Kampuchea Eats: Phnom Penh

It’s often said that the cuisine of Cambodia, Kampuchea in Khmer, is overshadowed by its Thai and Vietnamese counterparts. My impression from eating there and taking a Cambodian cooking class is that the cuisine, like the country itself, is somewhere in between.  While I had no real idea of what Cambodian cuisine was before going there, I felt like the things I ate and the flavors I tasted were ones I had experienced before.  I didn’t know until I got there, but my familiarity with Thai and Vietnamese, along with Chinese and Indian food, had already given me a good sense of what Cambodian cuisine would be like.  That said, there were of course things that stood out — the abundant use of fish, vegetables julienned for curries, my first taste of banana flowers.  But in my ignorance, I exoticized the cuisine and played it up to be something it wasn’t: completely new to me.

In our several days there, we got in a balanced mix of fusion, SE Asian, and Western foods (even sneaking in some pizza in Siem Reap!).  In an attempt to wrap up this series of vacation entries in a timely fashion, I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum.  I didn’t eat anything earth-shattering but generally speaking, the meals we had there hovered around adequate.  The single most memorable thing I ate was probably the house mini baguette (ok, the two…and a half) at an upscale French restaurant in Phnom Penh.  Being occupied is a bitch, but on the bright side, at least the French left behind their food.

Meals in Phnom Penh: we only spent a day in PP, which didn’t strike me as favorably as Siem Reap did.  For lunch, we ate at a Western-style cafe near the Russian Market.


My limeade:

Modified caprese salad:

Stir-fried noodle dish: one of the many that M ordered on this trip.

Fried spring rolls:

My mango salad with rice:

Uber-fancy French restaurant for dinner: AAAAAAMAZING baguettes!

Calamari: pas mal.

Beef bourguignon with noodles: beef was tender, although I associate the noodles and beef combo more with beef stroganoff.

A’s prawns* and risotto dish: *in the menu they referred to the seafood by another name but I can’t remember what it was.

I was a careless food blogger and forgot to take a picture of my own dish, which was seabass poached in a white wine and butter reduction with some potato wedges. The sea bass was cooked nicely…simply- and well-prepared white-fleshed fish is a personal favorite.

Cheese platter for dessert: an appropriately French end to the meal.

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