Our guide to eating and drinking in Battambang covers everything from markets and street food to restaurants and bars. Some of the best Cambodian food in the country is found in Battambang, the capital of a lush fertile province of the same name, regarded as Cambodia’s rice bowl. Here’s where you should snack, dine and sip in Battambang.
Cambodia’s provincial city of Battambang, set in an agriculturally-rich region, is renowned for growing Cambodia’s most delicious produce, and is one of the best places in Cambodia to try authentic renditions of traditional Cambodian dishes and tasty street food fare.
Battambang was recently named a Unesco City of Gastronomy for its outstanding food and its rich culinary culture and you can read my story in The Guardian on that link on how the sleepy regional city without a single fine dining restaurant gained such global recognition.
You can sample the city’s lip-smacking Cambodian specialties at roadside stalls, local markets, modest eateries, buzzy restaurants, and boutique hotels. Our guide to eating and drinking in Battambang covers just some of the tantalising opportunities to taste Cambodian food that we’ve enjoyed over a decade of visiting the city.
Cambodian cuisine is one of Asia’s most misunderstood cuisines. That lack of understanding isn’t helped by tourist restaurants passing off Thai dishes as Cambodian. Why? Because they know diners are more familiar with the spicier Thai food than the gentler Cambodian curries and often more confronting sour, bitter and pungent notes of Cambodian dishes.
What complicates things in Battambang is that the city and surrounding province was under Thai occupation for a period of time, and some of the local food in Battambang reflects this influence, just as you’ll find Khmer influences in Thai food in Thailand. Eat with an open mind and try not to compare the cuisines.
Due to a sizeable expat population of NGO workers, volunteers and teachers, and creative young Cambodians, Battambang is also the spot to find some of Cambodia’s best coffee, along with good burgers and icy beer in arty bars, and everything from excellent Italian pizza to fantastic Indian food.
Our Guide to Eating and Drinking in Battambang
Breakfast in Battambang
One of Battambang’s most popular breakfasts is kuy teav, a noodle soup with a clear broth typically made with pork, chicken or duck, and you’ll spot it being slurped at markets and stalls all over the city.
We have a soft spot for kuy teav with duck and Battambang’s best duck soup is served up at family-owned Mi Kiev Tia Kwai (Street 135, Kamakor village, one block from ABA bank and the court house). The family wakes in the wee hours of the morning to put the stock on to simmer and roast the meaty ducks.
While the breezy shophouse eatery is open until noon, the duck soup is usually sold out by 9.30-10am. Go early so you don’t miss out. Order the duck soup with wantons, with subtly spiced broth, generous slices of succulent duck, and more-ish house-made wantons.
Another great spot is Mrs Te Lieng and Mr Lee Mun’s soup shop in Wat Kor village on the outskirts of town, where the couple have been dishing up bowls of steaming kuy teav since 1995.
The version with succulent pork slices served atop the noodles is the most barang (foreigner) friendly, however, locals prefer the addition of offal, including liver, intestines, lung, and heart. Add chilli, lime and fresh herbs to taste from the selection of condiments on the table.
The deep fried breadsticks or youtiao – also known as ‘Chinese doughnuts’ – served on the side, are for dipping in the soup. If you’re staying at Battambang Resort, owner Phary takes guests on a breakfast bicycle ride to the eatery as an alternative to the hotel buffet.
For a Western breakfast, Battambang expats like Cafe Eden for its pancakes, crepes, bagels, and enormous huevos rancheros, however, a warning: while the service is well-meaning it is excruciatingly slow.
Markets in Battambang
After breakfast, make a beeline for the markets, which are best in the morning. Fertile Battambang province has a reputation for producing the country’s finest fresh produce.
Cambodians swear Battambang’s coconuts are the finest, pineapples the juiciest, oranges the sweetest, and corn the tastiest – so it’s no surprise the town is home to a couple of the country’s best markets.
In the heart of town, Phsar Naht market is most compelling in the early morning for fresh food and the early evening for street food, when stalls line the perimeter of the marketing selling samlors (soups and stews), barbecued meats and offal, roast chicken and more.
