A bit about street food in Cambodia
Cheap eats are not hard to come by in Cambodia. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner, the pavements become cluttered with portable plastic chairs and tables, as Cambodians gather for the day’s next food fix.
These street food carts and restaurants are the best way to tuck straight into Khmer cuisine, with all the regular snacks and dishes cooked up in front of you, for a fistful of riel. While the price may be appealing and the authenticity tempting, street food comes with its hazards, mostly in the form of dreaded food poisoning.
However, by taking a few cautious steps, such as avoiding ice, heading to stalls that are surrounded by crowds of Cambodians and ensuring your food is piping hot when it’s supposed to be, this can pretty much be avoided.
Here are some of the top places in town to sample street food, and what specialities are the best to try.
Pork and rice
Pork and rice is a popular dish across Cambodia and from about 5.30pm onwards, the corner of Street 19 and Sihanouk Boulevard in Phnom Penh is a hive of activity. The most popular stand is run by a man affectionately known as the Pork and Rice man by the Cambodian capital’s expats. His marinated pork is the dish of the day at this stall, and it attracts people from far and wide to tuck into the speciality dish, which start at $1.
Forget Krispy Kreme, which made its debut in the capital at the end of 2016, because there are stalls dotted across the capital selling donuts that are just as delicious and for a fraction of the price. One of the best is the fried food stand on Street 9. For 25 cents (1,000 riel), you can buy a light and fluffy donut with a delicate dusting of sugar. These are sold throughout the morning, with the stall switching to fried savoury foods in the afternoon.
A few doors down from the donut stand is Psar Kapko Café, which serves up local favourites throughout the day. Expect it to be busy during meal times, as locals gather to grab a cheap eat. A hot tray displaying freshly cooked dishes, such as chicken curry, fish amok and pork and ginger stir-fry, sits to the front of the eatery. A dish will cost you around 4,000 to 5,000 riel ($1 to $1.25). Arrive early, as when the dishes are gone, they’re gone.
There’s certainly no shortage of fried chicken in the capital, with CP Fried Chicken stalls on demand across Phnom Penh. The no-frills chicken sells for 2,500 riel for dark or white meat, and the results are pretty much the same as you’ll find in the oh-so-famous fast food chain that also appears in Phnom Penh.
For mighty fine and delicious Yakitori spit-roasted chicken skewers, look no further than the stall on Street 123 – although they’re only sold during dinner time. With prices starting at 50 cents (2,000 riel) for a thigh or heart, veggies are also catered for, with mushroom or aubergine and cheese options available. Other meals are available throughout the day, including chicken, rice, salad and chips.
Pho may well be a Vietnamese dish, but Cambodian street food spans the flavours of Southeast Asia. Pho can be spotted by its yellow awning next to a small street cart on Street 360, near Monivong Boulevard; the clutter of tables and fans is a giveaway. Here, they poach tender strips of beef in broth, topping it with homemade chilli and garlic relish, a spicy paste and a squeeze of lime. Dishes start at $1.85.
Another Khmer staple is noodles, and there is an abundance of places to get your fix from. One of the finest is the fried noodle stand on the corner of Street 135 and 450, near Russian Market. Specialising in fried noodles with beef, tofu and veggies, with a fried egg on top (starting at $1), the popular stand ensures queues are kept to a minimum by operating a four-wok system.