Eat Well in Phnom Penh

When not on the road myself, I live vicariously through a number of adventurers’ blogs.  One of my favorites is The Hungry Cyclist, written by Tom Kevill-Davies.  He’s spent years cycling across the Americas and, most recently, up the Mekong on a mission to find the perfect meal.

Finding and eating copious amounts of food is one of the joys (and absolute necessities) of bike touring.  Having traveled along some of his route up the Mekong through Cambodia, I identified with his pleasure in eating locally and discovering the hidden benefits of different ingredients:

“For post ride recovery lemongrass also aids the regeneration of connective tissues and essential oils extracted from this humble herb help us recover from illness by boosting our glandular and digestive systems. Legend has it that Khmer warriors of the ancient kingdom of Angkor rubbed their bodies in lemongrass oil to prevent injury during battle.” (Full post here)

Lemongrass grows like a weed all over the Cambodian countryside – there is nothing quite like picking some fresh sprouts and boiling a fresh up of tea over a campfire after a long day.  It also makes a tasty addition to just about anything you can grill, like the lemongrass-stuffed frog at the top of the page and the fish below:

Unfortunately our paths did not cross during Tom’s adventure up the Mekong through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China.  However, I did pass along a few tips for his route and where to eat in Phnom Penh.  I figured I share that here for anyone on a gastronomic adventure of their own in this pleasant capital:

rriving in a new city on a bicycle is never easy, finding out where to eat can be even harder. Luckily when I arrived in Cambodias capital Phnom Penh Tim Rann had provided me with a hit list of great places to refuel. Following his lead while in the city he was not wrong and below are some of his words and mine. There are also a few tips on where to sleep at the bottom. Enjoy!. 

Sovanna – Located just around the corner from the Coffee Maker on Sihanouk Blvd.. Go to Independence Monument, head east on Sihanouk Blvd, and turn right on to I believe Street 13 (the one with the Coffee Maker on the corner). Sovanna is widely renowned as the best beef BBQ joint in Phnom Penh. Packed out every night IO walked past to sniff the grilling meat this little haunt is clearly a local favourite The bbq beef plate at 10000 riel cant be beat, and dipping the tender chunks of beef in a mix of pepper and fresh lime is quite Godley while the brace gourmet might want to try a dip in the home made fermented fish paste (prahok). I also tried the sauted morning glory in oyster sauce which was also superb and washed down with plenty of ice-cold Angkor draft this busy restaurant is doing everything right.

Famous Prahok Restaurant. – This restaurant is a hole in the wall between Street 63 and 57 in BKK1. I believe the street number is 288, but I might be wrong. If you’re around the area, just keep a look out for a tiny place – its always full and the tables spill out on to the street. This restaurant supposedly has the best prahok in town and serves a variety of animal parts/meats that go well with the sauce.

54 – 54 is famous for the Phnom Pleun (literally “mountain fire”), where diners can grill their own seafood and meat or get going on a hot pot. Knowing that I was leaving PP the next day I made the most of my time in this busy place and took clams baked with lemon grass and chilli, followed by grill beef and than a roast duck hot pot. It was hot sweaty work but cooling off with a cheap tower of beer the ambiance was wonderful. It is just west of Norodom and 174. From Independence Monument, head north and turn left (west) after the big high school. It is about 100 meters down the road after a small art gallery and bakery.

Nohm Ban Chok (Khmer Breakfast Noodles). The best ones Tim found are just across the street from Orussei Market (southeast corner) although I found mine on a corner between 360 and 85. Try it with some Khmer donuts (fried dough) and iced coffee w/condensed milk. Pick up a copy of the PP Post and enjoy the only way to start your day.

Chinese Noodles – A favourite of expats and I can understand why, Chinese Noodles serves fresh bowls of gui tieu (Chinese noodles). The noodles are made in front of the restaurant by a man spinning twisting and stretching flour coated dough balls – always a spectacle indeed! You can find Chinese Noodles is on Monevong Blvd on the west side of the street. Just head to the Sihanouk Blvd and Monevong Blvd intersection and go south for about 500 meters. It’s right after a big yellow bakery.

Fruit Shake Vendors – Only open after 7PM on the west side of the Russian Market (Psar Toul Tom Pong). Tim says these value-for-money smoothes are said to prevent hangovers after a big night out – at 7pm Tim! Either way they make a refreshing change from the cold beer on a hot night. If you don’t have a sweet tooth do ask to hold back on the condensed milk and make sure to pack in some jack fruit and pineapple!.

Mahop Boua (the best vegetarian food in Phnom Penh) – Check out Orussei Market for some excellent vegetarian stands that serve all sorts of delicious fake meats.

Mekong Restaurants – Head over the Japanese bridge and stop at any one of the dozens of restaurants that creep over the Mekong. They all serve delicious fish and a trip here makes a great escape from the city.

Kaoh Dach – Head over the Monevong (Vietnam) Bridge and go roughly 10-12km. Turn left and you’ll hit Kaoh Dach – a beautiful little island with networks of bamboo bungalows stilted over the river. This is off the beaten path. Women in canoes will come by with fresh river lobster and other treats, then grill it for you. A nice way to spend an afternoon and relax with a beer/book. The island has some great trails as well.

Friends the Restaurant – A must stop! – wonderful tapas/asian fusion restaurant w/an strong social mission. This PP institution is setting the pace for other restaurants in the city. Worth a visit even just to learn a lesson from a team doing everything right!.

Snowies (Maxine’s) – Van Morrison, Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac and INXS will serenade you through another Phnom Penh sunset. This little bar on the other side of the river is a gem. I only hope by posting these words it doesn’t become overrun. Not a place for eating, but Tim and I agree it is hands down the best bar in Phnom Penh. Head over the Japanese bridge, take your first right and follow the winding road along the Tonle Bassac river. You’ll eventually hit Snowies (Maxines). If you happen top be in the city for the water festival this is the place to watch cheer and be blown away! See you there next year.

Psar Chas (Old Market) – Near the riverside – lots of good street food here. Head north on Sisowath Quay until you hit the night market. Turn left and you’ll see the big old market area.

Peking Canteen – My favourite Chinese joint in town and best dumplings I’ve had since China. Its located right new Psar Thmey (Central Market). On the southwest corner of the market there is a street that branches off with tons of Chinese restaurants (you’ll see a Bonjour mini mart next to the street). Peking Canteen is about half way down the street.

Where To Sleep In Phnom Penh The Blue Dog – this little place is very simple but if you like your independence and want a clean safe a cheap place top stay this is it. Very central and the owner could not be nicer. Always a good crowd staying there too. $5 a night.

Boddi Tree – If you have a few quid this place is a good spot. Perhaps a little pretentious if you are only in town for a few days and need some R&R this will do the trick. Great food and very friendly staff will make you feel very welcome.


~ by responsiblenomad on February 2, 2011.

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