Siem Reap dishes you must try in Cambodia’s culinary capital include everything from Cambodia’s quintessential noodle dish nom banh chok at Pachok, a traditional kuy teav soup at Chep Por’s, a beautiful Cambodian fish ceviche at Lum Orng farm to table restaurant, and a sublime Kampot scallop seaweed salad at Mie Cafe.
Siem Reap is Cambodia’s culinary capital, home to the country’s best Cambodian food, dozens of markets, a lively street food scene, countless cooking classes, a vibrant café culture, the country’s best Cambodian restaurants, and, as a result, some of the most memorable dishes you’ll taste on your Cambodia travels.
Ask your food-loving friends who have been to Cambodia what the most delicious Siem Reap dishes you must try are and they’ll most likely name amok trei or fish amok, a rich steamed fish curry, and lok lak, stir-fried beef in a black Kampot peppercorn sauce served with crunchy green tomatoes, fried eggs and rice.
While those dishes are must-tries in Siem Reap – lok lak is popular lunch fare and amok trei is more of a special occasion dish – Siem Reap food lovers would also recommend you taste local breakfast favourites such as nom banh chok and kuy teav, and anything barbecued or grilled, from marinated skewers to stuffed frogs.
Siem Reap is also home to a new generation of Cambodian chefs reinventing Cambodian cuisine – such as Pola Siv of Mie Café and Banlle; Sothea Seng of Lum Orng farm to table restaurant and Mahob Khmer; the Kimsan ‘twins’ of Embassy; Mengly Mork with his Pou restaurants; and Pheak Tim, who helmed Trorkuon at Jaya House River Park hotel and is now at Templation hotel.
The city that is the departure point for Angkor Wat also boasts a long list of restaurants offering foreign cuisines – Italian, French, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Greek, and more – some of which also serve some of Siem Reap’s unmissable dishes.
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Now let me share the 15 most delicious Siem Reap dishes you must try in Cambodia’s culinary capital, where to try them, and what else to order while you’re there. I’ll add to this list from time to time as I make new discoveries
Siem Reap Dishes You Must Try in Cambodia’s Culinary Capital
Siem Reap Dishes You Must Try for Breakfast
Nom Banh Chok at Nom Pachok
Nom banh chok are lightly fermented rice noodles made fresh daily by artisanal noodle making families. It’s also the name of one of Cambodia’s most popular breakfasts. Usually served at room temperature, the noodles are doused in a light coconut milk fish-based curry broth, and are garnished with aromatic herbs, foraged leaves and seasonal edible flowers, such as sesbania grandiflora and water hyacinth.
You’ll find nom banh chok served at market stalls and by roving vendors, however, for elevated versions of nom banh chok, book a table for a fancy ‘free-flow’ breakfast at elegant Malis restaurant in a grand white building on the riverside.
Here, chef Luu Meng has created the perfect nom banh chok with incredibly flavourful broths and artfully arranged herbs and flowers. To learn more about the beloved Khmer noodles, see our comprehensive guide to nom banh chok.
Also order: after trying the classic nom banh chok samlor Khmer (‘samlor’ means soup), which has a herbaceous yellow-green fish-based broth, order the nom banh chok samlor cari, which comes with an almost laksa-like Cambodian curry. The boys also offer a dry nom banh chok with less broth, more vegetables, and optional fish cakes. Go with an empty stomach and try them all!
Kuy Teav at Chep Por Noodle Soup
The only breakfast noodle to rival nom banh chok in Cambodia is kuy teav, cousin to Thailand’s kway teow and distant relative to Vietnam’s pho. Kuy teav is a clear hot soup made from pork and beef bone broth, vermicelli rice noodles, your choice of cooked and rare beef, pork or chicken, and perhaps some offal, along with some vegetables.
One of the Siem Reap dishes you must try is the kuy teav at the Chep Por family’s noodle soup restaurant, arguably one of Siem Reap’s best breakfasts. Located in the upmarket Kings Road Angkor tourist complex, it is as local and as authentic as soup joints come.
Beginning life as a humble soup stall, it was started by the late Chep Por soon after the Khmer Rouge era. Before moving to its current home, it was a modest eatery across the road. Despite the move to a fancier location, the family has retained the original recipes, warm service, and core customers, contemporaries of the late founder.
Also order: if you have room, try the kuy teav with offal and blood cake, as well as the Chinese doughnuts (youtiao; cha kway in Khmer), traditionally dipped into rice porridge (congee or borbor in Khmer), which you can also dunk into your soup or Cambodian coffee. A tip: take a slurp of the soup before adding a squeeze of lemon and condiments, such as soy sauce and chilli sauce. Old-timers add little else but chopped chillies, however, you’ll spot young Cambodians scooping spoons of sugar into their bowls.
