Chef Saren, Toun Saren, Marum Restaurant, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Local Guide to Eating and Drinking in Siem Reap by Chef Saren of Marum

This local guide to eating and drinking in Siem Reap, Cambodia, comes from local Cambodian chef, Toun Saren, Head Chef of Marum, one of Friends International’s Tree Alliance hospitality training restaurants.

Our local guide to eating and drinking in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is courtesy of one of our favourite local chefs, Toun Saren, the head chef of Marum. There are so many fantastic young Cambodian chefs we could have asked for tips for you but we’ve spent some time with the chef over the years and we know that he’s very passionate about Cambodian food and loves to see visitors to Siem Reap enjoy it.

However, Chef Saren also appreciates that some beloved Cambodian specialties, such as the fermented fish, prahok, are an acquired taste that many foreigners never acquire, even after eating Chef Saren’s prahok k’tis (pork and prahok dip), which is one of our favourite versions of prahok k’tis in Siem Reap. We’re big fans of prahok ourselves, but we get it, however, we still believe that it’s important for you to at least sample it to try to understand something about the local cuisine.

As the guy at the pass of one of Siem Reap’s most popular restaurants for expats and tourists alike, Chef Saren also understands that we foreigners are pretty spoiled when it comes to food and at some stage during our culinary explorations will crave other food. So alongside prahok, Chef Saren has also recommended his favourite Western spots, from burgers to Japanese.

Of course, modest guy that he is, Chef Saren hasn’t included Marum, but it would feature high on our local guide to eating and drinking in Siem Reap, so make sure you get along to this fantastic restaurant during your trip. Click through to this link for more about Marum restaurant.

Local Guide to Eating and Drinking in Siem Reap

Q. Why should people spend time in Siem Reap?

A. Siem Reap has so many beautiful places to visit – the ancient Angkorian temples and many places to see Cambodian nature and countryside. There are also fantastic places to eat and drink.

Q. What do you love about Siem Reap?

A. I love the temples, the forest, Phnom Kulen, and the great mix of people from all around the world that we have here in Siem Reap.

Q. What’s special about Cambodian cuisine?

A. The traditional recipes handed down from generation to generation that capture the South East Asian flavours in a unique way.

Q. What about Siem Reap’s eating and drinking scene?

A. There is something for everybody and for every budget and taste. You can select from fine dining and many Western restaurants to small local places and street food.

Q. Your favourite Cambodian restaurants in Siem Reap?

A. Malis – they serve traditional Cambodian food at the highest standard whilst sourcing their ingredients from local communities, which in turn supports locals who need the income.

Cuisine Wat Damnak – the chef Joannés has a fantastic understanding of Khmer food and flavours, and together with his French culinary technique he creates incredibly innovative dishes.

Arun – no frills, just delicious food, which is good value for money and popular with many local people in Siem Reap. It is on the Siem Reap riverside road, near the Royal Palace bridge.

Q. Your favourite places to eat in Siem Reap for when people want a change from Cambodian food?

A. The Hashi – this is my favourite non-Khmer food place, as I love Japanese food and the price is also good.

Red Piano – I enjoy this Western style restaurant with music and great Belgian food whilst also watching the world go by.

Jungle Burger – when you need to get away from rice and curry, a burger is a great option!

Q. Best place for a quick lunch in Siem Reap?

A. There are many little local places around Old Market but my newest favourite is Nyum Nyum, a new local restaurant by Friends International‘s Tree alliance, which is similar to Marum, our training restaurant for disadvantaged young people, only Nyum Nyum trains the carers of the young vulnerable people.

Q. Your advice for a romantic meal in Siem Reap?

A. Pick up some Cambodian street food and enjoy it at the temples – the grass area on the moat around Angkor Wat is a great place.

Q. Best place for a group of family or friends travelling together?

A. Koulen Restaurant – it offers buffet style dining with Apsara dancing as entertainment, which is perfect for a big group.

Q. Best areas for street food in Siem Reap?

A. Road 60 – there are many choices of street food, including BBQ roasted chicken, seafood, and soups. This is best for the meat-eating late night diners who want to experience a true Cambodian style evening. Not for the vegetarians out there!

Wat Damnak neighbourhood – the best grilled beef in town can be found here. The area is a local favorite for take away food, which you can enjoy as a picnic with friends in a natural setting, such as the riverside.

