interior deco, the Square 24 beats all the other restaurants that we’ve been to. From life-sized statues of Apsara and Bayon-like faces to little intricate details such as colour flowers on table tops and ever-changing lighting themes, they certainly take their dining experience to the max!
Picture: (left) Life-sized statues stands in the middle of the square litted by ever-changing neon coloured lights. (right) My Lime Breeze (Lime, Banana and Pineapple with grenadine syrup) nicely decorated with a purple bougainvillea flower.
Free appetizers before our main meal, elegantly presented.
Banana flower salad.
Fish Amok with Coconut Milk. This was my favourite dish of the night and I’m really missing it now.
Grilled beef with lime and chili.
Sour Duck Soup with Pickled Lime.
Complimentary desserts after the meal.
5. Happy Special Pizza (2 Thnou Street)
Do a google on ‘the best pizza in Cambodia’ and you will be flooded with search results of ‘happy pizza’. Happy Pizza is what Cambodia is famous for. I know, I know, eating pizza is always a happy affair. However, the ‘happy pizza’ in Cambodia doesn’t refer to that kind of happy, but a ‘happy’ of another kind. These ‘happy pizzas’ are topped with ‘extra special seasoning leaves’ which can make you ‘high’, therefore happy! By law, these ‘leaves’ are of course illegal, therefore the menu in Happy Special Pizza are all for the normal pizzas. Just choose the pizza of your choice, and specifically tell them that you want the pizza to be a ‘happy’ one! Oh, and please make sure don’t have anything important planned for the rest of the day in case you get too ‘happy’.
(For obvious reasons, I’m not attaching a picture of the restaurant).
‘Happy’ Pizza! The dark green herbs you see on the egg and hidden below the cheese are the happy stuff!
6. The Sugar Palm (Taphul Road)
The Sugar Palm Restaurant is another Khmer cuisine restaurant which serves their dishes with a modern twist. They actually have two branches in Cambodia; one in Phnom Penh which was their first branch since the 1970s and another in Siem Reap which was only opened in 2010 which features a very stylish and wooden themed dining area.
The entrance to the Sugar Palm Restaurant with plants and vines dangling from the top makes it feel like an entrance to one of the forest temples.
The dining area is located on the 1st floor.
Very spacious dining area with ample ceiling fan in the hot climate of Siem Reap.
The exterior and interior of the restaurant are all wooden themed, including the tables and chairs and even the bar!
Picture: (left) Sombai, an infused local Cambodian liqour is displayed on a shelf available for purchase. (right) The trademark of Siem Reap and the restaurant is named after it; the Sugar Palm.
The plates are embossed with the Sugar Palm’s name accompanied by very classy cutleries.
Crispy Spring Rolls. One of their unique dish you won’t find anywhere else. Pork mince, prawn and vegetables wrapped in rice paper and then deep fried.
Fish Amok. This is my favourite dish of the restaurant and my favourite of the whole Siem Reap! Freshwater fish, steamed with a lightly spiced blend of coconut cream and steamed vegetables. The Sugar Palm’s Fish Amok definitely wins my vote for the best Fish Amok in Siem Reap!
Khmer Fish Salad. Freshwater fish sliced and marinated in lime juice the mixed with a fresh salad of capsicum, carrot, cabbage, been sprouts and mint, topped with special dressing and ground peanuts.
Beef with Basil. Sliced beef stir-fried with onion and basil leaves topped with group peanuts.
Khmer Crispy Noodles. A traditional dish of crispy rice noodles accompanied by pork, tofu, sprouts and special sauce. Another of my favourite!
7. Kroya @ Shinta Mani (Oum Khun Street)
Shinta Mani is a prestigious upscale boutique hotel located in the heart of Siem Reap. Their fine-dining restaurant was given the name according to the meaning of food in the Khmer Royal language, which is a highly suitable reflection on the setup and ambience of the establishment.
The entrance to Shinta Mani’s restaurant, Kroya. As soon as our driver dropped us right in front of this entrance, we were glad that did prior researched and knew we should dress formally for this dinner.
At the side of the entrance lies this cute green caterpillar lantern.
The air-conditioned section of Kroya has equipped with very bright down-lights and a maze-like ceiling design with matching carpets.
