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 a month here. Now that I am living in the city (6+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 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!
Table of Contents
- Where can you eat street food in Phnom Penh?
- Top 12 Street Food dishes in Phnom Penh
- Conclusion on street food 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 tends to be amazing.
Best places for street food in Phnom Penh? For me your 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 12 Street Food dishes in Phnom Penh
I promised I would extend this list, so extend it I shall! What was previously my top 5 dishes shall now become my top 12 Phnom Penh street food dishes! Most are hyperlinked to their main article.
Another dish that I have been assured is much differnet form 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
When it comes to Street Food Phnom Pen then frogs could literally have 5+ entries here (I had them again yesterday).. 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! My new entry as per yesterday was frogs with lemongrass and morning glory. Morning glory being a vegetable you see, not related to an erection.
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 it is masterpiece. A must for the Phnom Penh street food scene!
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! Of course you can get fried spring rolls, but in my experience these are best home cooked with cheese added.
Pong tia kun is the Khmer version of balut. Need a lesson on balut? Click here. Essentially the fterilized 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. Don’t be casred and if possible get a Khmer to walk you through exactly how to eat them.
If you’ve spent any time in Vietnam you will have had banh mi. This is Vietnamese/French fusion cuisine. Local stuff 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 Phnom Penh street food 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.
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 Khmer Fried noodles. It is known as Lort Cha here, and as my Khmer friends like to point out is very different from Chinese fried noodles. Not sure I fully agree, but a great go to safe snack. Lort literally means fried, and there are apparently many other takes on “lort”, but for all intents it is part of the Cambodian fried noodle family.
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! I have since heard that there is a version made from the fruit of the palm tree. This is on my to do list!
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.
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, you mix it with eucalyptus stems, diced fried onion, and Khmer hot sauce. An absolute street food Phnom Penh must!
1) Loc Lak
Loc Lak is a Phnom Penh Street Food, a Phnom Penh snack and for all intents fine-dining, depending on where you get it. Loc Lak is 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 always cooked a little rare and usually served with fried rice, so far the best food I have eaten in Phnom Penh. Despite its Vietnamese, or even French origin the Khmer claim this very much as their own.
Conclusion on street food Phnom Penh
And there you have it my top 12 street food Phnom Penh dishes. Again I expect this list to do nothing but grow! Also did I leave anything out? I’m sure I didn’t! But feel free to give me your top tips to Phnom Penh street food.