Phsar Leu market on National Highway 6 – at night time the market sellers have gone and shoppers have left the area and it transforms into a perfect spot to find an array of street food vendors serving everything from roast duck to some fried crickets. This is more for the adventurous diner who is willing to explore outside of the Old Town.

Q. What are Siem Reap’s must-try Cambodian dishes?

A. Amok – a traditional Khmer curry paste with coconut milk is steamed with fish or other ingredients. Try to taste the traditional flavour, as it can be different depending on where you order this dish.

Lok Lak – when cooked with real Kampot pepper this beef dish has a unique flavour.

Prahok – this is fermented fish and it has a taste like nothing else. It’s truly Khmer and an experience for anyone who wants to experience our cuisine.

Q. Your favourite eating experiences in Siem Reap?

A. Roasted chicken at Puok district – enjoying a full roasted chicken from the Puok district (13km from Siem Reap town), which is famous among Cambodians. The secret marinade recipe is something everyone should try when they visit Siem Reap. This is a local insider secret! If you are Khmer and you don’t pick up some Puok roasted chicken you have really missed out!

Buying kralanh on Road 6 – on your way into Siem Reap on National Highway 6, you will see many stalls in a row selling roasted sticky rice in bamboo called kralanh. It’s a must to pick some up and eat it along your journey.

Fried insects on Road 60 – spot the spider! Here you will find all sorts of insects that are fried and when you get past your fear, these can be delicious. Also, it’s a perfect picture to send home to show friends and family what you had for dinner to compare with them!

Q. Best Siem Reap breakfasts?

A. Tonle Sap – fantastic spot for breakfast to get all sorts of soups and porridge but my favourite has to be the dim sum.

Hankung – it has a wide variety of Khmer style breakfasts. It’s in front of the garden in front of Grand Hotel d’Angkor.

The Hive – when you need a break from the Khmer breakfast porridge and rice, this place has everything you could ask for, with locally roasted coffee.

Q. Best coffee in Siem Reap?

A. Noi coffee stands – locally owned, with two stands in the centre of town. One just by Old Market on the corner of the river road and the second is by Wat Preah Prom Rath on Street 9 just by the river and Old Market. A strong espresso costs $1, which makes it one of the best value coffees in town!

The Hive – one of the most popular coffee spots in town, boasting locally roasted specialty coffee, experienced baristas, and a great café to relax and soak up the atmosphere.

Brown Coffee & Bakery – a favourite café with Khmer people, good price, good coffee, and good location. New in Siem Reap, but there are many branches in Phnom Penh.

Q. Best food market in Siem Reap?

A. Phsar Leu – best price and good quality of meat. Between 6am-9am is the best time to go and experience the hustle and bustle of a Cambodian market.

Q. Siem Reap’s best cooking class?

A. Mahob cooking class – as part of the experience you visit Chef Sothea’s organic farm, select the vegetables, and you choose what you want to cook from three menus with four courses. I would suggest that you learn to cook Lok Lak, as this dish is easy to replicate when you are back in your home country.

Q. Siem Reap’s best drinking spot?

A. Siem Reap Brewpub – If you know and like your beer, Siem Reap has a treat for you! You can choose from six flavours at Siem Reap Brewpub and I would suggest the IPA.

Q. Siem Reap’s best foodie souvenir?

A. Take back a jar of prahok, so you can share the flavours of your journey with your loved ones.



There are 2 comments

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  1. Cathie Carpio

    Thank you for posting this, Lara! There is never a shortage of places to try in Siem Reap.

    I’ve had comments from people who visited Cambodia and didn’t like the food. Clearly, they haven’t met you.

  2. Lara Dunston

    Thanks, Cathie! You must send these people my way!

    Look, like anywhere, it’s easy to eat badly here if you don’t do some research – especially if you eat on Pub Street, which is for drinking cheaply and people-watching, not eating. And most (not all) of the restaurants in the parallel lanes beside Pub Street are also pretty dreadful in my opinion. This guide, of course, is Chef Saren’s, with his very personal recommendations, and it includes one place in that area that I personally wouldn’t recommend. Although I’m definitely going to give it another try now.

    But then again if you do research in the wrong places – such as Trip Advisor – you’ll also eat badly. There’s no way I’d recommend half of the restaurants in the top 20. Not sure where it’s placed now, but the Funky Flashpacker, a backpacker joint, was #1 Restaurant for some weeks, which is just ridiculous. And that’s why we prefer to consult experts, such as chefs, for advice on where to eat.

    Please make sure you send any friends heading here our way! Thanks for dropping by!


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