Traveling for me means a 'tour of tastes', a satisfaction of my gastronomic pleasures! But unlike others who are hygienically adventurous,I normally do not sample unknown cuisines or try street foods without strong recommendation and assurance from a local of its cleanliness.
Phnom Penh does not necessarily stand out for its sightseeing options but I find it as a place to relax, view the street life and absorb the local color and flavor. One of the main tourist attractions of Phnom Penh is the wide array of restaurants.
Phnom Penh offers an amazing range of cuisines and dining venues. The emphasis is of course on Khmer (Cambodian) food, but Asian and other European cuisines are also well represented, including Thai,Italian, Vietnamese,Chinese, Korean,Japanese and of course,French. Given Cambodia's long relationship with France,it is no surprise some of the finest venues offer French cuisine. I am glad to have our CouchSurfing host Elma,a Filipina entrepreneur who is married to a German and living in Cambodia for almost 8 years. Having lived in a number of Asian countries and hosted different nationalities through CouchSurfing,she made our food adventures in Phnom Penh an experience to tell our mom about!
Sugar cane Juice
Our official welcome drinks when we arrived in Phnom Penh is dteuk am bpoh or sugar cane juice in a 'to go' somewhat over - sized plastic bag(double that of soda plastic bag used when I buy a Sprite 'to go' back home. I am very familiar with sugar cane but never before I drank it as a juice.It was amazing how much water the sugar canes have! A freshly squeezed lime juice is added into the sugar cane juice for some tartness.Served with a straw,with tons of ice in a plastic bag, we had a refreshing afternoon Cambodian drink costing only $12.5 cents(half that of a soft drink like Coke).
After our tour of the Royal Palace grounds and the Silver Pagoda,our taste buds (and Elma's recommendation) brought us to the "f" for a sampler of Khmer delicacies.
FCC or Foreign Correspondents Club along the riverfront,north of Royal Palace has served a storied cast of journalists and photographers,diplomats, movie stars and intrepid world travelers since opening its doors in 1993. As Phnom Penh's favorite meeting place, FCC's open balcony provides a spectacular view of the convergence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers.The FCC kitchen offers a good selection of nicely prepared contemporary,modern, and traditional Khmer and western dishes. And its latest offering is a Happy Hour from 5-7pm,where all drinks are half the price.
For dinner, Elma brought us to Khmer Surin Restaurant for us to try the most popular Khmer dish for foreigners,the Amok. Amok is a yellow coconut curry,usually made of fish (but because I have a fish allergy we had pork and chicken amok instead).Traditionally amok is cooked and served in a fresh coconut. But at Khmer Surin, however,the amok is served in breast-like platter (as described by Elma).
Khmer Surin Restaurant in Phnom Penh is one of the finest Asian restaurants. In the heart of a busy area, full of apartments and bars, Khmer Surin serves real Khmer cuisines and dishes in a cozy and relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant has 3 floors - the bottom floor is where the restaurant is, the 2nd floor has seating arrangement on the floor in Thai style and the 3rd floor is the rooftop to enjoy the outside view. We were at the 3rd floor enjoying a romantic candlelight dinner. The menu has good explanations in English for the international travelers.
Pork and Shrimp Fried Rice for Breakfast
For breakfast,Elma brought us to her favorite restaurant. I had Bai lieng sach krup muk (Deluxe Fried rice - pork and shrimps)while Jean and Arlene had rice porridge (which resembles our arroz caldo). Cambodian breakfast usually consists of noodle soup (kui-teo) or fried meat with rice and pickled vegetables.
Dumplings for Dinner
Chinese food is also very popular in Phnom Penh and the city has a goodly number of Chinese restaurants and dining places.For our last dinner in Cambodia, we had dumpling and dimsum to our heart's content.