Siem Reap may be famous for its ancient Khmer capital, Angkor Thom, and thousands of temple sites, but I believe that it will become a rising star in terms of culinary arts as well.
Before getting started with restautant/dish recommendations I want to share with you a couple of useful tips. The below tips are applicable to any country, not just Cambodia.
- Always be sure that clean and bottled water is used while eating at a restauant or food stall. The tap water in Cambodia is not suitable for drinking or cooking.
- If you are trying a new dish, always try the one that has the highest ingredient turnover rate, i.e. the most frequently ordered one. This will lower your chances of health problems while traveling.
Lok Lak: On Every Corner
Lok Lak is a traditional Cambodian dish. You can find it anywhere as it’s pretty popular at restaurants and food stalls. It’s a wok dish that is prepared with beef or chicken (generally beef) and oyster sauce. Its price is about 5 USD.
Fine Dining: Cuisine Wat Damnak
If you want to eat at a fine dining restaurant after getting templed out in Angkor, I will recommend Cuisine Wat Damnak. The restaurant has two innovative and absolutely delicious tasting menus, and is the first Cambodian restaurant to be listed among Asia’s 50 Best Restautants. It is located in downtown Siem Reap, at a traditional Cambodian house.
We also asked the chef to share with us the story of Cuisine Wat Damnak.
Chef Joannès Rivière is originally from Roanne, France. He came to Cambodia 15 years ago, when he registered for obligatory service in his country and decided to serve as a volunteer cooking teacher in Siem Reap. “Then”, he told us, “there weren’t as many tourists traveling to Siem Reap as there are now, and having electricity 24/7 had been a luxury for us”. After five years in Cambodia, he opened Cuisine Wat Damnak, where he uses Cambodian ingredients to create great dishes with French technique.
The menu I tried included an Asian-style meringue as amuse-bouche, fish confit in coconut oil, sour prawn soup, jungle curry with quail, and chocolate – peanut crubmble with ice-cream as dessert.
After the dessert, the chef offered us a selection of local fruits, three of which I tried for the first time (below).
The menu price is 30 US dollars, and the restaurant accepts both US dollars and Cambodian riels.
Between Casual and Fine: Khmer Touch Cuisine
After a long day in Kampong Phluk floating village, we headed for Khmer Touch Cuisine for dinner. The restaurant offers modernized Khmer dishes.
I tried a stir-fried prawn dish and a South African wine. Both were delicious, and the service was great. They even called our tuk-tuk driver for us, when we said that we didn’t have Cambodian SIM cards.
The prices on the food menu vary between 8 and 12 US dollars for main courses.
Italian: Flying Zebra
Flying Zebra offers more than 15 types of pizza, including classic, vegeterian, and fruit pizzas. You can stop by here for a quick lunch to refuel yourself before the afternoon temple visits. We tried their grilled potatoes, and loved them too.
Siem Reap is on its way to becoming a coffeeland, if not a hipsterland. So, you’ll find many places to have coffee across the city.
We went to the Golden Monkey for coffee after watching the Angkor Wat sunrise and having breakfast there.
Beer & Cocktails: Picasso Bar
Picasso is the meeting point of travelers and expats in Siem Reap, and it is known for its good cocktails. It’s the only place that I will especially recommend, if you want to have drinks near Pub Street at a relatively quiet and original place.
Shakes & Smoothies
Fruits shakes and smoothies are the best way to cool down during lunch because it is usually around 30 degrees Celsius in Siem Reap. Fruit shake stands also offer cheap eats, the maximum price I have seen was 2.5 US dollars per shake.