Having settled into Siem Reap where we’ve established a home, we’ve become familiar with what things cost in Cambodia and thought it was time to share a Siem Reap shopping list for our Price Check series, just in case you’re planning to settle in for a while when you venture here.
In short: shopping here is inexpensive – but with a caveat. More on that later.
SIEM REAP MARKETS
With two main local markets and a few smaller neighbourhood markets brimming with fresh, fragrant, local produce, it’s a cook’s dream.
Smack bang in the centre of town, Psar Chas or Old Market is where most travellers go to to buy their souvenirs. It’s also a very good market for fresh produce, particularly fruit and vegetables, free range chickens, and seafood, which travels overnight from the southern coast as well as coming from the Tonle Sap lake and local rivers. The best chefs in Siem Reap shop here, some daily.
The biggest local market in Siem Reap is on National Route No 6 and it is massive. It is a great place to shop for cookware, as well as fresh ingredients. The pork, chicken and seafood here are all outstanding, although I’m not so keen on the beef. There is no refrigeration at the local markets, so some visitors find them a shock to the olfactory system, especially Psar Leu.
As we’ve shopped Siem Reap’s various markets with a handful of local chefs, we know which stallholders to use for what produce and have begun to build a relationship with them – which is very important for getting good produce at the right price here. We suggest you do the same.
SIEM REAP SUPERMARKETS
Surprisingly, for a city with a sizable expat population, supermarket shopping can be more frustrating than approaching market stallholders, even with little Khmer language skills. Sure the items have prices on them (well, most of the time), but we find ourselves having to go to our three favourite supermarkets to fill one shopping list.
On Sivutha Boulevard in Lucky Mall, this is the largest supermarket, with a good range of products, fair prices, and the widest aisles. Aisle size is important, as Siem Reap’s supermarkets seem to attract as many sightseers as Angkor Wat, along with big tour groups stocking up on snacks and edible souvenirs. Still, it always frustrates us. Prices can be slightly higher than the other supermarkets for some products.
Also on Sivutha Boulevard and just a short walk from Lucky, this is the best supermarket in Siem Reap. Although it’s smaller than Lucky it has the widest range and best quality of stock (the meat is good here), as well as lots of condiments from around Asia, foreign specialties, and a good liquor selection. The upstairs section also has cookware and appliances. The downside: it’s the most popular supermarket with expats and independent travellers, so the aisles are always crowded, especially in the early evening. Prices are the most reasonable here.
Chao Sang Hok
This supermarket on National Route No 6 is about half way between the riverside and Psar Leu. It also has a great range of products, as well as a good kitchenware section to rival Angkor Market’s upstairs. It usually ends up having what we can’t find elsewhere. They have great sections for Japanese, Korean and Thai ingredients in particular.
In any one day, it’s not unusual for us to go to Psar Chaa market in the morning for our fresh seafood, herbs, fruit and veg, and then have to call into at least two supermarkets for other ingredients. For some reason, it’s impossible to find everything you need in one place.
As usual, with our price check shopping lists, we’re pricing the same products where available that we’ve priced all around the world, to provide some consistency. So, no, we don’t buy Nescafe, it’s just a good yardstick for foreigners coming here. (The local coffee we buy which we love is from Three Corner Coffee Roasters in Phnom Penh. More on that soon.)
These are supermarket prices, which we always used for Price Check, as many visitors get intimidated shopping in markets. To get around this, we always suggest doing a market tour with a local first and many cooking courses offer them before the cooking class. You’ll certainly find some things cheaper at the markets, such as fruit and vegetables.
There are a few things that skew things on the Siem Reap shopping list, when compared to other lists. For instance, we usually only include local wine, which we did for our Bangkok shopping list, because Thai wines are perfectly quaffable, although significantly more expensive for a decent bottle than Australian or Chilean wines. Cambodian wine is also a lot more expensive than foreign wine (double the price), however, it’s not drinkable, and we’ll be bringing you a story on that at a later date.
There are also items on the list that make Siem Reap seem more expensive than it probably is, such as olive oil, which we’ve used as an item for our shopping list series all around the world, but which you probably wouldn’t buy if you were on holidays, unless you had serious cravings for an Italian salad. If we’d used palm oil (or rice bran oil, as we did for the Bangkok list, which we did to balance out the cost of the wine) it would have made the list a dollar or so cheaper.
Quality butter is another product which you might not use unless you’re living here, but, remember, when we created Price Check we also had families in mind, who probably want to make kids toast for breakfast or sandwiches for lunch. And even adults get cravings, right?
And that big caveat to shopping in Siem Reap is that Western food cravings can be expensive and frustrating to satisfy. We have found a supplier for excellent, premium quality Australian lamb and beef, but at a real premium price, while fresh thyme and rosemary (for the lamb and beef) are almost impossible to find. All the more reason to be doing our Year of Asian Cookbooks project – so we won’t have time for Western cravings!
By the way, the condiment we priced below, that changes with every destination, is prahok. We’ll be posting more about that Cambodian specialty soon too.
Interestingly, our Siem Reap shopping list isn’t the lowest in our Price Check series. If you take a look at our survey on What Things Cost Around the World, those prizes go to Krakow and Mexico City, respectively, although admittedly we priced those in 2010. If we take inflation into account it may well be that Siem Reap is one of the world’s cheapest destinations to settle in for a while.
A Siem Reap Shopping List
|1.5 litre water||KHR2,404||€0.44||US$0.60|
|1 litre milk||KHR8,817||€1.62||US$2.20|
|Bottle of wine (not local!)||KHR32,000||€5.89||US$8.00|
|250g local coffee beans||KHR9,018||€1.66||US$2.25|
|50 tea bags||KHR16,833||€3.09||US$4.20|
|1 kg sugar||KHR3,608||€0.66||US$0.90|
|Jar of jam (260gr)||KHR14,028||€2.58||US$3.50|
|1 loaf of bread||KHR2,404||€0.44||US$0.60|
|250g quality butter||KHR11,222||€2.06||US$2.80|
|500ml Olive Oil||KHR12,831||€2.36||US$3.20|
|1 doz organic eggs||KHR5,212||€0.96||US$1.30|
|1 kilo tomatoes||KHR8,019||€1.47||US$2.00|
|1 kilo onions||KHR5,212||€0.96||US$1.30|
|1 kilo oranges||KHR4,410||€0.81||US$1.10|
|1 bottle local condiment (400gr)||KHR12,029||€2.20||US$3.00|
Price Check is a series of posts from every destination we visit where we settle in for a while, that could serve as a shopping list for you to stock the kitchen at the start of your stay, as well as a cost of living index, giving you an idea as to what things cost in that place. We include some basic items to get you started, plus a local specialty or two from the place.