The outdoor section of the restaurant has bed swings. I used the word ‘bed’ because the size of the swing is literally as big as a bed. I won’t be surprised if it is a real mattress under that sheet. These swings are mounted to the high ceiling and makes for a very romantic and relaxing ambience for you and your partner. The only reason my friends and I preferred not to sit here was because we really wanted the air-conditioning and we can’t do our photography if we were on a moving platform.
Complimentary plain bread to keep us busy while we wait for the good stuff!
Grilled Chicken Breasts with Banana Blossom Salad.
Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab with Lime & Pepper Sauce.
Home Smoked Salmon on Wasabi Pancake, Black Caviar, Sour Cream and Khmer Basil Sorbet.
Warm Wagyu Beef Carpaccio. Frisee and Cresson Salad with House Dressing.
Chilled Fresh Strawberry Soup, topped with pumpkin gazpacho ice cream.
Sauteed Devil Scallop with Me Kong Langoustine.
Mushroom Ravioli with Truffle Cream Sauce and Balsamic Reduction.
The Traditional Khmer Tasting Menu. Clockwise (from top-left): Khmer Organic White Rice & Brown Rice, Beef Sour Soup Scented with Lemongrass and Fresh Herbs, Wok-fried Pork Fillet with Toasted Ground and Lime Juice, Khmer Style Steamed Garlic Prawns with Chili.
Passion Fruit Crème Brule.
Assorted Khmer Sweet Dessert.
8. Mie Café (Phum Treng Khum Street)
Mie Café is a fine dining gourmet cuisine restaurant which makes me wonder why they label themselves as a ‘café’ in the first place. It is located a bit out of the main town area, which is why we planned our dinner there to coincide with our attending of the play “The Smile of Angkor” (read more about this show in my previous article ‘The Scenes of Siem Reap’ here) which is located not far from there.
Mie Café is nested in a very traditional Khmer house with an outdoor patio and garden, which offers a refreshing place to enjoy our meal.
The outdoor patio garden offers an alternative dining experience.
Upon arrival, we were initially concerned for mosquitoes (yes its in our Asian blood) which might attack us, but the many fans that are placed around the place helps to ensure that our bodies are not molested by these pest.
The upper level of the restaurant has a nice balcony seating that overlooks the garden and the main street.
Tonle Sap Chlang Fish Fillet. Mixed vegetable stew (Cambodian kor ko style) light coconut cream mixed with lemongrass.
Grilled Beef La Ap with Red Ant Eggs. This was by far the most unique dish throughout my whole time in Siem Reap. Chopped grilled medium rare beef marinated with local herbs, chili, roasted sticky rice flour, tomato sauce and a touch of balsamic vinegar, served with long bean salad and topped with parmesan cheese and of course… red ant eggs!
Using my macro lens to magnify the ant eggs for a closer look, we could see that some of the eggs has burst with the ants complete with their faces and antenna clearly visible!
Marinated Frog Legs. Wild Mushroom tart, sauteed frog legs with balsamic vinaigrette. Deliciously sexy! Best dish here!
Eel Char Khroeung. Stir-fried Tonle Sap Eel with mixed lemongrass paste, saffron, bell pepper, spinach served with sticky rice.
Rib Eye Beef Lok Lak. Mushroom, onion, green pepper corn stir fried with oyster sauce.
9. Cuisine Wat Damnak (Wat Damnak Market Street)
Cuisine Wat Damnak is located in an area called Wat Damnak, just a little further from the main town. This is a highly popular restaurant and we made our reservations a few weeks in advanced, even at that time, our initial preferred date was already unavailable and we had to select another date for our dining there. When making a reservation in a restaurant that is in the Asia Top 50 list, it’s not surprising to find an available date!
When we arrived, we were greeted by a lady with French ascent (I assume she’s French too?) and after having checked our reservation, we were brought to our table. When doing your reservation, you would need to choose for outdoor seating, or indoor which is air-conditioned and with very limited tables.
Amuse Bouche (Complimentary Appetizer)
Palm Sugar and Tomato Pickled Winter Melon, Sanday Fish, Green Mango and Fresh Peppercorn.
Frog Meat Salad with Lotus Root, Stern and Seeds, Prahak and Cashew Nut Emulsion.
Spicy Prawn Pancake with Yam Bean, Holy Basil and Kaffir Lime Leaves.
Duck Confit in Pong Tia Kone Style.
Mekong Langoustine Yellow Curry with Pumpkin Fruit and Leaf, Lemon Basil and Tamarind Shoots.
