With the world’s best Asian food on its doorstep,
it should come as no surprise that Cambodia’s restaurants
are serving up dim sum and tikka to die for
Indian food has been known to engender many a heated debate in Cambodia. Tikka tiffs and dosa disputes are guaranteed when someone askes the golden question: What is the country’s best Indian food? The standards are incredibly high, and everyone has their favourite, but Dakshin’s in Siem Reap stands out. The menu is extensive, but two of
the house specialities are among the star turns, with fried pepper lamb providing the palate with a hearty and enjoyable burn, while the Dakshin prawns are plump, rich and scrumptious.
Chinese: Yi Sang
There are few greater culinary sights than a window full of Chinese barbecued meats. And those in search of char siew will not be disappointed at Yi Sang, which has a few outlets in Phnom Penh, though the incarnation in the Almond Hotel is hard to beat. Most of the classic Chinese dishes are present and correct, though Yi Sang has an especially good reputation for dim sum. The har gao and siew mai are consistently the best in the country, while the wasabi dumplings deliver a searing sucker punch to the sinuses that is oddly enjoyable.
The Japanese invasion of the Kingdom’s culinary scene shows no signs of letting up. Barely a street goes by that doesn’t possess at least a couple of options for a Nippon nibble, with most of them providing good Japanese food at prices unimaginable in most parts of the world. One standout option, however, is Roku, which is renowned among the capital’s sizeable Japanese expat community. The menu sticks to the classics, with exceptional sashimi, particularly good when served with rice in a kaisen don bowl, and wonderfully light tempura among the standouts.
Filipino: Bistro Filipino
You’d be forgiven for not knowing too much about Filipino food. It has certainly not taken the world by storm in the same way as Southeast Asian neighbours such as Thailand and Vietnam – which should provide all the reason one needs to give it a try. The archipelago’s cuisine is generally heavy on the meat, and the menu at Bistro Filipino in Phnom Penh is no different. The tocino, a sweetened and cured pork, is excellent, while no meal here would be complete without the mammoth crispy pata, a pork knuckle marinated and then deep-fried to crunchy-on-the-outside perfection.
Kimchi has to rank among the world’s most spectacularly unique national dishes. Served with virtually every Korean meal, and known as one of the world’s healthiest foods, this reddish-orange fermented cabbage sounds like a nightmare but tastes like a dream. The version found at Jaru in Phnom Penh revels in its deep and zesty flavour as one of the numerous banchan, small dishes that are served alongside the mains. Others are a smooth, roasted garlic and a smokey eggplant that is boiled with spices and then pan-fried. Alongside Korean favourites such as bibimbap and bulgogi, everyone should try the barbecue pork with chilli sauce, served with lettuce leaves for wrapping and a marvellous bean paste and sesame seed sauce for dipping.