What to Eat in One Day in Cambodia

By Briana Seftel

Did you know Cambodians greet each other by saying “Nyam bai howie nov?” (“Have you eaten rice yet?”) Almost everything I ate in Cambodia came with or was served on top of fluffy white rice. I’m not complaining!

Before heading off on a two-day adventure in Angkor Wat, I had a day to kill in Siem Reap. While generally thought of as a jumping off point to Angkor’s temples, Siem Reap has interesting sights and a great food scene (something I was stoked to try).

I skipped my hostel’s bland breakfast buffet and headed outside in search of something more authentic. Almost immediately I saw a line for a street vendor and made my way toward it. I pulled out a few dollars and got what looked like a simple dish of meat and rice. I sat down on the curb and tucked in. My first bite of Cambodian food did not disappoint. The meat was actually pork and had been marinated in coconut milk, giving it a really amazing flavor. The acidic pickled cucumbers were the perfect balance to the richness of the pork.

After breakfast, I walked to Angkor National Museum to prepare for the next few days at Angkor Wat. I then hopped on a tuk-tuk to Psar Chaa Market to buy a few necessities I forgot to pack. I got stopped by a lot from vendors trying to sell me souvenirs, but I just politely shook my head and kept walking. Seeing the market was a great place to acclimate to Cambodian life, even if it meant getting a little heckled.

My stomach was telling me it was time for lunch so I followed the smell of curry to Amok, a restaurant named after Cambodia’s national dish. The baked fish came to the table in a banana leaf bowl and tasted slightly sweet - not like the spicy curries I ate in Thailand.

Jetlagged from my flight the day before, I went back to my hostel and slept for about an hour. I woke up groggy and bought an iced coffee from across the street, which was just what I needed to keep going. Cambodian iced coffee is made with sweetened condensed milk and is similar to Vietnamese iced coffee, but with a deeper flavor.

At around 4:30 pm, I headed just outside of town to play a few rounds of mini golf at Angkor Wat Putt. While researching my trip I read about this crazy golf tribute to Angkor Wat with incredibly accurate models of Angkor’s temples. It was fun to play a few rounds of golf to the tune of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.”

From golf, I caught a tuk-tuk back in town to my hostel. After freshening up, I went to have dinner at Marum, which is a restaurant run by Friends-International to help disadvantaged Cambodian youth. The menu was an interesting mix of traditional Cambodian food served tapas-style, and I everything I ate was delicious. I even tried to silkworms and red tree ants, which were both surprisingly tasty.

After dinner, I decided to hit up a few of the bars on Pub Street. Pretty much every youth traveler (myself included) makes a stop here, if only for bars with names like “Angkor What?” and “YOLO.” After tossing back a few Jack and Coke’s, I took a tuk-tuk back to my hostel and passed out from the day (not the alcohol…) All in all, Cambodian food exceeded my expectations!

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