Street Food Phnom Penh is probably the biggest hidden gem of the street food scene in South-East Asia. I originally wrote this piece after spending a month here. Now that I am living here (3+months and counting) I have decided to shake up this article. Turns there is much more to the Phnom Penh street food scene than I had imagined.
Phnom Penh and Cambodia are street food heaven. Street food is not for the tourists here (well some of it is), it feeds the masses. There is street food Phnom Penh during the day, but it is once the sun goes down that the plastic chairs come out and the sounds and smells of Phnom Penh street food start to hit you.
Here’s our top guide to street food dining in Phnom Penh!
Where can you eat street food in Phnom Penh?
On the streets dummy! OK, kinda joking, but seriously once it gets dark the streets are filled with food carts that seem to pop up from nowhere. Wherever you go the quality and range tend to be amazing.
Best places for street food in Phnom Penh? For me, you cannot beat the ambience of the riverside, royal palace (for bugs) and the areas around street 130.
For more on Street 130 click here.
And don’t forget when it comes to defining street food, there is much more than just the “street”. I have found some top-notch restaurants selling great street food too. Although my favourite one is now closed….
Top 15 Street Food dishes in Phnom Penh
I’ve listed my top 15 (now not in any particular order) dishes that I have found on the streets of Phnom Penh, all of which I liked so much they mostly link to a blog about the dish itself!
15) Khmer Western Street Food
OK, so this is a lot better than it sounds. Fried Chicken, chips, pseudo Hot Dogs in Sweet bread. I even once had a chicken nugget burger, which when combined with a bit of Khmer hot sauce went down really well. Just opposite Super Dooper near Basaac Lane has a small street food area that does a great bit of street food Phnom Penh fusion. I’d even go as far as to throw ‘The Sandwich Shop” into this mix – who serve more burgers than actual sandwiches.
14) BBQ Beef Skewers and Sausages
Actually a bit of a mix of other things on this list, but these shops specialise in beef skewers served with beef sausages on a stick that also come with a buttered piece of bread and papaya salad. You then do a DIY sandwich, Subway, or indeed Molly’s it is not, but it is damned good. Yet to do an article on Street Food Phnom Penh beef skewers, but I will!
13) Street Food Bugs in Cambodia
We could give every different bug they eat in Cambodia its own entry here, as we gave tarantula its own one. We might do a best bugs of Cambodia at some point, but for this we will say, grasshopper, crickets, beetles and other insects! Most of them taste a bit like crisps. I hated them at first, but they have very much grown on me, although eating a grasshopper is still pretty hardcore. Street Food Phnom Penh you can find them by the Royal Palace, but I also bought some recently on a journey to Prey Veng.
Another dish that I have been assured of is much different from the Chinese version. On this, I will partly agree. Much less greasy in my experience and much more likely to include shrimp. Cheap and available everywhere. Hey, it’s just fried rice, but a nice safe easy option.
11) Frogs, frogs and more frogs
Frogs could literally have 5+ entries here. The Khmer love frogs, allegedly linked to its dark history with the Khmer Rouge. They eat little ones whole, they stuff them with pork and even deep fry them. My favourite was frog deep fried in batter. Yep like fish and chips. Frog tasting a bit like chicken made it taste like chicken in batter. Something even the Scots might balk at! Update on this! Recently tried the Singapore Frog Restaurant on Street 144 – you can read about that here.
10) Street octopus Phnom Penh
I am not messing around with this one! Street octopus in Phnom Penh is the bomb! You will see it being fried up all by the riverside. Part crispy, part juicy, and with the almost cheese-like cream when you bite into the centre. Even watching them cook is a masterpiece. A must for Phnom Penh street food.
9) Cambodian FRESH spring rolls
I grew up not a huge fan of the spring roll. We get it with English Chinese food. A fresh spring roll is nothing like a deep-fried one. Spring onions, Khmer herbs and usually a big fat shrimp. All wrapped in a rice type paper and served with sweet chilly sauce. This dish is everywhere from fine dining to the streets!
8) Pong tia koon AKA Cambodian Balut
Pong tia kun is the Khmer version of balut. Need a lesson on balut? Click here. Essentially the fertilized egg of a duck. Eaten very differently in Cambodia. Overall I’d say I prefer the Filipino version, but still, a must-try on the Phnom Penh street food trail.
7) Num Pang AKA Cambodian Banh Mi
If you’ve spent any time in Vietnam you will have had banh mi. This is Vietnamese/French fusion cuisine. Local stuff was thrown into a baguette. The Cambodian version is not as famous as Vietnam, but still pretty good. Spicy sauce, meatballs and veggies. The bread tends to be a bit sweet, which would be my only slight on the dish. Still, it is a nice safe street food Phnom Penh dish if you are hungry.
In reality, this should be a lot higher than it is! I have covered eating bugs in Siem Reap but you can’t get tarantula there. Overall whilst I have a respect for bugs, I don’t like them. Tarantula on the other hand tasted great! Especially when you bite the middle. This is not for street food beginners. One of the more surprising street food Phnom Penh things I enjoyed.
5) Fried Noodles
You will see these everywhere in Phnom Penh, particularly in restaurants, but the best is from the many street food carts that specialize simply in Cambodian Fried Noodles. Althoughas I have been told MANY times Cambodian fried noodles and lort cha are different things, kinda. Kudos also to Siem Reap where I recently watched football and had fried noodles.
4) Cambodian Sour Soup
Cambodian sour soup is a green soup made sour with limes, full of vegetables and seasoned with a small amount of meat, either chicken or beef. A great starter to a meal, and a very Cambodian dish! YOu will see this in lots of Cambodian restaurants.
3) Street BBQ Phnom Penh
Nothing beats street BBQ washed down with Angkor beer, and whilst you can get it pretty much everywhere in the capital, my personal suggestion is to head to the Mekong, find a street hawker, grab a plastic chair and get it on. Big sticks of fish or meatballs for 50 cents are OK by me.
2) Fresh Phnom Penh Oysters
Fresh oysters or “oysters ice” was inevitably going to grab my attention, but this was not your run-of-the-mill oyster dish. Instead of hot sauce, mix it with eucalyptus stems, diced fried onion, and Khmer hot sauce. An absolute street food Phnom Penh sensation.
1) Lok Lak
Lok lak was a French-influenced dish made in Vietnam called bo luc lak, but it has been taken and adapted to form a huge part of Khmer cuisine. Marinaded beef cubes are always cooked a little rare and usually served with fried rice, so far the best food I have eaten in Phnom Penh.
Picking my top 15 for Phnom Penh street food was no easy feat, and I can see myself extending street food Phnom Penh list extremely regularly whilst I call the city home.