Khmer (Cambodian) food is often all about contrasts — sweet and sour, bitter and salty, raw and cooked. By blending these flavors with spices like basil, lemongrass, and coriander, Khmer cuisine sets itself apart from the many other styles of food in Southeast Asia.
Khmer cuisine is similar to Thai cuisine in that the use of these different herbs gives the food a degree of 'freshness', but it's distinctive in creating full flavor without the use of chili (as is the case with Thai food), due to Khmer cuisine actually being established before the widespread use of chili.
If you're in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh and are in search of some tasty Cambodian food, this article has you covered. There are plenty of good restaurants in these two cities, and in this guide we've highlighted some of our absolute favorite eateries so you don't have to settle for anything less than the best.
Top restaurants in Siem Reap
The following 4 restaurants in Siem Reap are almost always packed due to the unique blend of flavors found in their dishes — a mouthwatering fusion of Khmer, Asian, and French cuisine that has succeeded in offering a vibrant dining experience for customers.
Every restaurant on this list has been selected after careful consideration, and they offer both classic Cambodian fare such as Fish Amok, Khmer curry, Khmer-style grilled meats, and western favorites like Schnitzel, burgers, and salads, thereby making sure every diner is satisfying.
Plenty of vegetarian or kid-friendly options are also available in each of the following restaurants.
An average meal (1 starter, 2 mains, and a dessert) for 2 people – not including alcohol – at any of these restaurants is about US $25.
Marum — located between Wat Polanka and the Catholic Church — features a fantastic mix of creative local cuisine, delicious cocktails, and refreshing fruit shakes, using the freshest ingredients available.
The restaurant is famous for its Slow Cooked Khmer Style Pork Ribs that will leave any meat lover craving for more. We also recommend their Beef and Red Tree Ants Chili Stir Fry, a classic Khmer dish. Not only is it a favorite of customers, but also a favorite of the student chefs that run the show at this restaurant.
In addition, Marum's menu features an extensive "Veggie Lovers" section for vegetarians, which includes salads, breads, spring rolls, and curries. If you're into seafood, there is plenty for you to choose from as well, including fish soups, a mouthwatering Baked Salmon Fillet, and various different seafood stir-fries.
The restaurant has both, indoor and garden seating with daily Happy Hours, and customers are taken care of by very attentive waiters and waitresses.
Marum is also a vocational training school for disadvantaged youth who work in the kitchen and on the floor. It is run by Kaliyan Mith, an NGO that has been working with street children and other marginalized young people in Siem Reap since 2005. This goes to ensure that you're not just paying for a great meal but are also actively supporting a fantastic project.
Located in the Old Market area, Haven serves both western and classic Asian dishes, but the latter is what it's known for.
The Khmer Amok (the national dish of Cambodia made from fish, coconut milk, and curry paste) is a favorite of customers at this restaurant and a dish we can't recommend enough. You have to try it!
While you're at it, do give any choice from their vast list of desserts a try — the Oreo Cheesecake and the Banana in Coconut (vegan friendly) are to die for!
Haven's menu features an extensive list of salads with plenty of vegan-friendly options, Asian mains that include rice and noodles, curries, and fish fillets. If you're craving something western, you could try one of their pasta dishes, pork ribs, Schnitzel, or a classic serving of fish and chips.
The restaurant is the perfect place for cooking enthusiasts, as the many kitchen-view tables provide guests with the opportunity to watch the young chefs in action. Just be sure you've made a reservation, as the restaurant is usually packed.
Haven isn't just one of the best restaurants in Siem Reap, it's also a social enterprise and training school that teaches underprivileged young adults from poor rural areas quality culinary techniques and essential life skills.
Using only the freshest local ingredients available, Angkor Village Hotel offers guests the very best of traditional Khmer cuisine.
They're best known for their seafood dishes such as baked swordfish and their Khmer style fish, the latter being on the spicier side.
Located close to Wat Damnak, the Angkor Village Hotel provides one of the best dining experiences to customers in all of Siem Reap. Lush green gardens with lily ponds make an excellent environment for a tropical paradise dinner, best enjoyed with family or friends.
Bong Thom Homestay
Specializing in traditional Khmer cuisine, Bong Thom Homestay manages to draw a large number of guests day in and day out, even though it's located 20 minutes from the city center.
This cozy restaurant is known for its seven-course lunch, comprising delicious, local produce, but its breakfast and cocktail menus are just as great. For breakfast, you can either choose the traditional Cambodian breakfast of noodles and fish curry, or the classic western option.
Their most famous dishes include Fish Amok and Lok Lak (thin beef slices stir-fried in a light brown sauce).
The perfect place to relax, unwind and enjoy the peacefulness of local life, Bong Thom Homestay gives guests a taste of what life is like in the Cambodian countryside, as it's tucked away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Siem Reap.
A noteworthy feature of the Bong Thom Homestay is the makeshift English school it operates that supports 40 youngsters of the area who are learning to speak English, in an effort to secure a more fulfilling future for themselves and their families.
Top restaurants in Phnom Penh
Cambodia's decades-long history as a French colony, along with the current influx of foreigners in the country, has resulted in its capital city of Phnom Penh gaining a reputation as one of the top cities in Southeast Asia when it comes to dining.
The following two restaurants make it to our list of best restaurants in Phnom Penh because they're popular among both locals and tourists, are consistently packed, and have a long-standing reputation for being the best in the business.
While both restaurants offer a few Western options, they are best known for classic Cambodian and Southeast Asian fare, with dishes like Burmese Chicken Curry, Seared Snapper Filet with Salsa Verde, and Seafood Stir-fry, being a few stand-out examples of the kind of dishes these places serve.
Plenty of vegetarian or kid-friendly options are available in each of the two restaurants.
An average meal (1 starter, 2 mains, and a dessert) for 2 people – not including alcohol – at one of these restaurants is about US $24.
Romdeng is known for its traditional Cambodian dishes, and its menu will be sure to satisfy your longing for truly local food. If you happen to love seafood, we recommend their Soft Shell Crab, Green Mango and Pickled Ginger Salad with Tamarind Chili Dressing.
For vegetarians, we'd recommend the Mushroom and Lemongrass Curry with Rice Noodles, or Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Amok (everyone needs to try Amok at least once!).
Other noteworthy dishes include the Chargrilled Eggplant with Pork and Coriander, Duck Spring Rolls, and of course the infamous Tarantulas, served with Black Pepper Lime Sauce, for those of you that are feeling particularly adventurous!
Set in a beautiful colonial villa, surrounded by a lush green garden and swimming pool, the restaurant provides both indoor and outdoor seating for customers.
The best thing about this place (apart from its exquisitely wonderful food) is that it is a training restaurant for disadvantaged young people, like some of the other restaurants on this list.
Friends the Restaurant
Located near the National Museum and open for over 10 years, Friends the Restaurant has been a long-standing favorite among foodies for the entirety of that time.
The menu features excellent tapas options, scrumptious smoothies, and fantastic fruit juices. It's also the home of what many consider to be the best daiquiri in all of Phnom Penh.
Southeast Asian specialties like Seafood Laksa, Burmese Chicken Curry, and Grilled Beef Salad are options we highly recommend. If you're looking for vegetarian items to try, we would suggest the Smoky Eggplant or the Zucchini and Cheddar Fritters.
In addition to serving some of the best food in the entire city, Friends the Restaurant trains and employs former street youths, giving these students the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the hospitality industry. Students learn about serving customers, cooking, and workplace hygiene, and the restaurant's profits are reinvested in this training programme.
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