This is a great place to try one of Cambodia’s national dishes, nom banh chok, or Khmer noodles. Eaten either for breakfast or as an afternoon snack, the rice noodles are topped with a fish-based curry gravy made from kaffir lime, lemongrass and turmeric root. This dish is a must-try during any trip to Cambodia.
Forget Krispy Kreme, which made its debut in the capital at the end of 2016, because there are stalls dotted across Phnom Penh selling donuts that are just as delicious and cost a fraction of the price. One of the best is the fried food stand on Street 9, close to Phsar Kapko. For 25 cents (1,000 riel), you can buy a light and fluffy donut with a delicate dusting of sugar.
Found sizzling away in pans of oil, chet chien (deep-fried bananas) is the Cambodian version of the Scottish deep-fried Mars bars. Ripe bananas are flattened and dipped into a sweet batter with black sesame seeds and then deep-fried. While they can be found across the city, the food cart on Street 9 next to Phsar Kapko market serves up mighty fine versions of the snack.
The baguette remains a relic left by the French, with carts stacked full of the bread seen throughout the capital. Street vendors selling the snack can be found across Koh Pich (Diamond Island). So, spend the afternoon marvelling at the European-style streets, the mini Arc de Triomphe, the garish fairground and swathe of development on this manmade island. Stop off for nompang sak koh – a baguette stuffed with barbecued beef, pickled vegetables and chilli.
Where there are crowds of students, the street carts follow so it comes as no surprise that at lunchtime and mid to late-afternoon the food stalls flock to the area outside Paññāsāstra University on Norodom Boulevard. Here, you can browse the selection of carts and choose from noodle and rice dishes, fresh fruit shakes and sliced tropical fruit. But be warned, they like their fruit raw and sour – and served with a kick in the form of a chilli salt dip.
The pedestrianised walkway on Sothearos Boulevard, opposite Meta House, sits in the shadow of Build Bright University making it another popular spot with food carts. From morning to evening, a varying collection of food carts come and go, serving up a range of local delights cooked in front of you.
The container market trend has swept over from Thailand, with Jet’s Container Night Market proving popular with the young cool Khmer crowd who flock there each evening to snack on food, drink beer or iced coffee, hang out with friends and listen to live music. As well as a feast of food offerings, there are stalls selling quirky t-shirts and other items designed by entrepreneurial locals.
This may not be the most authentic way to sample street food, but for those erring on the side of caution, it’s a safe way to tuck into local treats. Aeon Mall’s sprawling ground floor food court is packed full of counters offering local eats, as well as dishes and snacks from other Asian countries. While these options aren’t quite as cheap as street food, they’re still bargain bites.
The mobile coffee cart revolution has landed in Phnom Penh. Serving iced coffee from a cart is hardly a new concept in Cambodia, however, the more stylish options cropping up are a few steps up from the traditional basic form. The stretch of Street 294, between Norodom Boulevard and Street 9, is dotted with coffee carts serving a variety of coffees, teas and other refreshments.