Asia

Where to Eat Khmer Food in Phnom Penh: 6 Fantastic Cambodian Restaurants You Should Try

Never heard of Khmer cuisine? Cambodian food might not have the same reputation as Thai or Vietnamese, but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious! Here are the best local dishes to try in Cambodia, plus my top recommendations for where to eat Khmer food in Phnom Penh.

When I moved to Phnom Penh in 2016, it took me quite a while to warm to Cambodian food. I think many people visiting the country for the first time have a similar experience—maybe because Khmer food isn’t as well known outside the region as Vietnamese or Thai. Phnom Penh doesn’t have the same vibrant street food scene as Hanoi or the night market culture of Bangkok, which does make it a bit trickier to try authentic Khmer food in Phnom Penh.

But it is out there—provided you know where to look. After much research and trial and error, I came up with this list of six excellent Cambodian restaurants where you can sample traditional and contemporary Khmer food in Phnom Penh. All listings are reputable and affordable (they are my personal recommendations, after all!), and observe good food hygiene standards.


Understanding Khmer cuisine

The oldest food culture in Southeast Asia, Cambodian cuisine is influenced by Vietnamese, Thai, Indian and Chinese flavours and traditions. Sadly, like many other aspects of Cambodian culture, much of the country’s culinary heritage was lost or erased during the 1970s. Now, a new generation of Khmer restaurants in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and beyond are bent on putting Cambodian cooking back on the map.

Using fresh season ingredients and imaginative recipes that fuse authentic Cambodian with regional and European influences, there are plenty of restaurants in Phnom Penh that do a fantastic job of showcasing local ingredients and heritage recipes.

Amok. A creamy coconut milk curry traditionally prepared with freshwater fish. Steamed and served in delightful little banana-leaf boats.
Amok—one of Cambodia’s signature dishes and a must-try in Phnom Penh.

Classic Khmer food to eat in Phnom Penh

If you want a taste of Cambodia’s culinary heritage, look out for these classic dishes. Most feature on all good cafe and restaurant menus, as well as being available at markets and street food stalls.

  • Amok. A creamy coconut milk curry traditionally prepared with freshwater fish. Steamed and served in delightful little banana-leaf boats.
  • Lok lak. Cubes or slices of beef marinated in paprika, Kampot pepper, tomato, fish sauce, and other flavours. Served with rice or french fries, and a soft fried egg on top.
  • Kuy teav. Classic Cambodian noodle soup featuring a complex beef or chicken bone broth, vermicelli noodles, and slices of meat and/or meat balls. If your hotel doesn’t provide breakfast (or even if it does), this makes for a perfect traditional Khmer breakfast at one of the city’s markets.
  • Bai Sach Chrouk. A simple dish of thinly sliced, charcoal-grilled pork (sach chrouk ) served with rice and pickled veggies. Another breakfast favourite.
  • Nom banh chok. Another rice noodle soup, this time with a fish and coconut broth and topped with phkar sngor (finely shredded banana flower, green papaya and cucumber). Light and fresh.
  • Samlor Korko. A slow-cooked, rich and spicy Khmer stew traditionally made with pork and lots of leafy greens.
  • Lort Char Phong Tear. Short rice noodles wok-fried with chive leaves, bean sprouts, and served with a fried duck egg on top.
  • Bobor Sach Trey/Borbor Sach Mouan. Fish or chicken congee, traditionally eaten for breakfast. If you’re feeling under the weather, this dish is believed to do wonders for the immune system.
  • Nhoim Troyong Chiek. Banana flower salad prepared with loads of fresh herbs, chopped veggies, nuts, and a light sweet-salty-spicy-sour dressing. Just the thing if you’re trying to lay off the meat (note that most salads do contain fish sauce).
Never heard of Khmer cuisine? Cambodian food might not have the same reputation as Thai or Vietnamese, but that doesn't mean it's not delicious! Here are the best local dishes to try in Cambodia, and my top recommendations for where to eat Khmer food in Phnom Penh.
Khmer noodles—another classic and one of my go-to meals in Phnom Penh.

