One of the best ways to know a country is through its food and cuisine. Cambodia and the Khmer people have a long and proud civilization dating back thousands of years.
The Khmer Civilization was once one of the most advanced in the ancient world and lay hidden away from the world until some Portuguese explorers sailed up the Mekong looking to trade with what they thought would be some small jungle villages.
Little did they know they had stumbled upon a hidden world, a bustling civilization, a city of millions hidden away in South East Asia.
Enough of that, let’s talk about the food! We love doing food tours, and a food tour in Phnom Penh was on our itinerary. Khmer food uses as much from the land as possible.
Khmer cuisine uses flavours, spices and other ingredients from certain regions. Varieties of flour are only sourced in certain parts of the country making it completely unique. The cuisine is very region hearty and filling.
We headed out with Lost Plate Cambodia tour to eat some of this Khmer food while in Phnom Penh. We were picked up by tuk-tuk from our hotel and it took us to the first restaurant where our guide and another participant was waiting. We’ve never been on a food tour in a tuk-tuk so we were all really excited.
The first stop provided us with a taste of a curry that has been made since the 5th century. The yellow curry (Num Ban Chok) was a mix of fish stock from a certain fish caught in a certain place in Cambodia. This shop is well known in the area for making this soup and locals come here to have it knowing that the chef is very particular about exactly what goes into her soup.
The soup had noodles and lotus stem in it. It was served with a side plate of mint, garlic, shallots, turmeric, various herbs and ginger that can be mixed in for extra flavour. We all loved to put in the different condiments to see how it changed the flavours and which ones we liked the most.
From here we headed to what can only be described as a village themed restaurant. Walls lined with bamboo and farming instruments, thick low wooden tables and cushions to sit on the ground.
This is how the Khmer would do their meals. Here we were served Shrimp wrapped in a birds nest which is a food for the rich. This was accompanied by a spicy banana blossom salad, red curry and rice. This restaurant was nice and tranquil. We all enjoyed learning about how a traditional Cambodian family would live in a home like this and how they would catch their dinner.
Back into the Tuk Tuk which was an adventure itself as we cruised through the busy streets of Phnom Penh smelling a mix of car fumes and street food jumping at us. The city is rather beautiful at night.
Did I mention that your tuk-tuk will have an esky, chilly bin, cooler or whatever you call it full of cold drinks for you on the trip?
If there is something you would like in it let the team know and they will get a couple of extras for you.
Next stop a local corner restaurant to try some Pig Stew in Gravy with duck eggs and tofu, minced pork with eggplant and fermented fish paste and rice. The fermented fish was the most interesting dish with an amazing balance of texture and taste. It was good to sit among the locals and eat.
We whizzed off through the back alleys and small streets to the next destination. It was amazing to get such a unique look at this local side of Phnom Penh. This time we arrived at a restaurant where the owner-chef takes her inspiration from the food of the north.
We had a platter of meats, vegetables and noodles. This was all to be wrapped in lettuce and eaten dipped in a peanut seafood sauce. For me, this was my favourite dish.
It was fresh crisp and extremely tasty for all. We also enjoyed a local drink called Sour Morning. It was very tasty and went down very nicely.
We headed to a Phnom Penh night market where we had some Cambodian doughnuts with pandan dipping sauce. This stop I think is just to please the Westerners who do the tour as a desert is not a dish recognised by Asian people as such. The doughnuts where light and fluffy and pandan custard was thick and creamy. The perfect combination.
The tour was concluded at a rooftop bar where we sampled a local rum cocktail. It was strong and tasty, typical of most south-east Asian cocktails. We were presented with local silk lined small bag for coming on the tour.
With full bellies and a better understanding of the Khmer food, our tuk-tuk dropped us back at the hotel. A Phnom Penh food tour is a great way to taste the culture of Cambodia. Don’t forget to visit our Food Tour page for more articles like this.
Where to stay in Phnom Penh
Budget: Rachana Hostel
The Rachana Hostel is centrally located to the Royal Palace and the Riverfront. The Rachana offers rooms for doubles and families. The rooftop bar and washing facilities are available. We booked our Killing Fields and S21 Museum tour through the front desk. Located close to restaurants, bars and convenience stores. For more more information and booking click here
Luxury: The Plantation Resort and Spa
The Plantation is one amazing destination in itself. 2 pools, 2 restaurants gym and day spa on site. The pool is a real highlight with cabanas on one side and sun lounges on the other side with the bar and restaurant at the end. This pool is the focal point of the whole complex.
The hotel is locked away behind the walls blocking out the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. The rooms are well appointed with rain showers, wifi, air conditioning and fully stocked mini bar. For more information and bookings click here
You will find many other options from rooms, apartments and hotels with booking.com on the map below
How to get to Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh International Airport is located 10 kilometres from the city centre. The airport is serviced by a number of international airlines both budget and full service.
The cost to get into the city centre from Phnom Penh Airport starts at $4USD for a tuk-tuk or $8USD for a car.
Buses arrive daily from both international and domestic locations. Most notably from Siem Reap in the north and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
From within Cambodia, you can also book private cars and transports. We booked a 4WD from Battambang to Phnom Penh for $75USD
We hope you enjoyed this article from Wyld Family Travel. Please find 2 more articles below for your reading enjoyment. Just click the description to read.
About the Author
Mark Wyld is a father, Husband and traveller. Having been to over 30 countries worldwide I think I know a thing or 2 about travelling with kids. I have been writing about travel on our website for the last 4 years and have featured on numerous other websites. When I am not talking, dreaming and planning travel I can be found working in disability support