I don’t get why food in Cambodia is expensive. For a country with a minimum wage of 60 USD per month (about 2500 PHP), I thought that the food would be cheap. We spent about 6 USD per person per meal. I did not expect that being a tourist in Siem Reap would be more costly than being a tourist in Bangkok. Boo me for not researching on the local grub before our trip.
They say that Khmer cuisine is a cross between Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Since I have never been to Vietnam (and the food in Thailand is way more pag-ibig than the food in Cambodia) I say that Khmer food is characterized by ginger and confusion. Amok, a popular Khmer dish, is curry that fell in love with ginger.
First stop: Random restaurant along Pub Street. Fresh from our traumatic experience with crossing the border between Thailand and Cambodia, we headed off to Pub Street to look for food. Pub Street is Siem Reap’s tourist watering hole, much like Bangkok’s Khao San Road, except more expensive.
None of my friends can remember what this restaurant’s name is, we also don’t have photos with its name on and checking our foursquare history and Google maps proved futile. What we do have are stolen photos of one scruffy koya at the next table. Also, this is where we first learned that when they say ‘chicken with ginger’ in Siem Reap they really mean ‘ginger with chicken.’
Second stop: Breakfasts in 1961, our hotel slash art gallery. Magazine pages as place mats, soup spoons as serving dishes and a white bunny as a breakfast companion a.k.a. breakfast as art.
Third stop: Angkor Cafe by Blue Pumpkin. This is the only air conditioned restaurant near Angkor Wat. After spending hours walking under the sun around the ruins, I have never been happier to be offered a wet towel and cold water. You should try their Amok Fish Ravioli, it is life-changing.
Fourth stop: KFC. We were craving for something cheap and familiar and KFC is the only fast food chain in Siem Reap. However, coming from a place where KFC’s gravy doubles as a soup for the meal, I was extremely disappointed that the KFC bucket meal in Siem Reap didn’t have rice nor drinks nor gravy. You have to pay for these items separately. THEIR BUCKET MEAL DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A BUCKET! What travesty is this?
Fifth stop: Random convenience store along Sivatha Road. This was where we found the saddest panda ice cream and where I pretended to like Chang beer because it was on my tank top.
Sixth stop: Il Forno. We fought over who gets to have the last spoon of the dessert. Also, it was W’s treat! Yay for free food!
Seventh stop: Amok Restaurant. We love this place, fantastic Khmer food a.k.a. sapat lang na ginger and generous servings.
I sneak out before they serve our food to my favorite soda stand which sells soda for half a dollar. I buy two and drink one at the stand and save the other one for after the meal. A can of soda costs about two to three dollars in the restaurant so yes, you say cheap and I say wais.
Eight stop: Blue Pumpkin ice cream stall. This has become our go-to place for dessert in The Passage / Pub Street Alley. Their ice cream flavors are pretty interesting.
Ninth stop: Khmer BBQ. They have the same owner as Amok Restaurant so we came here looking for the same fantastic, generous serving of Khmer food. We got more than we hoped for a.k.a. a free appetizer.
I took a photo of the cards of the chain of restaurants so that you guys would know where to get good Khmer food.
The part of The Passage / Pub Street Alley where three of the four restaurants are located.
Tenth stop: Blue Pumpkin. The Blue Pumpkin may be the most popular restaurant in Siem Reap. For two hours, I forgot that we were still on the dusty streets of Siem Reap.
We headed to the topmost air conditioned level of Blue Pumpkin to bask in well, the air conditioning (that is available from 11AM-11PM.) Air conditioning is rare among the restaurants in and around Pub Street.
The praline was so good I had to take another one back to our hotel.
Eleventh stop: Dinner at 1961. We were craving for the taste of food back home so on our last night we asked our hotel owner’s mom if she can whip up a Pinoy meal for us and she agreed! You should stay at 1961 if ever you’re going to Siem Reap!