The Culinary Traditions of Cambodia

Cambodia’s Khmer cuisine is the showpiece of Siem Reap’s dining culture. This culinary tradition has escaped the global spotlight, turning the unique restaurants of Siem Reap into rare culinary gems. The coconut and fish-based curries of Khmer cuisine strike a charming chord in the palette that harmonizes with the foods of Thailand and Vietnam.

In recent years, a wave of Western bars, cafés, and restaurants has swept through Siem Reap. Approximately one million Western travelers pour into the city every year, bringing with them an appetite for vibrant upscale dining. Siem Reap restaurants have responded to this appetite with a sensational restaurant scene that combines the culinary traditions of the French with the exciting flavors of the Khmer. This combination of flavors is sometimes referred to as Khmer-Asian-Western fusion.

Everyone’s eyes, taste buds, and wallets can be satisfied at one of Siem Reap’s many restaurants. Whether you’re a backpacker or a briefcaser, Siem Reap restaurants will reward you with an unforgettable dining experience.

Fine Dining $$$

Most of Siam Reap’s upscale dining establishments are aimed at satisfying the Western palette. These restaurants frequently combine French culinary traditions with the flavors of Southeast Asia.

Meric, Hotel de la Paix, 063-966000, US$20+: Considered by many to be the finest Khmer restaurant in the world, Meric prepares local cuisine with the freshest ingredients. Dine amidst the chic, modern environs of the Hotel de la Paix and enjoy superb oddities, such as dried snake salad, grilled frog, and an assortment of curries.

Abacus, Airport Road (off Route #6), 012-644286, US$10+: This white tablecloth French restaurant is set against the colorful flora of a beautiful garden. The menu is excellent, offering an array of Western culinary staples, such as duck in mango sauce, rosemary lamb, and a variety of beef and pork dishes. Also, enjoy Abacus’s full bar and fabulous wine selection.

Mid-Price Dining $$

Take a tuk-tuk ride into Siem Reap’s Old Market / Pub Street area to sample a variety of quality, affordable local foods. Pub Street is also home to a number of exciting pizza joints, some of which may offer cannabis-laced “happy” pizza. Many Old Market restaurants offer comfortable outdoor eating areas, begging you to order a cold beer on a warm summer day.

Blue Pumpkin, Old Market, 012-946227, US$N/A: This trendy restaurant adds a little contemporary spunk to its menu, with a variety of tasty finger foods, burgers, and pita sandwiches. Blue Pumpkin also offers free Wi-Fi.

Viroth’s, Wat Bo Road, 012-826346, US$5-8: Chef Viroth adds a dash of modernity to his wonderful Khmer menu. Diners enjoy prompt service and excellent food in a lush garden setting.

Happy Herb Pizza, Near Sivatha, 012-838134, Free Delivery: This pizza restaurant is notorious in backpacker circles. Happy Herb Pizza offers a wide selection of pizzas, pastas, and Khmer food. It’s a friendly place to grab a bite and meet fellow travelers.

Dining on a Shoestring Budget $

Kiosk-style restaurants line the streets in an around the Old Market area of Siem Reap. For about US$1 you can fill up on a variety of rice and noodle dishes – a cost effective and surprisingly excellent way to eat your way around Cambodia’s capital city.

Angkor Wat Restaurants

Thatch-roofed restaurants can be seen throughout the Angkor temple complex. Prices are inflated near the temples, a result of tourist stimulation. For US$2-5 you can purchase a variety of Khmer meals.

Angkor Café, Opposite Angkor Wat, 063-380300, US$N/A: Situated just opposite the Angkor Wat temple complex, Angkor Café is a great place to get a good cup of coffee, tea, or a sandwich. Its air-conditioned gift shop is an oasis for tourists trekking through the temple grounds.