Food forms part of any trip to Cambodia, with the street carts that pepper Phnom Penh serving up a range of local delights at bargain prices throughout the day and night. Here are 15 of the best street food stalls in the Cambodian capital.
Pork and rice is a popular dish across Cambodia and from about 5.30pm onwards, the corner of Street 19 and Sihanouk Boulevard is a hive of activity as locals gather for their evening meal. 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 meal, which starts from $1.
Found sizzling away in pans of oil, chet chien (deep-fried bananas) are the Cambodian version of the Scottish deep-fried Mars bars and a popular street food snack. 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 at Phsar Kapko serves up mighty fine versions of the snack.
Phnom Penh’s smattering of markets are the best place to sample street food, with the bustling community hubs packed full of stalls serving every kind of dish available. Carts also traditionally dot the outside of markets. The Night Market on the riverside is aimed at young locals, with the noisy affair containing an array of stalls selling everything from clothes and accessories to CDs, DVDs and electrical goods. It is also home to a large food quarter, with grilled meats, noodle and rice dishes, Cambodian sausages, spring rolls and everything in between.
Blink and you’d miss it, but this nondescript coffee stall in the centre of Russian Market does what its name suggests: serves the best Khmer coffee. And the best part of it is the hospitality of its owner, Ai Bounnareth, who has operated the coffee and fresh juice stand since 1980. Friendly, he is happy to share his knowledge with visitors while he makes drinks from behind the counter. And with coffee costing $1, it’s a bargain compared to the upmarket coffee shops he is competing against outside.
This dish may belong to neighbouring Vietnam, but Cambodia serves up a pretty mean pho. This local street-side eatery — look out for the yellow awning — poaches strips of beef in broth before topping the fragrant dish with chilli, garlic relish and spicy paste, polished off with a few squeezes of fresh lime. Pull up a seat at the stainless-steel tables that line the stretch of road on Street 360, near Monivong Boulevard, and tuck in.
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. For 25 cents, 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.
For mighty fine and delicious Yakitori spit-roasted chicken skewers, look no further than the stall on Street 123 — although their skewers are only sold during dinner time. With prices starting at 50 cents for a thigh or heart, veggies are also catered for, with mushroom or aubergine and cheese options available. Other meals are served throughout the day, including chicken, rice, salad and chips.
The baguette remains a relic left by the French, with carts stacked full of the bread seen throughout the capital. A great place to feast on the snack is at Phsar Chas, or Old Market, where street vendors selling the sandwiches line the outside of the market. Nompang sak koh is a good option, with skewers of barbecued lemongrass beef layered inside a baguette with pickled vegetables and chilli.
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 Streets 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.
Orussey Market is a large local market that has remained mostly off the tourist track. In keeping with markets, there is a large food area, with stalls selling all kinds of local snacks and meals throughout the day. This is a great place to try one of Cambodia’s national dishes, num banh chok, or Khmer noodles. Eaten either for breakfast or an afternoon snack, the rice noodles, topped with a fish-based curry gravy made from kaffir lime, lemongrass and turmeric root, this dish is a must-try while in Cambodia.
Bai sach chrouk, or pork and rice, is one of the most popular breakfast dishes in Cambodia. Served across the city, a great spot to sample the dish is at the street-side eatery on the corner of Streets 13 and 100, opposite the Post Office. Here, the scent of marinated pork being grilled on the barbecue wafts through the air, enticing diners to the bustling eatery.
Deep-fried creepy crawlies are considered a delightful snack in Cambodia and several critters form part of the country’s more unusual menu of meals. Food carts flogging the insects that dot the riverside are geared towards the tourist crowds that flock there. So, expect to pay inflated prices and to dish out a dollar for photos. Those who are brave enough can tuck into deep-fried tarantulas, crickets and even scorpions on a stick.
If you’re questioning the quality of a pizza made in the back of a tuk tuk, then Katy Peri’s will prove you wrong. As one of the capital’s most popular late-night eats, the mobile pizza cart is often swarming with punters post-2am. Open until about 5am, it also does deliveries, so you never need to go hungry in the early hours again, regardless of where you are in the city.
For a taste of Mexico, get your Tex-Mex fix at Cam’s Burritos, a small cart that sits on the backpacker stretch of Street 172. A second cart has opened up in Toul Tom Poung outside Core Explore Fitness on Street 454. Famous across the city, Cam’s serves up fantastic flavoursome burritos with a range of fillings that will stave off hunger well into the night.
A new trend that is sweeping across the capital is more upmarket mobile food carts setting up shop on the city’s sidewalks. iBurger is a shining example, with the small food truck on Street 51 excelling in the burger stakes. With a small collection of tables and chairs set up on some AstroTurf, iBurger serves an astonishing range of options, including the nacho burger made of guacamole, Jalapeño and salsa, served with sweet potato crisps and the rib eye beef burger.