We uncover the best places in Cambodia’s tourist capitals to taste local delicacies.
Cambodia may be famous for its Angkor Wat ruins, but the country has much more to offer than just historic temples. Delighting in the local Cambodian food is an experience rich in tradition, locally grown ingredients and fresh seafood.
While the capital city Phnom Penh bustles with a world-class dining scenes, the second major city Siem Reap has cosmopolitan cafes and a vibrant nightlife.
If you’re on your way to explore this kingdom, take our suggestions of its best restaurants.
Cambodian restaurants serving the best local foods
Romdeng, Phnom Penh
Staffed by former street youths and their teachers, Romdeng is set in a gorgeous colonial villa serving dishes from traditional Cambodian recipes to contemporary country cuisine.
The menu is adventurous with specialities including tarantulas with black pepper lime sauce, red tree ants, beef fillet and spicy basil stir fry. For more palatable options there’s chargrilled eggplant with pork and coriander and duck spring rolls with wild honey tamarind sauce.
74, Street 174, Phnom Penh
Malis Cambodian Restaurant
With Cambodia’s only Master Chef at the helm, Malis Cambodian Restaurant is arguably the leading Khmer restaurant in the country. It’s particularly renowned for its boutique breakfast.
The establishment is found in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, so it’s accessible no matter your travel plans. The restaurant prides itself on using fresh seasonal produce in traditional Cambodian cuisines.
Signature dishes not to be missed include Prahok ktis which is made from fermented fish, kroeung, minced pork, peak eggplant, chilli and coconut milk, Kampot crab fried rice moringa soup which is made from moringa leaf and pumpkin and baked gobi fish.
No. 136, Preah Norodom (St. 41), 12301 Phnom Penh / Pokambor Avenue, Siem Reap Riverside, Siem Reap
Cuisine Wat Damnak, Siem Reap
Headed by a celebrity French chef Joannès Rivière, Cuisine Wat Damnak has been named one of Asia’s top 50 restaurants and is a fusion between traditional Cambodian and French culinary technique.
The menu is seasonally driven and comprised of local ingredients, such as herbs and vegetables from Rivière’s family garden with fish and game sourced from neighbouring fields.
The fitout is a traditional Cambodian house where you can eat in the modern dining room, traditional upstairs area or in the garden, which is ideal for those balmy nights.
Wat Damnak Market Street, Siem Reap
Bugs Café, Siem Reap
For a unique and adventurous eat, hit up the Bug Cafe. As the name suggests, it offers insect-based cuisine using a combination of Khmer and Western ingredients.
The menu is riddled with all kinds of creepy crawlies including crickets, scorpions, grasshoppers, ants, bees, silkworms and spiders. These are served under the guise of tarantula doughnuts, insect skewers and coconut, sweet potatoes and bee cream (i.e. bee eggs).
In case you feel like backing out, don’t worry - most of the dishes are available without insects too.
351 Thmey Village, Angkor Night Market Street, 351 Angkor Night Market St, Siem Reap
Mango Cuisine, Siem Reap
Hailed as the #1 fine dining offering in Siem Reap according toTripAdvisor users, Mango Cuisine is a first class experience that doesn’t disappoint.
The cuisine is French by nature with impeccable service. Much of the menu is driven by fresh seafood such as scallops, tuna and tiger prawns, although there are meat and vegetarian dishes are available.
Remember to leave room for dessert as Mango Cuisine is renowned for its exquisite pepper-infused chocolate creations.
Sok San Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Cousin’s Burger and Cafe, Phnom Penh
While we’re huge advocates of eating the local cuisine, particularly when you’re in an exotic location, we also support dining on the highest quality eats in the town.
Cousin’s Burger and Cafe is a highly lauded burger joint in Phnom Penh that’s been given theTripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. It’s praised for being the home of the best burgers in the capital.
If you’re a burger hound try the Signature (pictured) out for size.
#16. Oknha Men Street (200), Sangkat Boeung Raing, Phnom Penh 12000
Khema Pasteur, Phnom Penh
Searching for a fine eat with a truly modern feel? You’ll get all that and more at Khema Pasteur, a popular joint where reservations are recommended. The cuisine is European with wines and cheese being the holy grail of the table.
Mains take on a French flair, delivering well-presented plates of entrecote (pan-fried Black Angus with herbed bone marrow), quenelles de poisson (poached fish mousse dumplings with lobster sauce) and filet de boeuf Wellington en croute (filet steak covered in fois gras pata and mushroom stuffing, encased in puff pastry).
Khema Pasteur is open for breakfast, high tea, brunch and dinner.
Arunreas Hotel, Street 51 Pasteur, Phnom Penh
Top Cambodian foods to try
If you want to eat like a local, make an order of one (or all) of these.
1. Fish Amok
Being a seafood nation, fish finds pride of place on the dinner table in Cambodia.
A common dish is fish amok. It’s a fish cooked until silky, accompanied by a rich curry sauce of ginger, lemongrass, turmeric and coconut milk.
Image: Bugs Cafe for an idea of how fried ants look
2. Red Tree Ants with Beef
If you thought the bug cafe mentioned above was a novelty, think again. Cooked bugs play an important role in Cambodian cuisine, with one of the more renowned dishes being cooked red tree ants.
The dish itself is a simple beef stir fry, flavoured with herbs and spices like lemongrass, ginger, basil, shallots and topped with red ants.
3. Khmer noodles
This popular breakfast dish consists of thin rice noodles, vegetables and herbs, finished with a lemongrass green curry.
You’ll often find these served at street vendors or by women carrying them in pots attached to poles across their shoulders.
4. Beef Lok Lak
This traditional Khmer dish is a flavour sensation that shouldn’t be passed up. In short, it’s a savoury beef stir fry in a thick brown sauce.
The meat is generally cut thin and the dish is typically served with rice and a citrus dipping sauce.
Food tours and cooking classes
Book one of these food tours or cooking classes for an immersive culinary experience in Cambodia.
Food and drink deals in Cambodia
Feature image: Malis Restaurant