Unusual Khmer food to eat in Phnom Penh

Feeling adventurous? These ‘unconventional’ Khmer delicacies taste much better than they sound!

  • Prahok. Fermented fish paste and a Khmer food staple. Can be eaten as a main meal with minced pork and eggplant (prahok ktis) or served as an accompaniment.
  • Pong tia koun. Fertilised duck eggs steamed and eaten from the shell. Some restaurants do a contemporary, slightly more palatable battered rendition—sort of like a Cambodian Scotch egg.
  • Snails. Fried, steamed, grilled or boiled—Cambodians love them. Extract them from their shells using a toothpick and dunk them in salt mix or dipping sauce before eating.
  • Grilled frog. Skewered and grilled over charcoal whole, sometimes with chilli or garlic added for flavour.
  • Deep-fried tarantula. Exactly as it sounds.
  • Deep-fried insects. Crickets, larvae and other insects fried to a crisp are a super popular snack food in Cambodia. I often came back to my office after lunch to find my colleagues snacking on a box of them!

Where to eat Khmer food in Phnom Penh: 6 excellent restaurants

Here are six of my favourite restaurants to eat Khmer food in Phnom Penh.

Never heard of Khmer cuisine? Cambodian food might not have the same reputation as Thai or Vietnamese, but that doesn't mean it's not delicious! Here are the best local dishes to try in Cambodia, and my top recommendations for where to eat Khmer food in Phnom Penh.
Photo: Eleven One Kitchen.

1. Eleven One Kitchen Phnom Penh

  • Location: Street 460, Tuol Tom Poung and Street 334, BKK
  • Hours: 7am–9.30pm daily
  • Seating: Indoor (air-con) & outdoor
  • Price range: $3–$5 USD
  • My favourite dishes: Beef lok lak; banana flower salad.

Located a few blocks from our apartment in Phnom Penh, the shady courtyard at Eleven One’s Tuol Tom Poung branch is our go-to lunch spot on hot days. (It’s also the first spot I took my dad when he visited us, which says a lot!) Eleven One’s Cambodian owner has a fantastic food philosophy, using organic, seasonal ingredients wherever possible—and no MSG. She was also one of the first restaurant owners in Phnom Penh to phase out plastic straws and single-use takeaway packaging.

Eleven One serves delicious smoothies (the banana and cashew nut is a personal favourite), and a good range of light, wholesome meals. I always order the beef and banana flower salad, which is chock-full of herbs and served on top of crunchy wonton sheets. They also do a lovely fish or chicken amok, a burger version of my favourite Cambodian dish, beef lok lak (served on a homemade bun), and a juicy chicken stir-fry with mango.

The dinner menu is much bigger than the lunch menu, but the addition of seasonal monthly specials means there’s always something new to try. There’s also a small dedicated vegetarian menu.

View the menu online here.

Never heard of Khmer cuisine? Cambodian food might not have the same reputation as Thai or Vietnamese, but that doesn't mean it's not delicious! Here are the best local dishes to try in Cambodia, and my top recommendations for where to eat Khmer food in Phnom Penh.
Photo: Romdeng.

2. Romdeng Restaurant Phnom Penh

  • Location: Street 174
  • Hours: 11am–11pm daily
  • Seating: Indoor (air-con) & outdoor
  • Price range: $7–$9 USD
  • My favourite dishes: Deep-fried tarantula; whatever is on special!

If you want to sample some of Cambodia’s more unique ingredients—I’m talking tarantulas, silk worms and crickets—in the comfort and safety of a swish restaurant, Romdeng is the perfect place to do it. (Side note: it’s amazing what a good dipping sauce can do!).