Our favourite market is the larger, busier Phsar Boeung Choeuk, which is a distribution point for suppliers, as well as the market where locals do their eating and shopping. The best time is between 7-8am when it’s at its busiest. Look out for the mountains of pineapples, corn, coconuts, and so on, depending on the season.
Best Coffee in Battambang
Coffee lovers shouldn’t miss Cambodia’s best coffee at cute Café Kinyei, a social enterprise aimed at providing training and employment for young locals, on dusty Street 1½ in the heart of the old city.
Set in a renovated colonial-era Chinese shop-house, the compact café is decorated with rustic wooden furniture and flowers on the tables. Although you’ll also find a lot of laptops. The cafe attracts young NGO workers and volunteers.
This is where you’ll find smiling Sakana, Cambodia’s Barista Champion, making her award-winning Cambodian Cappuccino with pineapple syrup, palm sugar and frothy coconut milk. The café also serves up Battambang’s best cheese toasties.
Lunch in Battambang
Nicknamed ‘Noodle Guy’ or ‘Chinese Noodle’ by expats, Lan Chov Khorko Miteanh (145, Street 2) is a simple, no-frills eatery with a street food stall-style kitchen at the front of the shop, with boiling pots and woks on gas stoves.
This is where the most unlikely of noodle masters, wearing low-slung shorts, dirty singlet and flip-flops, makes hearty handmade Chinese dumplings and silky hand-pulled noodles to order. Order a serve of each. Don’t even think about ordering anything else.
Thanks to Tara Winkler of the Cambodian Children’s Trust (CCT), Bangkok based Thai food chef David Thompson, and Australian restaurateur John Fink, owner of Quay restaurant in Sydney, Battambang is home to CCT’s Jaan Bai restaurant (Street 2), a sleek eatery with a menu of pan-Asian sharing plates and potent cocktails.
If you’ve been exploring the markets and villages all morning and are looking for air-conditioning, good wines by the glass, and some of the best eating and drinking in Battambang, then make a beeline for Jaan Bai, which means ‘rice bowl’ in Khmer.
In a chic, renovated, colonial-era shop-house, the casual restaurant features local art on the walls and bookshelves holding issues of Anthology and Kinfolk. The exterior is covered in murals by Battambang artists and boasts an alfresco area furnished with astro turf and wooden pallets serving as coffee tables and seats.
While the menu has evolved since it first opened back in 2013, it still features some dishes by chef David Thompson, an advisor to the hospitality training restaurant when it launched, including his fiery Thai jungle curry, made with seasonal produce grown in CCT’s own organic gardens.
If they’re on the menu, the pulled pork buns and squid sliders are also delish, but don’t miss the Kampot pepper crab, a Cambodian specialty from the south.
Local Restaurants in Battambang
If you speak Khmer or have a Khmer-speaking guide or friends, ask them to take you to this local favourite, a riverside restaurant called Mlob Chan or The Shade of the Nutmeg Tree, for a quintessentially Battambang experience. There is no menu and guests simply request their favourite dishes or order ahead, as our friend did.
Locals like to linger for hours here, eating slowly and drinking beers as they swing in the hammocks in the rickety alfresco bamboo pavilions that overlook the river. After, they’ll snooze or play cards, ordering more snacks if they’re still hungry.
We were firmly focused on the food: a massive spread of plastic plates piled high with morning glory and garlic; wok-fried chicken with preserved lemon and garlic; prahok with kroeung grilled in banana leaf; whole goby fish grilled in salt, eaten with a sauce of young tamarind paste, chilli and garlic; fresh green beans, baby eggplant, cucumber and cabbage; and a mountain of rice, all arranged on a colourful mat on the bamboo floor. It was simple, fresh and flavourful.
Battambang Street Food Tour
Forget the Nutella pancakes, Battambang’s food stalls serve up some of the most authentic street food you’ll find in Cambodia and the best way to experience it if you’re visiting or are new in town is on a street food snack tour with Phary, the owner of Battambang Resort.
