Hiking around the Angkor temples, just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia, can really build up an appetite. After seeing such beauty and complex history, my palate craves some pretty special food too. Here’s an overview of some of the top places to eat in Siem Reap, including two cooking schools and a street food tour.
Traditional breakfast near the temples: The discretely luxe Amansara resort has a Khmer village house near Srah Srang, one of the reservoirs within the Angkor Archeological Park. You can book a revivifying breakfast there for a break after your sunrise touring. I highly recommend the nom ben chok, a traditional Khmer green curry soup. The village house is also available for lunch and romantic sunset dinners. I’ve written more about the experience here.
Mad Men lunch: at the Amansara’s resort location, near the Angkor National Museum in town, you can dine in their retro 60s dining room (or by the pool) and taste the very fine talents and ingredients from Executive Chef Molly Rigg’s kitchen. Read more about the delicious lunch I enjoyed there here.
Cocktails and jazz: Heritage Suites hotel is the place to be in Siem Reap on Thursday nights. Enjoy their inventive and traditional cocktails and Chef Vibol’s superb canapés (I’m still craving the quail’s egg with Béarnaise) with live jazz in their two-tiered dining room. You’ll be joined by the movers and shakers in town — especially expats from local NGOs and the hotel and restaurant industry.
Afternoon tea: choose to lounge on a swing, relax at a table overlooking the 100-year-old banyan tree in a reflecting pool, or sit in the chic Living Room and enjoy the Park Hyatt Siem Reap‘s traditional afternoon tea. Don’t have breakfast beforehand — ensure you have room for the extensive selection of sweets and savouries!
Great food in a relaxed setting: The RiverGarden takes its food seriously; the owner is a former chef and the kitchen is open so you can see, hear and smell the chefs cooking up exceptional dishes. During my month in Siem Reap I sampled a lot of amok, a traditional Cambodian dish featuring coconut milk and galangal, and the RiverGarden’s was by far my favourite. Not only was it delicious, but because of its creative serving vessel, it remained piping hot to the last bite.
NYC in Siem Reap: fine-dining New York City style (although with much more spaciously spaced tables!) can be found at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap. Chef de Cuisine Pisith Theam and Executive Sous Chef Martin Robl run a very talented kitchen with western, Khmer and Provençal specialities. You won’t be disappointed with a meal here. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, stop in for their eggs florentine at breakfast.
Rural relaxation: the restaurant at Sojourn Boutique Villas is worth the trip out of town. The hotel is located in Treak Village — only a ten minute drive — but it is so different from bustling Siem Reap that you’ll feel like you’ve journeyed back in time. The food at Sojourn is excellent and the service is sweet. They take extra care to source their ingredients locally and sustainably: be impressed by Ibis rice, Eggcellent Eggs, Wild Samlout Honey (which is supported by the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation), and Three Corner Coffee. Book their lotus pond pavillion for a romantic candlelit dinner.
Ice cream and pastry: stop by the Glasshouse Deli and Patisserie, attached to the Park Hyatt Siem Seap in the centre of town, for a wide range of breads, pastries, soups and sandwiches, and, best of all, their gelato (passionfruit was my favourite!).
Khmer barbecue and apsara dancing: after seeing the apsara (celestial nymph) carvings all over Angkor, I recommend seeing a live performance to better understand the Khmer culture. There are a number of places in town where you can see classical apsara dancing, but few where you can also dine well. Tuesday nights at Heritage Suites feature a dance show and a feast of prawns, squid, chicken, beef and river fish barbecued at your table, in a beautiful setting by the pool.
Training restaurants: you can help young Cambodians in their careers by dining at one of the training restaurants in Siem Reap. One of the best is Sala Baï Hotel and Restaurant School near the Park Hyatt. Also try Haven on Sok San Road, and Maroum.
Hidden gem: Mie Café is a little bit out of the way, but you’ll be glad you went to find it. Near the Sofitel, this small restaurant is run by a very promising Cambodian chef, Pola Siv and features both Khmer and western cuisine. This restaurant was recommended to me by several of the chefs and expats working in the restaurant industry in town, a sure sign of its quality.
Tasting menu: if you like to be surprised by a chef, you will love Cuisine Wat Damnak. Each week there are two different dégustation menus where you can sample haute twists on Cambodian classics, featuring only the freshest local ingredients.
Mystery dining: La Résidence d’Angkor takes guests via tuktuk to five different local restaurants, curated for their best dishes. You can sample the best of Siem Reap without navigation worries! The Martini Lounge at La Residence d’Angkor catches the breeze, so even on the hottest days you can feel cool whilst enjoying cocktails and international and Khmer dishes.
Café with a cause: at the Sister Srey Café, near the old market, you can have a delicious meal (vegan and celiac friendly selections too) and great coffee while learning about ConCERT (the Connecting Communities, Environment and Responsible Tourism NGO) and the ways that you can help (and not hurt) Cambodia with your time and monetary donations.
Cooking Schools and Tours
Sojourn Cambodian Cooking Class: your class is in a rural setting and starts with a visit with a local family to learn about village food customs and beliefs. What you see and learn will depend upon the season and what is being harvested. You then return to Sojourn‘s bamboo pavillion and learn how to make three to six dishes like Khmer mango salad and Cambodian curry. You eat them in a traditional stilt pavillion atop a lotus pond stocked with fish and listening to the sounds of village life. $22 per person half day, $35 full day.
Cooks in Tuk Tuks: the chefs of The RiverGarden take you on a tour in a local market and explain local herbs, fruits, vegetables and spices. In their garden restaurant, you then learn how to make their delicious fish amok and other dishes. $25 per person half day.
Street food tour: The RiverGarden re-creates eating out how the locals do it. They’ll take you to street stalls and explain all the sizzling and fresh treats and help you make purchases. With what you learn, you might be back at the street stalls every night! $25 per person.
With all this eating, you may need some extra days wandering around the temples to work off all the calories! If you’re looking for an amazing evening activity, the Phare Cambodian Circus is not to be missed. Read more about me being unable to wipe the grin off my face here.
Blog and pictures by Johanna Read