Beef Cheek Soup with Barbecued Green Papaya, Shiny Cresson, Lime and Rice Paddy Herb.
Braised Pork Shank and Calamari Black Sticky Rice Porridge, Mushrooms, Glazed Turnip and Siem Reap Sausage.
Cambodian Green Giant Eggplant, Tonle Sap Croaker Fish, Braised Maam with Coconut Tree Heart, Peanuts and Winged Beans.
Pan Fried Kholan Cake, Aged Rum Caramelized Banana, Toasted Coconut White Chocolate Ganache.
Steamed Chocolate Biscuit and Pot De Crème, Passion Fruit Whipped Cream and Rice Praline.
Complimentary Assorted Fruits.
My friend Thanis posing with Chef Joannès Rivière after the very satisfying and delicious dinner. Thumbs up Chef! It’s no wonder your restaurant is in Asia’s Top 50 list!
Apart from the many lovely restaurants in Siem Reap, there are also many very hipster cafes in town which has its own style and theme. However, you will notice one thing in common that most of these places offer; giving back to the community through donation and working closely with the non-profit organizations for the welfare of the local community. Many posters and pamphlets are available in their premises to raise awareness of the visitors.
A. The Little Red Fox (Hap Guan Street)
This is my favourite café among all the others in Siem Reap due to its variety of coffee drinks available which I really love. They serve the best latte in my opinion, and if you feel the need to excite your latte flavours, there’s also the Coconut & Cinnamon Mocha which I love really much! If that is still not exciting enough, they have the Espresso Martini which will blow your mind! It does not end here, other than the casual espresso brewed coffees, they do offer cold pressed coffees as well! Oh by the way, there is a popular hair salon located above the café which is run by the same owners.
The outside of the café, gives you a very down-to-earth experience. The place is always filled with people giving it a very lively ambience.
Inside is air-conditioned, with small wooden stools and tables that can be easily moved around to suit the group size.
Unique and interesting interior deco using stools stucked to the wall.
There are also some Little Red Fox merchandise that is available for purchase.
Coconut & Cinnamon Mocha. This is my favourite!
Espresso Martini. Coffee with Martini, what a terrific combination. I could definitely feel the kick from the combination of the two fusion!
Affogatto. If you can’t decide if you would rather have coffee or ice cream, go for this!
Carrot Cake (Grandmother’s Style).
Omelette with Sundried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese served with Fresh Brown Rice Salad.
Thanis (the guy who cannot decide if he prefers Batman or Superman) posing with the two owners of The Little Red Fox, Adam (left) & David (right) both from Australia.
B. Common Grounds Coffee (#719-721 Street 14)
Common Grounds Coffee is an American style café located at the end of the street from The Little Red Fox. The café is big enough to cater for plenty of people, and features a Internet Café on its upper level. This café also believes in giving back to the community by giving the locals a working chance and to create an income that helps to sustain the Children’s Home in Siem Reap. More impressively, Common Grounds serves as a vocational training center, teaching English and computer skills!
The bright apple green colours creates a very refreshing ambience to enjoy. The upper level is the Internet Café.
Various merchandise sold in the cafe with the proceeds being donated to the cause of the Children.
Molten Lava Cake.
London Fog. Interesting name for this drink which is a combination of Earl Grey Tea and Vanilla Latte. It is quite nice too!
Beef Lok Lak. Cambodian stir fried beef in BBQ sauce.
Fried Spring Rolls.
Chicken Caesar Salad.
C. The Hive (#631 Psar Kandal Street)
This is another café located near to The Little Red Fox and Common Grounds Coffee. Using black steel, shiny floor tiles, modern art graffiti on the walls and yellow hanging lights, the place gives out a feel of modern and artistic ambience.
Being smaller than the other cafes, they have managed to make efficient use of space by making another upper level for more seating.
The seating in the café is small and cosy, with most suitable for groups of 4.
My Latte and Jess’ Passionate Juice (Mango & Passion fruit).
Rough Morning Cure. This is Hive’s specialty breakfast with potato fried in Tabasco with bacon, cherry tomatoes and topped with fried egg.
Breakfast Burrito. Scrambled eggs, bacon, spinach and tomato sauce.
Egg Benedict. Poached eggs with ham, spinach and homemade hollandaise sauce on Panini, served with fries and salad.
Mango Bruschetta. This was absolutely delicious! Never had a combination like this before.
