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Cambodia Report – May 2009

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A lot of mixed feelings about Cambodia and a lot of mixed food. Some excellent meals, some mediocre meals and some just not good at all. I think the key to eating in Cambodia is to not eat where there are any tourists. When we went off the beaten track, our meals improved.

Siem Reap

Arun
Nº 0063, Slorkram Village, Commune Siem Reap District
Tel: (855) 12 890-396

Thanks to yumyum (Boston board for this recommendation). This was our first meal in Cambodia and it was excellent. Despite the heat, the two of us ordered 5 dishes (a completely unreasonable amount) and all but one, were winners. We ordered the fried morning glories, fish amok, chicken with hot peppers and fried basil, prahok kreung (pork) and the papaya salad. The papaya salad was a bit of a dud. The papaya wasn’t freshly grated and the flavors just weren’t that vibrant. The amok was amazing and served in a young green coconut. After the meal, I learned that you were supposed to scrape away at the coconut meat, but the dish was splendid without it. This was saucier than the amoks I’ve had in the past, and I think I like this version better. The chicken with fried basil was also great. What made this outstanding was the crispness of the fried basil to contrast with the softer meat. We also really liked the prahok kreung – great flavor and the teeniest of all asian eggplants throughout the dish. Our guide later told us that all the restaurants on this strip are where the locals eat.

Khmer Kitchen – The alley. Mediocre Cambodian food. Not much to say other than it was a meal.

Watdomnak II
House 0202
Watdamnak Village Salakomrouk
855 12 93 63 64

We stayed at the Golden Banana Resort just over the bridge from heart of town (great place). When you turn out of the resort, turn left and right before the bridge, there are all these outdoor bbq places. So, we decided to try one. WOW – this was one excellent meal. We ordered three bbq dishes (finally, we are showing some restraint). Beef, squid and fried oysters with hot chile pepper and salt. The beef was the weakest. It had a terrific beefy flavor but it was tough. The squid and fried oysters were unbelievably delicious. With the meat, the staff brings you a platter of raw veggies, small dish of pepper salt, limes and hot sauce. Squeeze the lime into the pepper salt and it becomes the perfect accompaniment to the meats. I think the fried oysters are a bit of a misnomer, the shells were more like scallop shells with the ridges and the shells were fat like clams. It was like the size of a marble. They came in the shell and you had to pry them open, getting the chile salt over your fingers – a new meaning to finger lickin’ good…

Two different meals at the temples area – these were either bad or mediocre and pricey to boot.
Phnom Penh

We stayed at the Pavilion (lovely and great location). Unfortunately, not a lot of appetizing street food near, so we wandered to Street 240 and found the Cambodia Cooking School aka Frizz. This was pretty good and hit the spot as we were starving. They had the more traditional amok (the kind that looks like catfood because it’s in the banana leaves) and we also ordered a tofu curry. What was nice is that this restaurant actually gave us a bit more heat than the other places in Cambodia. They believed me when I said we could take it.

Malis restaurant (136 Norodom Blvd), – Upscale Cambodian and this was great. It was really hard to choose from the menu but one of the best things we ordered was off the appetizer list – papaya kreung. It was green papaya cooked in curry. This was the perfect blend of richness, milkiness and silkiness. I loved this and was spooning it over my rice. Also, the rice is steamed in a big banana leaf giving it a beautiful presentation as well as a nuttier flavor. We liked Malis so much that we returned a week later on our way out of Cambodia. I had every intention of ordering that papaya kreung appetizer again, but this time, we got waylaid by the tasting menus – one fish and one meat. Both were great, especially the homemade sausages and this ground pork dish. What made Malis so special was that you could really taste the intensity of the flavors and how subtle all the ingredients work with each other. This was Cambodian cooking at it’s finest.

Sihanoukville

Mixed bag here. We ate at one of the beachfront shacks (mostly because we wanted to sit on the beach chairs) and ordered a mixed seafood platter. The seafood was fresh but all slightly overcooked. It smelled great though. We also ate at a bunch of local only places (mostly outdoor), but I have no clue where they were. They were off the beaten track from the center of town. They all had those red Angkok beer flags outside the restaurants.

Another day, we took a boat to Bamboo Island. We drive past Ream National Park and stopped at one of the boat stands and ordered lunch to bring to the island. This was great, even eaten cold a few hours later. We ordered grilled squid and a whole fish. The fish was delicious with a bit of sauce over it.

The meal that stood out was at the Grand Restaurant Kampuchea on 23 Tola Street. This is one of the open air restaurants. There is a small grill in front. We ordered the amok, fried morning glories and some grilled items, fish and shrimp. The amok was outstanding – almost as good as the one we had in Siem Reap. What made this place was the service – just little touches. They lit an anti bug candle and put it underneath our table. This way, the bugs wouldn’t get our ankles. Just a lovely dinner.

Sorry that this isn't so helpful with addresses, but I found that wandering around led to better food results.

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  1. I'm so happy you enjoyed Arun in Siem Reap. Chowmom and I had a great meal there -- similar amounts of food. And boy howdy it was HOT.

    1. Arun was really good. I also liked that the sauce in the amok was thicker and you could scrape some nice slivers of meat from the coconut to supplement the dish. Was also unimpressed by Khmer Kitchen (the one in the alley way).

      In Sihanoukville, really enjoyed Chi Khmer, which is in the same space as Hapa on the road to Serendipity Beach. It's really 3 restaurants in one small space: Khmer, Japanese-Khmer, and Japanese, and you can order from all the small menus. What really stood out was that whole fish with kroeung. The kroeung was slightly salty and had a faint hint of fish sauce. They put the fish on the teppanyaki grill and covered it and then put the kroeung with it. Had it once with mackerel, but wasn't sure what kind of fish was cooked the second time.