For the less adventurous, there is also a good range of seafood mains, regional dishes such as Muslim beef curry and pork belly with Kampot peppercorns, and other Khmer favourites on offer. If you’re unsure what to order, look for the icon on the menu that denotes a ‘Student’s Favourite’ dish. There are also plenty of vegetarian options available. Prices are a little higher, but the surrounds are gorgeous and the service is spot-on.

Romdeng is one of two training restaurants in Phnom Penh run by social enterprise Mith Samlanh, so all profits and tips go to a good cause.

Download a PDF copy of the menu here.

3. Malis Restaurant Phnom Penh

  • Location: #136 Street 41
  • Hours: 6am–10pm daily
  • Seating: Indoor (air-con) & outdoor
  • Price range: From $4 USD (breakfast); $8–$25 USD (lunch/dinner)
  • My favourite dishes: Samlor Khmer; kuy teav.

Malis is one of Phnom Penh’s fancier local restaurants and is a favourite among Khmer families, especially for Sunday breakfast. This gives it a very different, more local feel than the other tourist/expat-centric restaurants on this list.

If you’ve eaten breakfast on the street in Phnom Penh, many of the dishes and service elements here will feel familiar—but a whole lot more refined. Marketing itself as ‘living Cambodian cuisine’, Malis’s Samlor Khmer (noodle soup with fish gravy and lemongrass), bor bor (congee), and signature Kuy Teav Malis (prawn and pork noodle soup) are all made according to traditional recipes. With breakfast mains starting from $4 including a complimentary croissant, bottomless Chinese tea and sweet corn dessert, it’s fantastic value.

For lunch and dinner, regional delicacies such as Takeo sausages (a recipe from nearby Takeo Province) and Kep crab with Kampot peppercorns are highlights of a massive menu that caters to just about every taste and dietary requirement.

Download a PDF copy of the menu here.

Never heard of Khmer cuisine? Cambodian food might not have the same reputation as Thai or Vietnamese, but that doesn't mean it's not delicious! Here are the best local dishes to try in Cambodia, and my top recommendations for where to eat Khmer food in Phnom Penh.
Photo: Friends The Restaurant.

4. Friends the Restaurant

  • Location: #215, Street 13
  • Hours: 11am–11pm daily
  • Seating: Indoor (air-con) & outdoor terrace
  • Price range: $5–$8 USD
  • My favourite dishes: Banana, chocolate and basil spring rolls.

Also run as a training restaurant by Mith Samlanh, Friends the Restaurant offers a tapas-style sharing menu that flies the flag for Khmer, European and Middle Eastern flavours. Cambodian dishes include prawn and glass noodle salad, grilled snapper with green mango, and pork belly with lotus root.

A favourite among expats, Friends also serves the famous Phnom Penh Iced Tea (tamarind juice mixed with five different spirits), and an awesome array of European-style and Asian-inspired desserts to satisfy your sugar and butter cravings.

Download a PDF copy of the menu here.

Never heard of Khmer cuisine? Cambodian food might not have the same reputation as Thai or Vietnamese, but that doesn't mean it's not delicious! Here are the best local dishes to try in Cambodia, and my top recommendations for where to eat Khmer food in Phnom Penh.
Photo: Khmer Surin.

5. Khmer Surin

Update: Khmer Surin is currently closed for renovations and will re-open in October 2019.

  • Location: #9 Street 57
  • Hours: 7am–10pm daily
  • Seating: Indoor (fans) & outdoor
  • Price range: $4–$9 USD
  • My favourite dishes: Fish amok; pineapple fried rice.

Established in 1996, Khmer Surin is one of the longest-running Khmer restaurants in Phnom Penh. It was also the first place we ate when we moved to Cambodia, so it holds a special place in my heart. Located on the ground floor of a hotel, the tiled dining room is beautifully decorated with dark wood and silks, and is absolutely overflowing with greenery. As a result, it always feels a few degrees cooler inside than out.