Come late afternoon, Phary leads her food-loving guests on either a bike ride or tuk tuk tour (your choice) to graze at half a dozen food stalls and small family-owned eateries that dot the dusty riverside road. We love it so much we’ve done it a couple of times.
The tour generally starts at a small roadside stall where owner Sal makes nom krok (fried coconut and rice flour cakes) in a cast-iron pan with moulds over a charcoal fire. There are many variations but she serves her’s with a sweet, light vinegary syrup of palm sugar and fish sauce.
The next stop is usually a ramshackle bamboo shack precariously perched over the river (each monsoon it slips a little further toward the water) where you can sample son vac (fish paste grilled in banana leaves), which you should wrap in lettuce and eat with the cold noodles, basil, saw-tooth coriander and tangy sauce provided.
Son vac is typically served with pong tia koun, boiled baby duck eggs, which most food writers and bloggers incorrectly call ‘balut’, which is the Filipino name. We scoop it out and eat it after first drinking the warm flavourful juices from the shell that we created by adding salt, pepper and lime juice. And, yes, it tastes like a cross between a chicken and an egg.
A little further down the road at Ponleu Preh Chung or The Shining Moon, where Mrs Vat Ongn has been crafting a repertoire of Khmer desserts for over 20 years, you can try an array of sweets.
I love the heavenly banh ja’neuk, glutinous rice-flour balls stuffed with mung bean paste, which she drowns in coconut milk and tapioca, douses with some ginger syrup, and sprinkles with sesame seeds. The genre of these glutinous-ball desserts are nicknamed ‘killing husband’ for their tendency to get caught in the throats of drunk spouses.
If you have room, Phary can include a few other spots on her itinerary too, however, the highlight for us is the final stop. Outside a corrugated iron shed, Mr Pra Dina is usually found piling the raw beef skewers that he has been marinating in a big plastic tub of kroeung onto a row of grills to barbecue Battambang’s best sach ko ang.
We like to watch him fan smoke over the coals as dozens of locals begin arriving on motorbikes to join us in the patient wait for the smoky beef skewers, succulent from the pork fat placed between the beef pieces, and aromatic and sweet from the lemongrass kroeung. They are well and truly worth the wait.
Takeaway Food in Battambang
Around sunset, smoke starts to rise from the stalls set up in the evenings outside Psar Naht market, where you’ll find grilled salted fish, various barbecued meats and offals on smouldering coals, and hearty soups and stews (samlors) in massive pots.
Take care, as this is takeaway-central. Locals cruise right up to the stalls on motorbikes and in vehicles to buy their dinner. The best stalls are those that are busiest, but look out for two adjoining stalls selling soups and curries.
We like the stall ran by a very focused woman called Roth, who has had her stall here selling soups, stews and curries for almost two decades. Her home-cooked specialties include char kroeung (a kroeung-based dry curry dish made with chicken, duck or cat fish) and samlors (soups, light stews, and curry soups).
Her best-sellers are samlor machou, a sour countryside soup made with green papaya, spicy basil and smoked fish; samlor machou youn (sweet and sour vegetable soup with pineapple, tomato, watermelon, tamarind, and vegetables); sgnor, a clear chicken broth fragrant with lemongrass and kaffir lime; samlor trayong chek, made with banana blossom and tamarind; and samlor machou kroeung that looks like a watery green curry but is actually a rich, flavourful koeung-based soup.
Don’t leave without buying another Battambang specialty, prahok chamhuy, a steamed prahok fish paste, with pork and eggs.
There are several stalls offering barbecue meats – barbecued frogs, fish, chicken wings, pork ribs, quails, sweet Cambodian sausages, and whole chickens – glistening from a marinade of kroeung, oil and red chilli.
You will also spot large grey-coloured goby fish and smaller catfish, both caught from the river, blanketed in a salt mixture featuring kaffir lime and lemongrass, and being continually turned on a grill. The culinary adventurous shouldn’t leave without sampling khnob – barbecued prahok, mushroom and tamarind wrapped in banana leaf.
