Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
The Happy Gwailo usually has to work over the Christmas / New Year period so we are typically stuck at home for the holidays. However, this year, he managed to get some time off, so we planned an impromptu trip to Cambodia. Of course, as any good foodie knows, travelling is as much about food as it is about the views/people/places. So here’s a guide to my favourite restaurants and cafes in Cambodia.
Most Instagram Friendly Meal in Cambodia
If the simple beauty of this green mango salad from Friends the Restaurant in Phnom Penh isn’t enough to tempt you, rest assured that it tastes as good as it looks. For meat lovers, never fear – this tangy salad comes with slices of crispy pork belly as well. The restaurant is also a social enterprise, aiming to give former street children a leg up. Friends is located conveniently close to the Royal Palace and the National Museum, making it the perfect place to refuel. And while you’re at it, why not pamper yourself with a foot massage at just $5 for half an hour?
Best local food in Cambodia
About the World is a family-run restaurant in Battambang, and is one of the best restaurants in Battambang, if not Cambodia. The owner is very friendly and his four year old son is cheeky and insists on us playing dinosaurs with him while we wait for our food – not that it’s a long wait. The restaurant is cosy, and almost feels like we’re dining in the owners’ home.
The star of the meal is the vegetarian amok and it’s hands down my favourite dish in Cambodia. Amok is a wonderfully complex Cambodian curry. Like many dishes in Cambodia, this one is flavoured with prahok, a fermented fish paste that gives the curry a beautiful saltiness and depth. Fiery chilli is tempered by coconut milk and finely slivered kaffir lime leaves provide a citrusy note that lifts the whole dish. I’ve ordered this dish at several other restaurants but About the World is definitely the best.
Best restaurant for dining with the locals
As a tourist in Cambodia, you will inevitably eat at places frequented by tourists. Googling ‘best local food in [pick your city]’ yields some great results, but the very fact that you’re Googling it means that you’ll end up with a restaurant that’s put in the effort to appear on Google / Tripadviser / Lonely Planet’s lists.
I’m not sure how we came across Sovanna, but when we arrived, the place was packed with locals with not a tourist in sight – a great sign. The barbeque was going at the front of the restaurant and you could choose from a variety of different cuts of meat. The locals make a sauce out of lime juice, soy sauce, garlic and chilli. Once your meat arrives, simply dip and enjoy. We ordered the spicy chicken, which was amazing – tender and juicy and very fiery. For us, it was the best bbq in Cambodia. The spare ribs were ok, but not much meat on the bone. Don’t order the beef – local beef is very tough.
A few words of caution – wait times for the grilled meats can be long as it’s a big restaurant and the grill is relatively small. Make sure you order some vegetables or noodles to tide you over until your meat arrives.
If the waitress places a heap of drinks on your table that you didn’t order, don’t worry. They will only charge you for what you’ve drunk at the end of the meal.
This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Variations on a Theme.
See Part 2 for more best restaurants in Cambodia.
Friends the Restaurant
#215, Street 13, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
(Close to the Royal Palace and the National Museum
Opens daily 11am – 11pm
About the World
Rd no. 2.5, Krong Battambang, Cambodia
(Opposite the Lonely Tree Cafe)
Opens daily 9am – 10pm
Sovanna Restaurant Branch II
Abdul Carime St (21), Phnom Penh
Opens daily 4 – 10pm
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