Generally I am a fan of farmers markets, going straight to source, fresh foods and the whole atmosphere, so when I heard there was one in Siem Reap I jumped at the chance!
On August 20th, Royal Residence the main park type thing in Siem Reap was thrown open for a farmers market/stage show/food competition whereby the best of the best came to share their wares.
The Siem Reap chicken competition
I arrived just in time to see a government guy getting ready to judge the “best chicken” competition. Despite my small camera merely being foreign and the fact that I had a Food Explorers t-shirt meant I got in the press section. I’d hard to ever know exactly what is happening when you do not fully speak Khmer, but a chicken was judged to be the best and a Khmer farmer looked like a happy little camper.
All the while pretty Khmer ladies were singing and dancing in costume on stage and the whole gig had a bit of a carnival fare to it.
Exploring the farmers market
So, this is where things can fun! I was blown away by just how varied the foods available were here. Fruits, vegetables, all kinds of meat and even whisky (we will get to that later), all of them invited because they are the best farmers of Siem Reap province.
Khmer Whisky (no not that kind)
I have previously written about Khmer Whisky. Khmer Whisky is very cheap, but also freaking horrendous! Despite liking a drink I have a bottle in my cupboard that simply never gets touched.
Then I was introduced to Holly Creek Distillery, with the owner proclaiming himself the first “real” whisky maker in Cambodia. I’ll be brutally honest and state that my expectations were extremely low, but the aged whisky, his first batch blew me away. His influences are obviously from Bourbon and it certainly had a bit of a Jack Daniels type edge to it.
It was much better than North Korean whisky which you can read about here.
He also let us try his white “pure” whisky which was 70% proof. I have drank a lot of overproof stuff over the years, but have generally not enjoyed them very much. This one was amazingly smooth.
We have been promised a tour of their distillery, so expect to hear much more about this new Khmer whisky that is due to hit the shelves, it could well be a game changer!
Street food at the Siem Reap Farmers Market
Gone are the famine days of the Khmer Rouge and the food scene in Cambodia is now very interesting! And there’s only so long that you can watch food competitions and look at food before you just gotta eat! There were lots of options available from hot-pot to Khmer BBQ and the like, but there were two things that really drew me in, BBQ pork belly on a stick (very popular here) and shrimp.
I’d doubled down on the pork as well as getting one for a buddy, but it was the shrimp that excited me. It was far from cheap at $5 for 4 pieces, but what you had was huge shrimp almost done in a tempura type fashion, but cooked and eaten whole with Khmer sweet chili sauce. And yes I mean whole, head the tail and everything.
Buying 4 meant having eyes slightly bigger than my belly and I dutifully handed two to friends, who enjoyed them equally as much as I!
Overall a great find and it was just from walking around Siem Reap during Khmer New Year 2.0 that we were lucky enough to run into it.
Food, entertainment, free whisky and even great street food! It was a good day to be the Street Food Guy!