Siem Reap Dining

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Siem Reap Dining
The influx of tourists in recent times has helped to stimulate the quick development of Siem Reap's dining scene, and visitors can count on an abundance of Khmer specialties as well as international fine dining.
By Duncan Forgan, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of The River Garden
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    Create Khmer Culinary Classics
    Cambodia’s understated curries and delicious salads are crowd-pleasers, and those interested in continuing their relationship with the cuisine back in the comfort of their home kitchen can take one of several cooking classes in Siem Reap. Accompany a Khmer instructor to the market to pick out ingredients before heading back to the kitchen to run through a selection of traditional recipes. Typical dishes include amok (a mild fish curry) and green mango salad; some of the most popular classes are with Tigre de Papier, the RiverGarden, and the Sojourn Siem Reap hotel.
    Photo courtesy of The River Garden
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    Traditional Khmer Cuisine
    Although undoubtedly overshadowed by its heavy-hitting neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia is no slouch when it comes to culinary chops. Indeed, its cuisine is one of the world’s longest-standing, with an emphasis on freshness, seasonality, and regionalism. There are many notable dishes, but particular stars include amok—a type of fish mousse with kroeung (Khmer curry paste)—and lap Khmer (lime-marinated beef salad). For an upscale Khmer feast, try Chanrey Tree. Tangram Garden is another solid option for great Khmer cuisine while Mr. Grill is a lively spot for Khmer-style BBQ.
    Photo by Tim Hill/age fotostock
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    Fine Cambodian Fusion
    Whisper it quietly, but Cambodia has a flourishing contemporary fine-dining scene. While the one in Siem Reap is smaller than what you'll find in the capital, Phnom Penh, there are still plenty of choices. Unsurprisingly, fusion food plays a significant role, with foreign chefs putting their own spin on traditional Khmer fare. The kitchen at Cuisine Wat Damnak is run by French chef Joannès Rivière, and dishes up refined plates prepared with only the freshest local ingredients. Viroth’s serves Khmer classics and regional specialties. Georges Rhumerie is another well-reviewed Cambodian-French fusion restaurant.
    Photo courtesy of Cuisine Wat Damnak
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    French Food
    The enduring French influence in Cambodia means visitors can enjoy authentic French cuisine in Siem Reap. One of the longest-running venues in town is Abacus Garden Restaurant, which has been catering to a lively crowd since opening in 2004. Specializing in French and international foods—and with an extensive and equally global wine list—Abacus is located in Siem Reap's Old French Quarter. Another excellent option is Le Malraux, a bistro-style restaurant serving French and Cambodian dishes, as well as classic desserts like crème brûlée. It also has a huge selection of cognacs and Armagnacs.
    Photo courtesy of Abacus Garden
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    International Flavors
    Siem Reap is a hub of international cuisine. In addition to Cambodian and French foods, you'll find slick tapas bars (like Mezze, above Pub Street) and Japanese restaurants—the Hashi offers a classy dining experience, while Sushi Bar Koh Kong is more budget-oriented. There's also plenty of Indian food: Check out Dakshin's, a local favorite. Visit Il Forno, in its alley location near Pub Street, for Italian dishes—and especially for its wood-fired pizzas.
    Photo by Steve Vidler/age fotostock
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    Dining for Good
    Siem Reap has several training restaurants designed to teach marketable skills to homeless or disadvantaged children. Patronizing these establishments is an excellent way to make a positive contribution to the community, and many of these venues are known to dish up some of the most authentic Khmer meals you will find. Marum—whose name comes from the Moringa, sometimes called the tree of life—serves fish, meat, and vegetarian food. The menu for Haven, located in the Old Market area, boasts an eclectic mix of Asian and Western specialties, including some Swiss favorites.
    Photo courtesy of Haven
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    Street Food
    Sampling an amazing banquet—at amazing prices—at a streetside table is one of the great joys of Southeast Asia, and Cambodia's vendors are as skilled as any in the region. All kinds of edible goodies—from delicious baguettes to hearty noodle soups—can be purchased on the streets. Siem Reap's best street-food options are found around the Old Market and also at 2 Thnou Street—at the end of the famous Pub Street. The stalls in these two locations have extremely high turnover of patrons, meaning the food is likely to be freshly cooked. If you're adventurous, try the insects; if not, check out less challenging delicacies such as fried chive cake and shrimp fritters.
    Photo by Luis Castaneda/age fotostock
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    Get a Java Jolt
    Cambodia’s indigenous coffee culture is not as strong as that of neighboring Vietnam, but Siem Reap still has several excellent spots for a cup. For an authentically Cambodian experience, try your coffee Southeast Asian–style: with ice and a liberal splash of condensed milk. Foreign coffee (mostly Italian) is sold at a number of establishments, including Common Grounds, an American-run café which donates its profits to humanitarian relief projects. Also worthy of a visit is any of the branches of Blue Pumpkin, a Khmer-run bakery deli that serves great breakfasts and homemade ice cream.
    Photo by Miyoko Komine/age fotostock
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    Snack in the Shadow of Angkor
    Technically, there’s a ban on development and commercial activity within the Angkor Archaeological Park, but there’s no need to go all the way back to Siem Reap to eat. Dozens of small noodle and snack shops near the major attractions of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom will rustle up a decent Khmer lunch for you for around $5, and even sometimes less. Fresh fruits such as pineapples and mangoes are also widely available to buy.
    Photo by Mikel Bilbao/age fotostock