Phnom Penh’s riverside – or Sisowath Quay – comes alive at dusk. Cambodians flock to the promenade for an evening stroll, to take part in aerobics classes, watch the boats bob along the Tonle Sap River and munch on the snacks available from the carts that frequent riverside and the surrounding areas. Here are the 10 best street food stalls on and around Phnom Penh’s riverside.
A top spot to sample the delights of Cambodian street food is at Phnom Penh Night Market. Geared towards the young local crowd, the bustling market is home to an array of stalls mainly selling clothes and accessories. It also boasts a large outdoor food quarter, with grilled meats, noodle and rice dishes, Cambodian sausages, spring rolls and everything in between up for grabs. Choose your food, find free space on the floor mats and settle down to live entertainment in the form of singing and music.
Arachnophobes should probably give these carts a wide berth because deep-fried creepy crawlies, including tarantulas, are considered a delightful snack in Cambodia. A couple of carts can be found in the evening patrolling the area opposite FCC, offering snacks in the form of scorpions, crickets, grubs and spiders. With these geared towards the tourist crowd, expect to pay inflated prices and up to $1 for a photo.
Markets are the best places to sample authentic local food, at local prices, and the riverside area is home to two spots geared towards Cambodians. Phsar Chas – or Old Market – is one, sitting a block behind riverside, between streets 110 and 108. After coping with the cacophony of market life, take a rest at one of the iced coffee stalls found inside the market, or at one of the carts that dot the outside, and get your caffeine hit from one of Cambodia’s most popular drinks. Be warned, it’s bitter without the addition of condensed milk and super-sweet with it in.
Men and women pushing carts laden with trays of salty clams is a common sight across Phnom Penh, and they are no stranger to the streets surrounding Phsar Chas. From morning to late afternoon, the sellers pound the streets, with the partly-boiled cockles baking beneath the sun. You can hear them coming thanks to the crackling megaphones that call, “Liah chnnan” (delicious clams).
A small stretch of Sisowath Quay, outside Preah Ket Mealea Hospital just south of Chinese House, is lined with food vendors throughout the day, serving a range of local dishes. These range from grilled meats, sliced fruits, noodle and rice dishes and snacks. In typical style, the food carts have laid out plastic stools and metal tables that sit under the shade of umbrellas, so you don’t have to eat on the go.
Nothing beats sipping on a fresh coconut, and there’s no shortage of carts almost spilling over with them being wheeled throughout Phnom Penh’s streets. They can frequently be found on riverside and the surrounding streets, with a coconut costing no more than $1. The machete-wielding vendor will slice open the coconut and give you a straw too, so you can get supping straight away.
Phsar Kandal is another local market that sits a couple of blocks behind riverside, next to Wat Ounalom. Don’t expect to pick up souvenirs here as this is one of the most popular markets for Cambodians to buy their daily goods. There are plenty of food vendors inside and on the outskirts of the market serving a range of dishes. Here is a great place to stop for lunch and tuck into the curries that are on offer. Much milder than neighbouring Thai food, these mellow curries come with meat or fish.
The manicured square of grass referred to as Royal Palace Park because of its location in front of the Royal Palace, fills up with families and other locals each evening. And where there are crowds, the food vendors follow, with that stretch of Sisowath Quay cluttered with stalls selling everything from seeds to feed the birds to candy floss, refreshments and snacks.
If it’s a refreshing snack you’re after, then there are several stalls selling sliced fruits along riverside. Here, you can watch the tropical fruits, ranging from notoriously pungent-smelling durian and jackfruit, through to mango, being sliced before your eyes into bite-sized pieces. Be warned, when it comes to the sweeter fruits, Cambodians like them sour so they tend to be unripe. And they will be served with a dip of tangy chilli salt.
Street 13, behind Wat Ounalom, is dotted with carts, vendors and mobile stands selling an array of 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 from one of the stalls. A tip to try and avoid any dodgy kickbacks from street food is to find a stall popular with locals, so look for the busiest spot.