Siem Reap Dishes You Must Try for Lunch
Cambodian Fish Ceviche at Lum Orng
A Cambodia p’lear is a salad of raw fish, seafood or beef ‘cooked’ by marinating it in lime juice ceviche-style, combined with fresh fragrant herbs such as basils, coriander and mint, and a dressing that typically includes the marinade and perhaps garlic, fish sauce and palm sugar.
Cambodia has a long tradition of eating ceviche-like salads such as p’lear trei (with fish) p’lear bangkang (prawn, crayfish or lobster), and p’lear sach ko (beef). Restaurants often call these dishes ‘ceviche’ simply for the fact that foreigners are more familiar with the term ‘ceviche’ than ‘p’lear’.
One of the most delicious Siem Reap dishes you must try and one of the most beautiful Cambodian fish ceviches you’ll see is the plate pictured above of river fish, pomelo, foraged leaves, perfumed herbs, and edible flowers. Savour it at chef Sothea Seng’s Lum Orng farm to table restaurant, part of a flourishing sustainable restaurant movement in Siem Reap.
Order the dish from Lum Orng’s a la carte menu or hope it’s on the ever-evolving 6-course tasting menu which is tweaked depending on what’s ripe and ready to eat from their organic farm. While Lum Orng is especially atmospheric in the evenings, this light dish is perfect for lunch.
Also order: if you’re a raw food fan, also try their Cambodian Carpaccio, p’lear sach ko (beef salad) presented in the style of an Italian carpaccio with a lemongrass and lime infused olive oil, dressed with Khmer herbs and edible flowers, and served with a pepper and lime sauce on the side. It’s easily another of Siem Reap’s must-try dishes.
Num Krok at Spoons
Num krok is a popular fried Cambodian street food snack also found in neighbouring countries. ‘Num’ means cake although these delectable treats have a texture closer to a pudding. Made predominantly from rice flour and coconut milk (some cooks add tapioca flour), they should be a little crispy on the outside, soft in the centre and have a spherical shape created from joining two pudding halves.
What sets one num krok maker apart from another is the seasoning (num krok should be sweet and savoury), the ingredients (from spring onions or chives to sweet corn, shrimps or chilli relish), and sauces (anything from coconut milk combined with fish sauce to a spicy Sriracha-like chilli sauce.
The chefs at Spoons, the social enterprise, hospitality training restaurant of an NGO called EGBOK, have perfected the art of making num krok – with a little help of chef Mengly Mork (see below) who opened the restaurant. Perfectly formed, the num krok here doesn’t collapse in the centre as some do, and their sauce has the right balance of sweet and sour.
Also order: all the appetisers – the fresh spring rolls, grilled chicken skewers, and green papaya salad provide a fantastic introduction to Cambodian street food. Also try: the num krok at Pou Restaurant and Bar and Pou Kitchen and Café (link below) – the owner, chef Mengly does a num krok to rival Spoons, served with beetroot puree, corn and avocado.
Grilled Chicken Curry at Pou Restaurant
Cambodians love their grilled and barbecued meats, which they eat from morning (grilled chicken or pork with rice is another breakfast favourite) until evening, when plumes of sweet smoke will entice you to roadside carts selling marinated barbecued skewers served with pickles and toasted baguettes, market stalls grilling everything from chicken and quails to frogs and fish, and barbecue restaurants offering more exotic meats such as crocodile.
Cambodian chicken curry on the other hand is comforting dish that you’d have at home or order as part of an array of dishes, made for sharing, that are eaten family-style with rice. At his Pou Restaurant, Chef Mengly Mork combines the two ideas to create an individually plated dish that could be shared if you really had to, but which you probably won’t want to.
A piece of incredibly succulent char-grilled chicken that will melt in your mouth, served with a curried pumpkin purée and some prettily arranged edible flowers, sliced banana blossom, and perfumed herbs on the side. It’s perfect on its own for lunch or with an appetiser and dessert for dinner.
Also order: the num krok (see above) and the whole grilled mackerel, caught off the coast of Sihanoukville, doused in a spicy tofu sauce and served with turmeric tinted rice topped with crispy chives. Save room for dessert!
Crispy Rice Cakes with Natang at Chanrey Tree
Crispy rice cakes with natang is another Cambodian favourite (with a cousin in Thailand) that consists of rice crackers that are traditionally made from the leftover rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot, that are served with a rich dip of minced pork, shrimp, fresh coconut milk, and peanuts.