Khmer Surin’s specialty dish is whole fish cooked with tamarind (Trey Dom Rei), but my favourite is their version of amok: Fish steamed with coconut milk and fragrant spices, served as bite-sized portions in banana leaf boats. They also have a separate Thai menu if it’s Isaan (eastern Thai) food you’re craving.

If you’re planning on dinner, arrive early to take advantage of Khmer Surin’s happy hour deal on cocktails. The front verandah is the perfect place to enjoy a sun-downer or two.

View the menu here.

Never heard of Khmer cuisine? Cambodian food might not have the same reputation as Thai or Vietnamese, but that doesn't mean it's not delicious! Here are the best local dishes to try in Cambodia, and my top recommendations for where to eat Khmer food in Phnom Penh.
Photo: Mok Mony/Jen S.

6. Mok Mony

  • Location: #63, Street 294
  • Hours: 10am–10pm daily
  • Seating: Indoor (air-con) & outdoor
  • Price range: $4–$8 USD
  • My favourite dishes: Grilled betel leaf; smokey eggplant.

Mok Mony is more of a pan-Asian restaurant, with Khmer, Malaysian and Chinese-inspired fare. Cambodian dishes tweaked for a Western palate (and tummy) include a mild Khmer red chicken curry, Mekong prawns served with Kampot pepper and lemongrass, fried boneless fish, and a huge array of stir-frys. Don’t go without ordering the house specialty, grilled betel leaf rolls with marinated beef.

I especially enjoy Mok Mony’s vegetarian fare, including the smokey eggplant, which is sold as an appetiser but big enough to eat as a main. Lotus root and mango salads are also superb if you’re after something fresh. Mok Mony has a pretty unique drinks list too, with concoctions like sugarcane and water chestnut served over ice, and a tangerine, longan and lime freeze.

View the menu here.


Khmer food in Phnom Penh: Restaurant map


Have you eaten Khmer food in Phnom Penh? What did you think? What’s your favourite Khmer restaurant in Phnom Penh?


Pin this post:

7 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Paul says:

    Khmer Surin is now closed but I thought food was average though I haven’t been in years it market was tour groups.

    I Still haven’t made it to Eleven one but good to see it on the list , my wife loves it.

    Malis is top notch – The whole fish baked in Salt and the roast chicen are sensational and save room for the pumpkin brulee
    Love Mok Mony – The beef in Betal nut leaf is a certainty to order each visit.

    I would add two restaurants to your list

    Sugar Palm and Labaab Restaurant are two places we take a lot of our visitors to now.

  2. Not Brits Abroad says:

    Thank you for this! We’re going to Phnom Penh later this week so it really helps! We’re staying not far from Romdeng and Friends too so we’ll check both of them out at least. The pictures look great, we’re looking forward to some Cambodian food after being in Laos and Thailand 🙂

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Oh great! I think you’ll enjoy the change. Romdeng and Friends are both fantastic—eating there is a great way to give back to the local community, too.

      Enjoy Phnom Penh!

  3. peter says:

    yes I have to agree with you about khmer food, I was disappointed after trying local food in almost all of south-east asian countries, Indonesia and malaysia spoilt me rotten. I’m hoping i can at least find a good khmer or burmese curry somewhere in Cambodia, although chinese noodle dishes etc are great even on the streets. Do you think these restaurants you mentioned here would mostly still be operating?

    1. Emily Lush says:

      Hi Peter—I’m about to update this post, but yes, I do believe all these restaurants are still operating.

      If you have any updates or anything to add, please drop back and leave me a note. It’s very helpful for other travellers.

      Enjoy your time in Cambodia!

    2. Paul says:

      Peter Khmer Curry’s are delicious – Try a Khmer Chicken curry to start
      for Burmese in PP there is only the Irrawaddi Myanmar Gallery Restaurant

      Friends now has a great courtyard extension as part of opening up of the Friends property into The Futures factory. Recommend a dinner at night as cooler and more of a vibe than daytime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *