Travel Series: Siem Reap & Phnom Penh

In May 2008 I went to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia.  I was visiting Singapore but since my friends were working during the week anyway, I planned a short trip to Cambodia with my friend Michelle and her colleague, Hiroshi.  I always had an image that Cambodia was a dangerous place filled with landmines but since their slow recovery from political and economic crises, tourism seemed to be booming, especially with people visiting the Angkor Wat and other temples in Siem Reap.  I had never tried Cambodian food before so I was curious to see what it was like.


I chose a boutique hotel called Shinta Mani, that is aiming to achieve a sustainable tourism/business model.  A certain percentage of the room rate goes to charity.  It was a beautiful hotel and the employees were genuinely friendly.  Through them, I was able to donate money to build a well for a family and they actually brought me to meet them.

Minced pork with basil and vegetables (not spicy)
Pork curry (not spicy at all- rather sweet) and pumpkin casserole with shredded beef (kind of like a pumpkin custard on the top and filled with beef)
Morning glory paradise.  We ate a lot of kang kong in Cambodia- apparently it is grown in abundance (and I love it!)
Shrimp amok.  This was a very touristy place but good.  Amok is a Cambodian curry but it’s not spicy at all- sweet and savory (from fish sauce).  I guess Cambodian food is similar to Thai food without the sour and spicy.

Buffet food at a traditional dance show we went to see.  The food was really not that good but we got to sample some typical Cambodian dishes.
The dessert was probably the best part of the buffet.  The pumpkin stuffed with coconut custard is meant to be a very common Cambodian dessert.  Overall the desserts were similar to Thai ones.  Sweet and slightly salty.
Buffet style again at the hotel we were staying at.  There were lots of salads (seafood, green papaya etc) and they were really tasty.
Typical fruit.  They had glutinous rice desserts similar to Thai ones (filled with brown sugar).
After a night at the bars we went to the food stalls to eat noodles.  So good! This one was with minced pork and fishballs.  Makes me drool…

Our lunch at a food market.  Cheap and delicious noodles (about 25 cents) and coffee.
Ponlok Restaurant, Phnom Penh
319 Sisowath Quay
855/23-212-025
I read about this restaurant in a Japanese guidebook.  There were actually more locals and we hardly saw any tourists (maybe it was just down season).  We had a waiter who was about 15 years old and he was hilarious.  There was so much to choose from so we asked him for some recommendations.  Family style of course, and we were happily stuffed at the end. 

Pepper crab!
Pigeon- doesn’t look appetizing but it was good (not a lot of meat though).
Crab omelet
Fish soup
Marinated and grilled beef with sliced onions and tomatoes- we wrapped them in lettuce leaves. 
We didn’t have to order dessert- they just brought a bunch of fruits and sweets.

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