The version at riverside Chanrey Tree restaurant is based on the owner Soann Khan’s mother’s recipe, is easily another one of the most delicious Siem Reap dishes you must try. While the natang at Chanrey Tree is creamier and more lightly spiced than some of the other versions in Siem Reap, such as at Sugar Palm, I love that Chanrey Tree’s natang is served with fried frangipani flowers and vegetables done tempura-style. (Although my favourite fried frangipanis in Cambodia are served at Battambang boutique hotel, Maison Wat Kor.)
Also order: the char kroeung, a choice of frog legs, fish or beef (opt for the frog) stir fried (‘char’ means to stir fry) with kroeung, a paste pounded from Cambodian herbs, root vegetables and spices, including lemongrass, kaffir lime, turmeric, galangal, garlic, and shallots; roasted free-range Khmer chicken with honey, rice spirit and young jackfruit; and Sihanoukville prawns and calamari stir-fried with green Kampot pepper, garlic, and onion.
Siem Reap Dishes You Must Try for Dinner
Prahok K’tis and Fish Amok at Sugar Palm
The rich, complex fish amok (amok trei), a sort of steamed fish curry, is a favourite with food-loving travellers and is Cambodia’s best-known dish. Indeed, many would argue it is Cambodia’s national dish although nom banh chok devotees would disagree.
What everyone will agree on is that it’s one of the Siem Reap dishes you must try when you’re here. Time-consuming to make, as a proper old-style fish amok takes 40 minutes to fully steam, it’s something of a special occasion dish for locals.
Although you’ll find one form or another of fish amok in every Siem Reap restaurant and eatery, including fish amok that has not been steamed and is basically just a curry, Cambodia’s finest fish amok can be savoured at Sugar Palm, where owner-chef Kethana Dunnett and team make a superlative version.
Chef Kethana, considered ‘the Godmother of Cambodian cuisine’ by many chefs, cooks her mother’s and grandmother’s recipes, which is essentially Cambodian home-cooking. Her amok trei is made with snakehead fish, fresh coconut cream, a kroeung of galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, chilli, and noni leaves, and is steamed until it reaches a texture somewhere between a mousse and soufflé.
Kethana also does an outstanding iteration of another Cambodian favourite, prahok k’tis, a dip of minced pork, prahok (fermented fish), coconut cream, and pea eggplants that’s served with vegetable crudités.
Also order: for something even more decadent, try the shrimp amok, and as Cambodian food is made to be shared, order the pomelo salad with pork, shrimps, mint and toasted coconut; smoky grilled eggplant with minced pork and fermented soy beans; and the classic Cambodian chicken curry.
Pork Spare Ribs at Mahob Khmer
Cambodian pork is some of the best we’ve ever tasted and it’s no wonder as the local free-range pigs lead happy lives, loafing about feasting on food scraps. One of the most delicious dishes you must try in Siem Reap is grilled pork spare ribs that have been marinated in palm sugar, garlic, salt, black pepper, and sometimes soya sauce.
While many restaurants and eateries do them well – Marum’s ribs are also to be commended – the modern Cambodian restaurant Mahob Khmer’s slow braised young pork ribs with palm sugar and cinnamon, served with pan-fried eggs and sautéed green vegetables, are exceptional.
It could be because the owner chef Sothea Seng once worked at one of Dubai’s finest New York-style steakhouses, the Manhattan Grill, in the Grand Hyatt hotel. Or it could just be that Cambodians are consummate barbecue and grill-masters.
Also order: local style roasted pork belly (more pork, I know, but it’s special); the trio of satays – free range chicken, local beef and river prawn on lemongrass skewers, served with peanut sauce and pickled vegetables; the wok-fried snakehead fish fillet with crispy shallots in a tamarind gravy, and the local beef with red tree ants, lemongrass, and holy basil.
Saraman Curry at Malis
Cambodia’s saraman curry or cari saramann is another of the delicious Siem Reap dishes you must try and the best place to sample it is at chef Luu Meng’s Malis restaurant on the riverside. Saraman curry is the richest of Cambodia’s curries, and it’s a Cambodian Cham Muslim specialty, which is perhaps why you don’t see it on a lot of menus.
It’s also a cousin of the Thai massaman curry and Malaysia’s rendang, which might seem odd until you study the culinary history of Cambodia and Southeast Asia, which I have to confess to being a bit obsessed about. The similarities between the dishes lies with the base curry paste, with only a few ingredients that set one apart from the next: star anise, turmeric and dry roasted grated coconut.
