We have the lowdown on all best places to eat in Phnom Penh. Be in the know about what to eat and what to ask for. Its more about what to eat than where to eat – read on!
Phnom Penh’s best cheap eats
Cambodia is awash with great places to eat. Not only local cuisine, but food from all over the world. You name it, it’s here. However, what’s on offer in terms of cheap eats? This is typically street food served up by vendors lugging their fare around on carts laden with great food. It is also readily available 24/7 and tends to be kind on the pocket. So, swing into action and give it a go; you won’t be disappointed.
what you will find here is that the best places to eat in Phnom Penh are everywhere! And this goes for all over Cambodia. You will find street food in every town and village.
Cambodian street food also offers unique and surprising delicacies that can be foreign to the eyes and stomachs of most visitors. And sometimes, it is not for the squeamish.
That said, street food will give you an amazing experience; a real culinary adventure. As you dive deeper into the Khmer street food culture, you will find rare treats and wonderful delicacies.
And, street food is everywhere across Cambodia. So read om for the best places to eat in Phnom Penh. Or should we say the best Cambodian food available.
Probably the most ubiquitous treat is Num Pang or the Cambodian sandwich. This is a baguette typically packed with meaty ingredients such as pâté, ham or pork with cucumber, carrots, chives, onions or a salad. And, it really hits the spot. The num pang carts are everywhere. Simply find one and ask for “muoy”, one, and you can watch the sandwich being made. Within five minutes you have one of these delicious sandwiches all for the princely sum of 7,000 riels to 8,000 riels. Less than $2.
Sometimes the street vendor has a couple of chairs and tables available. However, many people grab a sandwich, buy a few beers and sit out front of a mini mart to enjoy their snack.
You will typically find Num Pang street vendors outside of markets or near office buildings. The carts are easily identifiable with the baguettes clearly visible through glass windows on the cart.
A Num Pang can differ in flavour and content depending on where you buy one.
Another dish is short stir-fried egg noodles. Lort Cha, as the locals call it, is one of the most popular street foods. This dish is a stir-fried dish consisting of short fat rice noodles with bean sprouts, Chinese broccoli, and chives.
Typically cooked with beef and topped with a fried egg and is prepared in a large stir-fried pan. The dish is served with a thick red sauce, which is sweet and spicy. If you want more spice, you can add red chilies to taste.
Lort Cha vendors can be found pretty much everywhere on the streets but especially at markets. The local market variety tend to be the best. Vendors are easy to spot and hear as you see them cooking with the large stir-fried pan while the metal spatula clacks on the pan’s surface.
Best places to eat in Phnom Penh
You would be right to think that outside eating is the #1 place to eat. You would be correct. Food stalls always serve freshly cooked food. Enjoy the experience.
Cambodian bamboo sticky rice is a type of rice roasted in bamboo sticks. It is mixed with black beans, grated coconut and coconut milk. The mixture is packed into a bamboo stick and slowly roasted over a charcoal fire until cooked. The rice used is a special kind of fragrant rice from the terraced rice fields of Battambang and Kratie provinces.
The taste is sweet, slightly salty with a hint of a smoky flavour. Very delicious and a filling snack any time of the day.
The city of Battambang in the Northwest region of the country is the bamboo sticky rice capital. It is Cambodia’s second largest city and a leading rice-producing province in the country. The sticky rice from here comes highly recommended as the area is referred to as ‘sticky rice villages’ by locals.
Sticky rice is sold in three sizes, small, medium and large and the costs about 2000 riels to 4000 riels. This is less than $1!
How about freshwater snails! A definite challenge to most.
When you first arrive in the capital, there is one type of street food you will quickly notice. Street vendors with long flat carts on wheels are placed under the burning sun loaded with freshwater snails. The snails have been seasoned and are pre-cooked before being dried under the sun.
The snails are spiced either with red chili sauce or with garlic and salt. Sold by the bucket or the cup, it makes for an interesting treat.
A word of warning, as with any street food, make sure the snails are thoroughly cooked: nothing worse than a rumbling stomach after a meal. Try a sample and decide if you ready for more.
You will find plenty of carts loaded up with snails around the towns, so it is an easy snack to find. Prices are about 2,000 riels per cup of snails.
You could try Amok Chouk. This is Amok with snails and made with the traditional curry.
These Cambodian chive cakes are fried in shallow pans. Made with glutinous rice flour and served with a sweet spicy fish sauce, also known as Num Kachay, are a popular street food in Cambodia.
They are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. When dipped into the sweet spicy fish sauce, the flavours blend together deliciously. This is a favourite street food amongst locals as well as visitors.
Street vendors usually sell the small chive cakes on bicycles. You will find mobile street vendors with chive cakes nearly everywhere. Look for the vendors at busy street corners in the afternoons. You will find chive cakes at a local market.
Num Kachay are sold hot, which reduces the risk of stomach troubles. You can buy them for about 500 riels per chive cake.
Noum Ka Pong
At markets, you see vendors at various stalls bending over the hot flames to produce golden, crispy French bread topped with delicious fried shrimp. They are cooking deep fried bread and shrimp cakes, also known as Noum Ka Pong.
The cakes are delicious and with the bread soaking in fat, you are left with the taste of perfectly spiced shrimp. After that first cake, you will simply just want to buy the shrimp cakes many more times.
When searching for this tasty food, look for the vendors with large deep fryers at the outdoor food stalls at markets. Freshly cooked, a cake will cost between 500 riels and 1000 riels.
The treats don’t stop here. Read more about Cambodian street food in part 2 of Phnom Penh’s best cheap eats.
Wnat to know more about the best places to eat in Phnom Penh or anything else Cambodia. We organise foodie tours. Traveling Cambodia by bus or bike will bring you intimate contact with local food. Or travel Cambodia by train as that is the road less travelled.