Travelers flock to Siem Reap to explore the hundreds of fascinating temples, but there is plenty more to attract you to this magical northern Cambodian city. The food for a start – food in Siem Reap is tasty and greatly varied. Find all kinds of food options depending on your taste, from cozy cafes with cheap lunch dishes to special Khmer restaurants serving traditional food – discover where to eat in Siem Reap.
Find out more about Cambodia cuisine, what to eat, and where to eat it, with this quick culinary guide.
What is Cambodian Cuisine?
The food in Cambodia is certainly varied and eating traditional Cambodia or Khmer food is a wonderful experience. Khmer food is different from Cambodian food and it is the indigenous cuisine from Vietnam. Cambodian cuisine encompasses Khmer dishes but also includes other dishes that are influenced by the cuisines of Thailand, France, India, and China, among others.
Rice is a staple in Cambodian cuisine and it is eaten at most meals. If there is no rice with a dish then there will likely be rice noodles, or sometimes wheat or egg noodles. Fish plays a big part in Cambodian cuisine and it can be dried, grilled, fresh, barbequed, or smoked. Pork and chicken also make regular appearances. And there is seafood. Popular vegetables include beans, potatoes, eggplant, carrots, and squash. Vegetables are often eaten fresh, or quickly stir-fried, or eaten in curries and soups. The flavorings and herbs really make Cambodian food stand out, and they include turmeric, garlic, chili peppers, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass – often similar to the herbs in Thai food. In addition, other elements include ginger, sawtooth coriander, basil, mint, palm sugar, coconut, sesame seeds, and peanuts. Cambodians tend to balance flavors across the whole meal, so one dish may be spicy while another is sweet, for example. Dishes are often shared at dinner and lunch.
Where to Eat in Siem Reap
The tourist restaurants where they serve generic versions of Cambodian and Western food are not the best places to go to experience the true nature of this cuisine. But thankfully there are many other options for a tasty Cambodian treat.
You’ll find plenty of choice in the markets of Siem Reap. Go early in the morning before the sun heats up and sample a breakfast with the locals. You’ll find abundant local fresh produce at the markets, which is ideal if you have an apartment so you can do your own cooking. You’ll also find some lovely street food stalls at the markets, serving rice noodles, pork, spring onions, and bean sprouts, plus rice flour cakes and barbecued meats. And you can get some num pang, the Cambodia version of a Vietnam favorite, the banh mi tay baguette sandwich filled with pork pate, pickles, herbs, and egg.
Where to Eat Breakfast in Siem Reap
You don’t have to travel far to get a tasty breakfast in Siem Reap. Just after sunrise, the street stalls are put up along the main roads towards Angkor Wat and down the back alleys and you can find sweet grilled pork with rice, Cambodia broth, rice porridge made with chicken broth or pork broth, and num banh chok – a rice noodle dish made with coconut curry sauce and served with kaffir lime flavor and lemongrass. As well as these popular dishes you have breakfast favorites like fried noodles, spring rolls, and chive cakes.
Restaurants and Cafes in Siem Reap
There are many different cafes in Siem Reap that serve Cambodian food from the comfort of an air-conditioned room or under ceiling fans. There is New Leaf in the Old Market area of Siem Reap, and Cour de Maison, which is in the Wat Bo Road section of the city. These cafes serve up a selection of broths, noodle dishes, soups, and curries.
The fine-dining restaurant Cuisine Wat Damnak is the place to go for a high quality and delicious introduction to Cambodian cuisine. The restaurant has a tasting menu with highlights including traditional favorites and modern dishes from Cambodia. Some of the dishes are French in style while others are pure Cambodian. The ingredients are fresh and seasonal. The restaurant is housed in an elegant old building with a garden terrace.
Sugar Palm is another good Cambodian restaurant that is also housed in a traditional wooden building with terraces and verandas. The food is consistently high quality and inventive, with classic dishes like amok trey and curries on the menu. There are fried spring rolls, eggplant dishes, grilled pork, and Cambodian chicken curry.
Chanrey Tree is located on the riverside and offers a selection of traditional Cambodian dishes with some delicious sauces and accompaniments. Marum is a good place for sampling tapas-style dishes from Cambodia and Asia.
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