D. Sister Srey (Pokambor Avenue)
Sister Srey is located literally in the heart of the city (right next to the old market) where you would be able to watch people going about their everyday lives by just to sitting there, watching them go by. This café was opened by two sisters to not only to serve coffee, but also to support Khmer students by training them in hospitality, English language skills and personal development. They also have various incentives in place, to name a few, working alongside the Hearts to Harmony Foundation which supports the rural families.
Sister Srey is a ‘young’ café, having being opened only in 2012. Both the sibling owners in their early 20s were equally young at the moment they started this café! These two sisters has the most amazing story on his they ended up in Cambodia and eventually starting this café. There’s even the Sister Srey motorbike parked right outside!
One of the main streets of Siem Reap where you can watch people go by their everyday lives. The number of tuk-tuks waiting opposite just proves how much of a hot-spot this place is.
The 10 COMMANDMENTS why you should have a break at Sister Srey.
One section of the wall which is fitted with the map of the world. This is quite fitting seeing that the sisters almost migrated to the United Kingdom (they are originally from Australia).
Another corner of the café where there is a big open window which faces the less busy alleyway. Perfect place to catch up on some reading.
The upper floor of the café holds the shop where various items such as clothing, books, souvenirs are being sold and proceeds goes directly to the Hearts to Harmony foundation.
There is also the cozy book corner where you can spend time reading the books and novels available there.
That’s Sister Lauren (no, I don’t mean a nun) hard at work drawing a mural of pink flamingoes on wheels.
A shot of the ground floor from the challenging spiral staircase.
Various yummylicious pastries at display shelf.
We sat at the sidewalk and I had the Ice Latte which was extremely good and refreshing from the heat of the day. Notice the kiddy story book? Why would I be reading it? It is actually the menu of the café in disguise! What a brilliant idea!
E. Gelato Co (2 Thnou Street / Old Market Street)
Gelato Co is the best place to stop by to get a cone of ice cream while you continue your walk around pub street and market street. The summer heat in Siem Reap will definitely make this an irresistible place even if you accidentally walk by.
The classy sign board outside of the shop. Our eyes opened with delight when we saw the word GELATO on the board, which could only mean ICE CREAM!
Jess very happy with her Pistachio Ice Cream.
F. Blue Pumpkin (2 Thnou Street / Old Market Street)
Blue pumpkin is a french bakery which also serves Ice Cream. They a lot of branches in Cambodia and plenty of branches within Siem Reap itself. The best feature of this place is the very relaxing atmosphere at the first floor of the café. A long row of mattress with big cushions is there for anyone to just lounge on. I could literally fall asleep there after a long and tiring day at the temples.
Look for this sign along pub street which will lead you to your desire… Ice cream!
Very comfortable setup for patrons to relax on (and even fall asleep). Thanis shows everyone how to be a Chinese boss!
As far as really local Cambodian, coffee shop style food, the only dish that I’ve managed to try is the Cambodian Noodle. I had the chance to taste this at the village near to Bantaey Srei.
Local Cambodian Noodle.
The best way I can describe how the noodle taste; tasty with a coconut milk broth. The complimentary freshly plucked vegetables which is placed on each table (see picture above) is meant to accompany the noodles or any dish that you order. All that for only USD 1!
Please take my article here as it is; it is not meant to be a full review on the food places. My friends and I were in Cambodia to see Angkor Wat and the other Angkor temples with our own eyes. Food was only a side pleasure while we were there. Please note also that we did not dine in the local coffee shops (except for one) mostly those proper classy restaurants, therefore I don’t have much to show in terms of the genuine cheap and simple local food around. Also, since I am a Malaysian (another food haven), most of my comments would be based on and comparative to our Malaysian flavours.
But don’t worry, if you get yourself a reliable tuk-tuk driver, they are always more than capable of recommending a local place for you. Please consider Shafie our tuk-tuk driver for the whole duration of our visit. He has proven to be very steadfast and his knowledge of Siem Reap, even the temples of Angkor is comparable to that of a tour guide.
I hope this guide is of help to you! Needless to say, although the variety of food in Cambodia cannot match those in Malaysia, I do find myself missing some of the dishes; namely the Fish Amok from The Sugar Palm, The Fried Rice from Little Kroma and the Coconut & Cinnamon Mocha from The Little Red Fox.
Above all else, I miss the feeling of wondering in the mystical temples of Angkor and discovering something new at every corner!