If you need help with translation, go see English-speaking Dang who, with his baseball-capped wife, sells succulent rotisserie chickens and ducks, sold with bags of fresh greens, cucumbers and fragrant herbs. Their stall is the only one sign-posted. Make sure to buy something. His roast chickens are the best.
Also try to find petite Mao Vanna, a lovely little woman who for almost 30 years has been selling three specialties from her tiny stools topped with trays of dishes. Her star dish is amok trey, Cambodia’s national dish that has a texture that falls somewhere between a souffle and mousse.
It’s made from fish and a curry paste that’s been steamed in banana leaf and in Battambang it’s always made with goby fish (note: for Cambodians, traditionally there was no such thing as chicken amok or beef amok or tofu amok – these were dishes purely invented for tourists).
Also try her other two specialties: char kdao, a kroeung-based duck dish with hot basil, and char kgney, a light chicken and ginger stir-fry.
Best Battambang Bars
A little way down Street 2, Miss Wong, the Battambang sister to Siem Reap’s finest cocktail bar, oozes colonial style and offers more of the best eating and drinking in Battambang in a chic restored shophouse with cane chairs, Chinese bric-a-brac and potted palm trees.
The heady cocktails are what you’re here for, mixed with infusions, small batch spirits and house-made tonics. If you like your drinks strong, don’t think about ordering anything but the rose and lemongrass martini.
For something lighter, have a lemongrass collins. There are also craft beers and good wines, along with Chinese bites such as duck pancakes, pork bao and dim sum.
The alfresco poolside bar at Bambu Hotel is a popular happy hour destination, with stools filling with an equal number of expats as hotel guests. You’ll often find gregarious owner Pat perched at the bar chatting to guests, and Battambang’s best G&Ts on tap.
Unfortunately, French-owned Vintage wine bar doesn’t have very good wines by the glass, but they do have cheap wines by the glass, better wines available by the bottle, and cheap cold beers. They make up for the mediocre drinks with friendly service, French charm and retro atmosphere.
One of the loveliest spots for sunset drinks is Balcony Bar, located in a big traditional Khmer timber house on the riverside about halfway between town and Wat Kor village. This is the kind of spot you can head to for sunset and end up whiling away a few hours, as it’s such a pleasant spot.
Best Battambang Restaurants
The best restaurant in Battambang’s centre for dinner is Jaan Bai, which stays open late and is even buzzier at night than it is by day. You can read more about Jaan Bai, above, under Lunch.
Across the river at Russey Restaurant at colonial-inspired Bambu Hotel, you can try generous portions of expertly prepared Cambodian favourites, such as their fresh spring rolls, Cambodian curry, rich samlor kor ko, a hearty Cambodian soup made with kroeung, and one of the finest renditions we’ve had of lok lak, a peppery beef pepper dish that is one of Cambodia’s most quintessential.
The restaurant’s signature dish ‘Beef Battambang’, however, is a richer, more sophisticated version of a dish that’s often served at weddings. The restaurant also offers delicious Western and pan-Asian dishes in case you have a craving. The salt and pepper calamari is a must!
A ten-minute tuk tuk ride out of town you’ll also find delicious Cambodian food served on the leafy Lotus Terrace restaurant at the charming Maisons Wat Kor, a small boutique hotel of traditional timber houses that’s home to more of the best eating and drinking in Battambang.
The menu changes regularly, but hope that the fried frangipanis are served and the intense ginger-infused beef broth is on the menu. Book a table early in the day or a day ahead. If you’re not staying at the property, organise a tuk tuk driver through the hotel or ask your own driver to return or wait.
For more on Cambodian cuisine and eating and drinking in Battambang, see our 10-page story ‘Land of Plenty’ in the May 2014 issue of Delicious magazine; ‘On the Map: Bohemian Battambang’ in the March 2014 issue of Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia; ‘Battambang Bada Boom’ on Jaan Bai in the January 2014 issue of Travel+Leisure Southeast Asia; ‘Cambodian Culture Club‘ on Jaan Bai in the January issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
Published 12 July 2014; Updated 27 May 2023
If you have any spots you think need to be added to our guide to the best eating and drinking in Battambang, feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below and we’ll test them out when we’re next in the city.