Although many travellers come to Siem Reap to explore the marvels of Angkor Wat and the neighbouring temples, it’s the cuisine that leaves many staggered for words. With an array of international tastes well catered for like Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and French, The Old Market area is a popular spot to sample traditional Cambodian cuisine, or also known as Khmer cuisine. For the uninitiated, Khmer cuisine is noted for its use of prahok, a type of fermented fish paste, and other popular ingredients include coconut milk, lemongrass, tumeric, tamarind, star anise, cinnamon, and ginger, just to name a few.
To sample Royal Khmer Cuisine, visit the popular Angkor Palm located on the main drag, Phasar Chas. To sample several dishes at once order the platter, and either dine inside the contemporary interior or lounge out on the terrace beneath the colonial arches for some prime people watching opportunities. Another gem of a dining spot is The Passage, where you’ll find the Khmer Kitchen, which is a low-key cafe very popular with the locals. Also in The Passage is the Cambodian BBQ, where you can try a traditional Khmer BBQ cooked with a large range of meat, like snake, crocodile, kangaroo and frogs legs, plus the normal selections like beef, pork and chicken. For a taste of typical Cambodian charm, Angelina’s Art Cafe serves delicious coffee and french pastries with an infectious broad smile, and at night this cafe transforms into a bar.
As the name suggests, The Old Market area features a compact fresh produce market to tantalise your senses. The adventurous might like to start the day as the locals do by ordering breakfast from a street stall. Try the om bok, which is rice flakes pounded and flattened and then served as a cereal with sugar, young coconut juice and tiny sugar bananas.
For the budget conscious, Cambodia only accepts US currency from foreigners. Although this may seem unfair, the number of street urchins on the streets will give you an idea of the ongoing hardships the locals have had to endure. Most of the street kids are too polite to cause any angst but if you opt for sidewalk dining, watch your bread rolls as they often disappear before you’ve even noticed. Not need to fret as you will be rewarded with a cheeky smile.