In Cambodia, a snack is never far away. Food carts trundle along the country’s roads, as vendors call out from behind their sizzling, smoking pots and skillets. Here are some of the best places to sample the finest street food in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
Cheap eats are not hard to come by in Cambodia, as the streets are filled with options. At mealtimes, portable plastic chairs and tables clutter the capital’s pavements, while locals tuck into freshly cooked plates. Between meals, mobile carts are pushed through the streets, serving up a range of snacks.
These are the best places in Phnom Penh to tuck into authentic Khmer cuisine for just a fistful of riel. Hygiene fears can put visitors off street dining, but by taking a few precautions, dodgy bellies should be kept at bay. Avoid ice, ensure the food is piping hot, utensils are properly sterilised and seek out spots spilling over with locals. With that in mind, here are the best spots to enjoy street food in Cambodia’s capital.
Bai sach chrouk (pork and rice) is a popular breakfast dish across Cambodia, but the Pork and Rice Man is one Cambodian who serves the meal in the evening as well. From about 5.30pm on the corner of Street 19 and Norodom Boulevard, the street flickers to life as chairs and tables are thrown up, crowds start to gather and street-side grills are set alight. His marinated pork is the dish of the day — or evening — and attracts people from far and wide. If you fancy eating it as a traditional morning dish, then head to any of the many smoking grills across the city from about 6am and tuck in. Another great pork and rice eatery sits at the corner of streets 13 and 100.
Affectionately referred to as the Russian Market, this is another spot overflowing with food. Inside the market is a central food court, with small stalls selling everything from fresh fruit smoothies and Khmer coffee, through to noodles, rice dishes, soups and salads. If noodles are up your street, then head outside the market to one of the capital’s best fried noodle stands on the corner of streets 450 and 135. This spot specialises in fried noodles with beef, tofu and veggies, with a fried egg on top, all starting from $1. At dusk, stalls cooking up fresh seafood replace the motorbikes at the market’s parking area.
While most tourists tend to head straight for the Russian and Central markets, Orussey Market is popular with locals. The three-storey building is crammed full of stalls selling absolutely everything. In keeping with Cambodian markets, it contains a central food court that is a bustling affair, especially during mealtimes. Anything and everything can be sampled here, from sweet to savoury. It is also a great place to tuck into another Cambodian breakfast staple, num banh chok. Also known as Khmer noodles, it can be devoured as an afternoon snack as well, with rice noodles topped with a fish-based curry gravy made from kaffir lime, lemongrass and turmeric root.
Barbecued meat is common across Cambodia, with basic grills fired up ahead of dusk across the country. The stall on Phnom Penh’s Street 123 specialises in mouth-watering yakitori spit-roasted chicken skewers. Here, diners can chow down on a choice of thigh, heart or wing, with vegetarian versions available, including mushroom, aubergine and cheese options. The chicken skewers are only served during dinnertime, with other meals available throughout the day, including chicken, rice, salad and chips. Prices start from 2,000 riel (50 cents).
Pho may be Vietnam’s national dish, but Cambodia’s street food scene gives it a serious run for its money. This street-side spot happens to dish up a mighty fine version of the broth. Aptly named Pho, the stall can be spotted by its yellow awning that sits next to a small street cart on Street 360, near Monivong Boulevard. The flavoursome soup contains poached tender strips of beef topped with a homemade chili and garlic relish, spicy paste and freshly squeezed lime to taste. Dishes start from $1.85.
Street 13 behind Wat Ounalom is a popular spot with hungry locals. The stretch of street is dotted with carts, vendors and mobile stands selling an array of sizzling dishes throughout the day and early evening. The waft of barbecued meat floating through the air is enough to get the saliva flowing, so join the tables of locals and tuck into some freshly barbecued meat or fish, noodles, chet chien (banana nuggets) or spiced clams from one of the stalls.
Men pushing wooden carts spilling over with coconuts is a common sight on Cambodia’s streets and a visit to the capital isn’t complete without sipping on the fresh fruit. While visitors don’t have to look far to catch a coconut seller, Street 63, in between Sihanouk Boulevard and Street 242, is packed with vendors flogging mountains of them. With a whip of a machete, the top is taken off and the coconut is ready to be drunk. If you want to finish it on the spot, ask the vendor to crack open the shell and feast on the juicy flesh. Note, the smaller coconuts for sale are much sweeter and slightly more expensive.