Phnom Penh features a wonderful and eclectic range of dining options, with everything on offer from cheap noodle shops to sumptuous fine-dining cuisine, American burger bars to boiled fish bladders. Khmer food is less spicy than its Asian neighbours, with the emphasis on more subtle flavours.
Traditional staples include curries, soups, rice and fish, although the more popular tourist areas offer more Western fare and the large expat and travel population ensures a wide variety of international restaurants, with Indian, Thai, German, Italian and French food all prominent. Traditional pub meals can be found at several British or Australian hotel bars, which are often open all night.
There are too many great Phnom Penh restaurants for just one page so visit our listings for European and Western cuisine.
Bakeries and coffee shops in Phnom Penh
Café Fresco: Underneath the FCC is this delicatessen and coffee shop which offers gourmet sandwiches and smoothies. An excellent location to watch the city wake in the mornings, they have both an outdoor patio and air-conditioned inside. Head there after 18:00 for half-price pastries.
Java Café: The up-market Java, on Sihanouk Boulevard, offers good coffee and fresh bagels, in addition to tasty salads and lox. A quality breakfast destination with matching prices, the funky air-conditioned environment, and associated art gallery, is also a popular lunch spot for expats.
Jars of Clay: The best scones in Phnom Penh, made on-site, are found at Jars of Clay near the Russian Market. Tailored towards the expat coffee crowd, they also make pies and cakes to order for special occasions.
Kiwi Bakery: In a prime position on the riverfront, the Kiwi Bakery has a great range of meat pies and traditional Western baked goods. Not so atmospheric after sunset, but morning or afternoon tea times and the location make this a satisfying choice. The revolving cake-stand is mesmerizing.
Khmer cuisine in Phnom Penh
Khmer Surin: The most tourist-orientated of Phnom Penh’s Khmer restaurants, this huge and high class venue has an exhaustive Khmer menu at budget prices, with mains around US$4. This is a big favourite with travel agencies looking to give their customers an authentic, yet quality, Khmer dining experience.
Taboo: The favourite for locals and tourists with a taste for traditional food. A vibrant atmosphere and mixed crowd lends Taboo a uniquely Cambodian feel.
Frizz Restaurant: Fine Khmer dining on Street 240, the upscale location features top quality dishes and chatty staff that are always keen to improve their English conversation skills. Frizz also offers full-day Khmer cooking courses from US$15 per person.
Khmer Kitchen: Cheap Thai and Khmer food from the same people that run Khmer Surin in a slightly more relaxed setting. The outdoor seating and free delivery service are both popular choices for the loyal band of expats.
Khmer Saravan: One of the best places for new arrivals that want to eat their first amok or beef lok laak. Great happy hour draft beer prices are offered, while messages from past satisfied customers adorn the tables and walls – a good choice for your first Phnom Penh meal.
For more Phnom Penh restaurants serving Asian, European and Western cuisine.
In addition to Khmer food, there are numerous Thai and Indian restaurants scattered about the city that all feature traditional eastern dishes. These tend to be slightly more expensive than local eateries but well below the more high-end European establishments. There is a surprising lack of Vietnamese food in Phnom Penh, but there are plenty of Chinese restaurants that corner the region’s business traveller market.
Phnom Penh dining for a cause
Le Rits: Run by women from the NYEMO NGO, which cares for at-risk Cambodia women and abandoned or orphaned children. The Asian-European menu is both extensive and reasonably priced. The store nextdoor sells products made by the women and features handmade silks and jewellery.
Friends: Offering a delicious range of drinks and Tapas, the Mith Samlanh NGO-run Friends on Street 13 is a well-known and entertaining dining experience. The workers are former street kids who have been given a chance at a vocation and are friendly and charming, especially when they put on their own variety shows.
Romdeng: Fellow Mith Samlanh restaurant Romdeng has dozens of traditional Khmer dishes and a breezy outdoor area where the ex-street youths wait with a smile. Near the Independence monument on Street 278, the meals here are huge and tasty.
Lazy Gecko: At the Lakeside area, the Lazy Gecko restaurant offers day trips to a local orphanage in addition to Western food in a chilled setting.
Breakfast and dinner in Phnom Penh
Breakfast in Phnom Penh is usually baguettes, a leftover of French influence, or Borbor (rice porridge). Kuey Teo (noodle soup) and Chinese dumpling shops are a popular lunchtime trend around Central Market along Street 136. There are delicious pastries and java at Phnom Penh’s excellent bakeries and coffee shops, while the large NGO and expat population has meant no shortage of dining for a cause venues that support worthy charities.
Dinner is usually a communal affair, with many local dishes designed to be shared. Traditional soup (samlor) is a standard part of most meals. Meats, salads and obligatory rice are usually served in bite sized portions from the centre of the table, and eaten with spoon, fork or chopsticks. Items will be delivered when they are ready, not as you ordered.
The most popular, and delicious, dish for tourists is amok – a delicately spiced yellow fish curry baked in a banana leaf with coconut, chilli and lemongrass. Amok is to Cambodia what pad thai noodles is to Thailand.
For Western food in Phnom Penh check out the European and Western cuisine listings.