The saraman curry at Malis has a rich concentrated sauce that’s redolent of dried spices such as cardamom, cumin, cloves, and star anise, and melt-in-your-mouth beef that’s a result of the slow-cooking that really distinguishes this dish.
Also order: the house-made Takeo pork sausages with coconut and spices; the crispy royal mak mee noodles that are prepared table-side; one of the traditional Cambodian soups, such as the samlor machou kroeung sach ko, a hearty green vegetable broth with tender beef; and the dessert taster, which you should hope includes the Kampot pepper brûlée with green peppercorns.
Palm Fruit Sour Soup with Pork Ribs at Embassy
Cambodians love their sour soups as much as they love their barbecues and grills. Let’s face it: Cambodians just love their food, but the sour soups have a special place in their hearts. While the younger generation tends to like sweet over sour, older folks have long preferred sour, bitter and pungent, which explains a fondness for bitter herbs and foraged leaves, unripe fruits, pickled vegetables, prahok (fermented fish paste), and sour soups.
There’s an infinite array of them, too, and they come with everything from banana trunk, river fish and prahok to a broth with water lilies, fish sauce and rice paddy herb. Kimsan Pol and Kimsan Sok, the head chefs at stylish Embassy restaurant create some of the more accessible soups for the foreign palate, by refining their broths with French technique.
One of the most delicious dishes you must try in Siem Reap is their palm fruit sour soup with lemongrass-turmeric paste, tamarind juice, and pork ribs. It’s a Michelin star-worthy dish that tastes as wonderful as it looks. Hope that it’s on the menu when you dine.
Also order: Embassy only serves a tasting menu and it changes every month, so you don’t have a choice in what you order, however, you’re in good hands here. The restaurant is open for dinner only.
Mekong Langoustine in Rice Paddy Crab Curry at Cuisine Wat Damnak
Like Embassy restaurant, above, Cuisine Wat Damnak offers a tasting menu only, which changes every two weeks, so while this Mekong langoustine in rice paddy crab curry may be one of Siem Reap’s must-try dishes as far as we’re concerned, you’re not always going to find it on the menu and that’s partly because the ingredients are seasonal.
The dish is based on a very traditional rice paddy crab brain soup, which you find in the countryside and is typically eaten during the monsoon season when the lush rice fields are rich with crabs, fish and frogs, not only rice. As you’d expect from a casual fine-diner that landed on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2015 (at #50) and 2016 (at #44) when it became Cambodia’s Best Restaurant and the first to land on the prestigious list, this is a very refined rendition of that dish.
Chef Joannès Rivière does away with the shells, which are popular with locals, who love the crunchy texture, and adds creamy fresh coconut milk and sweet, meaty langoustines from the Mekong.
Also order: as with Embassy, Cuisine Wat Damnak is open for dinner only and you have no choice but to go with the tasting menu, and that’s what a meal at Cuisine Wat Damnak is all about. But you do have a choice between two menus. Take a friend and order one of each.
Ravioli alla Carbonara at Il Vicolo
When visitors to Southeast Asia feel like a change from Asian food, the first cuisine they typically turn to is Italian and travellers to Siem Reap are no exception. The city is blessed with pizzerias and trattorias but the best Italian restaurant in Siem Reap right now is Il Vicolo.
Tucked down a laneway parallel to Pub Street, it was opened in late 2019 by Rome-born Edo Todaro – owner of Gelato Lab, where he makes some of the finest gelato you’ll sample outside Italy – and Cambodian chef Sopheak Sao, one of Siem Reap’s most talented young chefs, who has cooked at Sugar Palm, Flow and Il Forno, another of Siem Reap’s best Italian restaurants.
The chef makes all the pastas by hand daily and uses a combination of Cambodian produce – from Kampot pepper to local free-range ducks and seafood from the southern Cambodian coast – and the finest Italian products, which Todaro imports from the mother-country, including cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Taleggio and Pecorino and specialties such as the spicy ’Nduja sausage from Calabria.
Il Vicolo’s menu features a handful of wonderful dishes you must try in Siem Reap, but let’s just focus on one. The ravioli alla carbonara is a comforting dish of large pillows of pasta filled with cured egg yolk, that sit in a rich egg yolk sauce, topped with a parmesan foam, and sprinkled with crispy guanciale, green peas, and Kampot black pepper. I’d return to Il Vicolo restaurant again and again just for this dish. But, you should…
Also order: the cheese and cold cuts board if you’re seriously missing fine Italian products; local slow-cooked carpaccio di polpo with garlic and herb marinated prawns, grilled watermelon and organic rocket salad; tartare di manzo, fresh minced beef tenderloin with egg yolk, mustard, house-made pickles of shallots and capers, and parmesan cheese; spaghetti al nero di sepia con tartare di gamberoni, a black squid ink spaghetti with raw baby shrimps; and, if it’s on the menu, the ‘Pancetta Il Vicolo’, an 18-hour sous-vide pork belly with mustard mash potato, glazed carrots, leeks, green peas, and fennel gravy.
