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Dining in Cambodia

Cambodia is ready for your unforgettable dining experience. Their international level restaurants offer great service, a wide choice of food, tropical ambience and friendly smiles from the local people – all at an affordable price.

Highlights

  • Taste exotic and unique Cambodian food
  • Distinguish the foreign influence on Cambodia’s cuisine
  • Dine at beautiful and tranquil restaurants
  • Enjoy excellent food service from waiters in training restaurants
  • Support young Cambodians to pursue a career in hospitality industry

The flavors of Cambodia

Cambodia shares its gastronomical culture with neighboring countries, as can be found in their noodle soups that may remind you of the Vietnamese pho, curry soup from India, variations of noodles from the Chinese, nom pang (baguette) from the French or sour soup and stir-fries from the Thai.

Cambodian food tends to be all about contrasts: between sweet and bitter, salty and sour, fresh and cooked, between tasty assimilations of many influences and its own indigenous taste.

Its sweetness is derived from palm sugar and its sourness from preserved lemon and tamarind. Spices such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, star anise, garlic, and ginger are also widely used in their dishes.

The Mekong River that cuts through the heart of Cambodia blesses them with abundant freshwater fish, and fertile soil allows them to harvest rice; therefore, fish and rice are an integral part of Khmer cuisine.

How are Cambodian dishes usually served?

Plain white rice is almost always present at every meal, served along at least three dishes of different type and flavor, such as soups like samlor macho trey (sweet and sour fish soup), grills like ang dtray meuk (grilled squid), vegetable stir-fry (cha tra kuen), deep fried fish, curries, or amok like fish amok.

Side plates of greens, herbs, lime and peppers are served during meals as condiments, and tropical fruit is often served as dessert.

Sauces, especially chili is usually served in a bowl, and you may be given a small plate for your personal serving.

What a typical menu looks like

Cambodian restaurants commonly serve shared plates, which means that you will share your dishes with your companions, and white rice is provided for each person. Ideally, one to two dishes can provide for a single person, two to three dishes are for at least 2 people.

There are also non-sharing, personal dishes with included rice or noodles, such as bai sach chrouk or barbecued sliced pork and rice.

Restaurants in Cambodia

Wider ranges of restaurants are now available, with various menus offered from traditional Khmer cuisine to international food and more options for vegetarians and vegans.

Some of the restaurants are providing international level service, with set menus or a la carte menus.

If your dishes are served in sharing style, you’ll be given individual plates and you may help yourself and take your own portion accordingly.

Although tipping is not part of Cambodian culture, a little gesture will be warmly welcomed; see below for more tips and etiquette for dining in Cambodia.

Asia Highlights’ hand-picked restaurants

When deciding where to dine, the best restaurants will help you engage not only with the rich and vibrant Cambodian food but also with its local culture.

We hand-picked some of the best restaurants in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, for your authentic dining experience:

Restaurants in Siem Reap

Haven

Among the Siem Reap top 10 restaurant is a training school for young, sometimes underprivileged orphans, providing them with hospitality training as waiters.

The restaurant’s most favourite dishes are the Khmer fish amok - a freshwater fish based curry with lemongrass, chilli and coconut milk - and lok lak, a traditional Cambodian pepper beef dish with vegetables.

Marum

Marum is also a training restaurant with beautiful spacious private outdoor courtyards. It provides Asian, traditional Cambodian, and fusion food.

Be sure to try their pork salad and their grilled pork ribs, accompanied by sauvignon blanc. They also provide a wide choice of vegetarian menus and desserts, a popular one is banana fritters with lemongrass ice cream.

Angkor Village: L’Auberge des Temples

This restaurant is located at the beautiful Angkor Village Hotel, built in traditional Khmer architecture.

Its open wooden terrace is surrounded by water foliage, radiating a tranquil ambience. The dining is available a la carte and offers wide selection of Khmer traditional menus.

Restaurants in Phnom Penh

Romdeng

Romdeng is located in a beautifully restored French colonial building with a pictoresque garden. This restaurant serves Asian, traditional Cambodian and a wide choice of vegetarian food.

Dare to try one of their specialties: fried tarantula, or try one of our suggestions: fish amok, seafood tamarind, or mango salad if you’re a vegetarian.

Friends the Restaurant

Together with Haven and Marum, Friends the Restaurant is also a training restaurant under Tree Alliance association that aims to help and train young people to work in hospitality service.

They offer Asian and fusion food. Our favorite menus are sautéed baby squid with kampot pepper and rice wine, smoky eggplant, garlic and coriander dip served with bread.

Etiquette for dining in Cambodia

Compared to Western dining, dining etiquette in Cambodia is considerably less complicated and not strict; but learning local culture, especially at table, will go a long way.

Here is an introduction to etiquette for dining in Cambodia:

  • As in most Asian countries, the oldest person should start before others.
  • Cambodians generally eat with spoon and fork, and the fork is used to push food onto the spoon which is held with the right hand. It is impolite to eat with your left hand.
  • When eating soup, you may use chopsticks to pick out meat and noodles and then the spoon for the soup.
  • When eating in sharing style, you’re expected not to use your own spoon, always use a serving spoon.
  • When using chopsticks, just like in China, do not stick them into the rice, because it means death.
  • From shared condiments such as sauces, you can help yourself and put some in your own smaller bowl for individual dipping.
  • Slurping, lip smacking and any other noises are acceptable; showing that you’re enjoying your meal, so it isn’t impolite.
  • Putting your elbow on the table is acceptable.
  • Left-overs are considered not good, so take your portion accordingly.

Tips on dining in Cambodia

Here are some tips for dining in Cambodia that may help you and save time and trouble:

  • Book in advance to avoid not finding a table.
  • In some restaurants you may have to go to the cashier and pay, as waiters will rarely bring bills to your table. Usually a service charge of 10% is included, if it isn’t, you can add 5-10% to the total bill.
  • Tipping has never been part of Cambodian culture
  • The tea is free
  • Do expect dishes that you didn’t order on the table, such as deep fried bread, coke, fruit; if you don’t consume them, you won’t be charged for them.
  • Wooden toothpicks are provided so you can pick your teeth after eating.
  • If you’re not sure about something, you can either ask others or observe what other people do.

The Asia Highlights Experience

Asia Highlights welcomes the chance to help you create your own unforgettable dining experience.

We will also gladly assist you in selecting destinations, accommodation and activities in Cambodia that best suit your requirements.

Visit the links below today, to learn more about our tour packages and start planning your visit to Cambodia.

12-Day Cambodia and Vietnam Highlights

14-Day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Tour

5-Day Siem Reap Tour at Depth