Vegan Fish and Chips at Banllé
In Khmer, Banlle means ‘vegetable’ and this light-filled vegetarian and vegan restaurant is owned by one of Cambodia’s most eco-conscious and animal-loving chefs, Pola Siv, who also owns Mie Café, above. Most of the restaurant’s produce comes from the organic garden, trellises and planter boxes that surround the modern restaurant in a remodelled traditional wooden house, which comes as something of a surprise as the Banlle is located in the centre of the city, a block from the riverside.
Another surprise is that this is a plant-based restaurant with a five-course vegetarian tasting menu and one that costs as little as US$15. But as I’m focusing on single dishes that you must try in Siem Reap, I’m going to single out the vegan fish and chips.
Now I have to confess that I’ve always found it a bit strange that vegan restaurants give non-vegan names to dishes. I’m not vegan but I absolutely adore vegetables. Why call minced mushrooms ‘ground beef’? Why not just enjoy them because they’re mushrooms?
Which is why I cringed when the chef suggested the vegan fish and chips, only to (surprise, surprise) find it would become one of my favourite dishes. It’s essentially banana flower that tastes of the sea as it’s been soaked in seaweed and salt water, before being shaped into a ‘fish’ and deep-fried. Served with fantastic sweet potato fries and a vegan tartar sauce, it’s an unforgettable dish.
Also order: the barbecued pulled (plant-based) ‘pork’ on a potato rosti; the traditional Khmer yellow curry with local vegetables; the baked giant eggplant with tomato gratin; and the peanut butter and coconut pie with lime. Or simply go for the tasting menu and hope it includes the seaweed salad, which is a vegetarian version of my favourite dish from Mie Café above, but without the scallops.
Steak Frites Café de Paris at Khéma Angkor
Siem Reap has a vibrant French dining and drinking scene thanks to a sizeable population of French expatriates, French-Cambodians, Cambodians who emigrated or have studied or worked in France, French speakers, and Francophiles, so it would be remiss of me not to include a French restaurant.
Khéma Angkor is the Siem Reap outpost of the lovely Khéma brasseries in Phnom Penh, of which there are two, and it’s arguably Siem Reap’s best French restaurant. Although the menu also features other European dishes, such as a salmon gravlax, pork Milanese, beef Wellington, and so on, we recommend sticking to the French classics, of which we have a few favourites.
The standout and another one of the superb dishes you must try in Siem Reap is the Steak-Frites Café de Paris. Steak-frites is simply a steak and fries in French and although it’s typical brasserie-fare in France, the Belgians have long claimed it as a national dish.
A pan-fried entrecôte (rib eye or scotch fillet is typically served rare or saignant (bloody) in a béarnaise sauce. At Khéma the perfectly done sliced steak swims in the rich butter-based Café de Paris sauce (made with from anchovies, mustard, garlic, and herbs), served on a platter over a flame – not that mine ever has a chance to cool down!
Also order: the charcuterie platter with house-made farm pâtés, rustic terrines, chicken liver mousse, and cold cuts; the beef carpaccio; and the Toulouse sausage with potato purée. Save room for dessert: the lemon tart, cheesecake and classic profiteroles are all fabulous.
While many of these restaurants have reopened in 2022, some are still not open and may never open again. We’re currently in the process of updating this guide and will republish it with new details soon.
Cathie Carpio says
Love this post, Lara. It’s an excellent testament that travellers should stay longer in Siem Reap to sample Cambodian cuisine (alongside other reasons). Every traveller should read this list to eat well in Siem Reap.
Lum Orng is the most exciting Cambodian restaurant for me right now, but I still visit Embassy, Malis, Mie, and Sugar Palm on my every visit. All are excellent. Even when we were living there, I didn’t pass up on dishes in these restos as much as I love eating at home. Nom Pachok is relatively new but is easily one of my favourites.
I will keep in mind Chanrey Tree’s natang on my next visit…I actually haven’t had that dish ever! My version of cha kroeung sach moan is actually inspired by Chanrey Tree’s version, which I used to serve in my private dinners in one of the first few runs.